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Action: Support RENT the musical and LGBT-affirming arts in Idaho

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By Adam Bink

I will say right off the bat that I am a huge “RENThead.” I didn’t have a chance to see the revival on Broadway on a recent trip to NYC, but it’s supposed to be pretty good. I learned about the musical when the movie came out a few years ago, and its message “no day but today” and celebrating life is something that has guided me. The Pulitzer- and Tony-awarding winning musical was the first musical on Broadway to have a transgender character, and the first to tackle topics such as HIV/AIDS and same-sex relationships in such an affirming and supportive way. This song (Will I?) about losing one’s dignity in the face of struggling to pay rent, suffering from HIV/AIDS, relationship trouble, poverty, etc, inspires shivers for a lot of people:

http://youtu.be/RZiOtjhA_zc?t=17s

But whether you’re a huge fan of RENT or not, we can all agree that its message of acceptance for LGBT people and those suffering from HIV/AIDS is worth something in today’s society. We can also probably all agree that artistic expression and reflection upon it beats censorship.

This morning, Andy Towle brings us the news that a local production of RENT in Coeur D’Alene, ID is under attack from the usual crowds who say it promotes “homosexuality”, vulgarity and HIV/AIDS. KREM-TV:

I have to agree with Andy: what is this, 1985? It’s 2011 and we should be past all of that. As George Green, executive artistic director says in the video, simply let people reflect and agree one way or the other.

Andy asks folks to contact the Lake City playhouse and let them know you support their production. I just did: in fact, I e-mailed George (whose contact information can be found here). What I wrote is below the click. Please take a minute to express your support for artistic expression and supportive portrayals of LGBT people and HIV/AIDS.

Dear George,

I am writing to express my strong support of the Lake City Playhouse and management’s decision to run a production of RENT in January.

My support is for two reasons: first, as an openly gay man fighting to end inequality for LGBT people, and as someone with friends suffering from HIV/AIDS, there are very few popular and well-known portrayals of such individuals in a positive light in a society rife with homophobia. At a time when a Michigan man was, just this month, sprayed with Lysol in public over his perceived HIV status, and a time when children across America are bullied because of real or perceived sexual orientation and even driven to take their own lives, any artistic production which cherishes life and all of those in it, no matter what your background, is important to produce for the sake of our youth who are contemplating hurting themselves.

My second reason extends not only to the tenor of a production but to all art — censorship is wrong. As you state on KREM-TV, people should reflect and discuss, not ban and censor. Only through dialogue and discussion will we grow as a society.

I do not live in Idaho, but as a veteran of seven small-production musicals (orchestra pit!), I know small productions can often only be done if local support is generated through ticket sales. As such, if the Lake City Playhouse stands firm against censorship and local opposition to artistic expression and goes on to produce RENT in January, I will purchase and donate two tickets to any two Courage Campaign members in Idaho who support LGBT-affirming artistic expression.

I am publishing this letter on Courage Campaign Institute’s Prop8TrialTracker.com in hopes that others will support what you and the Lake City Playhouse are doing.

Thank you for your support of the arts and support of RENT,

Adam Bink

Director of Online Programs, Courage Campaign

11 Comments

  • 1. Sagesse  |  December 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

    @

  • 2. Gregory in SLC  |  December 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

    thanks for letting us know about this. We'll plan to attend in support!

  • 3. Adam Bink  |  December 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

    That's wonderful!

  • 4. fiona64  |  December 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Oh, for crying out loud. "Rent" no more promotes HIV/AIDS than its source material ("La Boheme") promoted tuberculosis. I am so sick of the denizens of Redneckistan getting their noses out of joint over things beyond their comprehension.

  • 5. Michael  |  December 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    A year or two ago, a youth theater group put on Rent at the Randall Museum in SF, and none other than the Westboro Baptist Church were there to protest it. Fortunately the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and other people, including high school students from down the peninsula, staged a counter-protest to support the production. WBC were truly vile, the Sisters et al. were perfectly civil. At least that's how I remember it.

    I don't see the point of protesting theater. Their reason that it "promotes vulgarity" is even more preposterous. It's not like they're assembling in the town square and singing for all passers-by. You have to buy a ticket. If you don't want to see it, don't buy one. It's not that hard.

  • 6. Bastien  |  December 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Protesting theatre because it promotes homosexuality? LMAO. If it wasn't for homosexuals, theatre wouldn't be what it is today!

  • 7. redu  |  December 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I was in a production of Godspell, that cast a woman, AS a woman in the Jesus role. We got some noses out of joint on that one too. Many people came to the show out of curiosity and seeing a different kind of casting of the role. But the hot redhead in the role has some KILLER pipes and once her voice raised the roof, NOBODY really cared. And those who protested the loudest NEVER actually saw the show.
    Which is typical of these kinds of protestors, no?
    I've known of protests of Jesus Christ Superstar in St. Louis when a black man was cast as Jesus. And I read the reviews that his voice brought tears to the eyes of those who saw the show.
    THAT is the point, as well as the CONTENT of a show.
    Rent was timely, it was about real situations, relationships and struggles.
    "Will I?" a rondo in the show about struggling with an incurable disease and what it will do to your life, got me every time. I struggle with lupus and the questions in that song went straight to my heart.
    Sometimes I think only the truly heartless would have a problem with a show like Rent.
    But to hell with people who can't even be bothered to understand the TRUE message in the show (compassion for the sick, LOVE in hard times) Seasons of Love, just about says it all.

    But putting rock scores to traditional stories will send people like this around the bend anyway.
    Peace on Earth and good will towards men….anyway…

  • 8. Jamie  |  December 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Yes, it is 1985 again. And this is what happens. Things like Prop 8 show people that it's perfectly OK to discriminate against gay people when handing out marriage licenses which leads people to think it's OK to discriminate against them in all sorts of other things. It wasn't a coincidence that hate crimes against gay people doubled in the years following Proposition 8. If it's OK to sanction state discrimination by writing entire groups of people out of constitutional protections, the it's OK to beat them in the head with a baseball bat in a dark alley too. They are after all, a "threat to society" and a "gathering storm" (at least that was the message from NOM and their army of marriage protectors). This is what happens.

  • 9. Robert  |  December 22, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Coeur d' Alene is my hometown. Left there about 10 years ago for NYC. You will never find a more beautiful land. Northern Idaho is called America's Switzerland for good reason. But, it's infected with conservatives, and what usually exists with them, religious extremism. Big reasons why I left.

  • 10. Bill S.  |  December 23, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Counter-protest: have the cast sing "Seasons of Love" in a public place. Perhaps people will learn what the musical is really about.

    I also think conservatives need a little lesson in the "free market." If a private theater can make a profit selling tickets to the show, then the free market has spoken. Don't want to buy a ticket? Be my guest! Want to use your free speech rights to convince other people not to see it? Go right ahead! Try to shut down the production so that nobody can see it? Over my dead body.

  • 11. Gregory in SLC  |  January 4, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Website to purchase tickets: http://lakecityplayhouse.org/index.php

    more controversy: http://www.kxly.com/news/30000248/detail.html

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