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Rent lecture prepped

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joel froomkin

on 1 May 2014

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Transcript of Rent lecture prepped

Background
RENT
began as a rock re-imagining of a classical opera created by precocious up-and-coming musical theater composer in the early days of his career.


HOW 'RENT' DEVELOPED
Written by Jonathan Larson
WHAT HAS IT BECOME?
Since the sixteen years when it was first produced, it has become nothing less than legendary , and the 7th longest running show in Broadway history.
SETTING
Set in the East Village neighborhood known as Alphabet City, Larson's
RENT
follows a group friends from one Christmas Eve to the next.
THEMES
ART
LOVE
MORTALITY
Show unfolded as Mayor Rudy Gulliani began cracking down, cleaning up and and forever changing the landscape of New York City
Playwrighter Billy Aronson in 1988 wanted to create "a musical based on Puccini's La Bohème, set in the coarsness and noise of modern New York."
Larson in 1989 who was a 29-year old composer began collaborating with Aronson and together composed a few songs.
Larson in 1990 focused on composing
Rent
while working at a local Diner to support himself and in 1991, asked Aronson if he could use his original concept to make
RENT
his own.
LARSON'S ULTIMATE DREAM:
To write a rock opera
"to bring musical theater to the MTV generation."
ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Wrote "Hair for the 90's" and attracted the MTV generation to musicals
WHAT WAS NEW?
Video artists, performance artists, guitarists, strippers, cross dressers, drug addicts and more.
Larson and Aronson agreed that if
RENT
went to Broadway, Aronson would share in the proceeds.
MOTIVATION OF STORY LINE
Base on his own life events
Actual places
Actual Events

"Will I?" is a song which takes place during a Life Support meeting and expresses the pain and fear of living a life with AIDS, was inspired by a real event. He attended a meeting of Friends in Deed, an organization that helps people deal with illness and grief, like Life Support in
RENT.
Life Café is an actual restaurant located in New York on 10th Street and Avenue B in the East Village, which was closed in 2013 and is where the "La Vie Boheme" number was set
The riot at the end of the first act is based on the East Village conflicts of the late 1980's that arose as a result of the city-imposed curfew in Tompkins Square Park.
LARSON'S DEATH
Larson would not live to see
Rent's
Success
On the night of the final dress rehearsal at the New York Theater Workshop Jonathan Larson, the 35-year-old composer and librettist, died of an aortic aneurysm.
The show premiered as planned and quickly gained popularity fueled by enthusiastic reviewers and the recent death of its composer
The first preview of
Rent
was canceled and instead, friends and family gathered at the theater where the actors performed a sing-through of
Rent
in Larson's memory.
Larson wrote 100s of songs and made many changes to the show, which in its final incarnation contained 42 songs , over the course of several years.
IMPACT:
Rent
had enormous cultural/ personal significance for individuals across age groups and around the world
Rent
became a Pulitzer Prize winning musical for a new generation
On Broadway the names of characters in the group therapy meeting are changed nightly to honor the friends of the cast members who are living with or have died from AIDS.
During a meeting one man stood up and said he wasn't afraid to die, but that there was one thing he was afraid of:

Sacrificed a life of stability for his art.
Shared many of the same hopes and fears as his characters.

This is a picture is from Life Magazine, of a HIV patient
CULTURE
YOUNG GENERATION
Turned out in droves to see their concerns expressed onstage
Larson created a new category of theatergoers with his younger generation
Landed on cover of News Week. Marking the first time since "A Chorus Line", a Broadway Musical was on the cover of a national news magazine
AIDS
The impact on the Broadway community was catastrophic.
actor recalled "I remember comforting a friend who had to stage manage a performance after returning from 6th memorial service he had attended in two weeks."
It decimated the theatrical community more than any other profession. " it was sort of non-stop grief one expects in war-time."
Most Americans refused to know or care about any of it
Actors on the Tony award broadcast were the first to wear red ribbons for AIDS awareness week.
Revolutionary in its bold portrayal of openly gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender characters.
Larson's rock operatic method allowed audiences to connect with the issue in a way that hadn't been done before.
Larson was looking for a way to respond artistically to the AIDS crisis.
BROADWAY
Key feature of Broadway- transfer of
RENT
was:
productions team insistence on maintaining both:
the shows early aesthetic
and accessibility to less affluent theatergoers
Ground-breaking decision to make front row seats available for $20 at every performance.
People camped out over night to get these seats.

Larson's Interview on the Night He Died
"I feel like the American musical has always been about pop music. Gershwin and Porter and Rodgers were writing pop music of their day.
Are all explored in the script and score and what they mean for Generation X New Yorkers.
Daring Themes
Sexuality

Drug Use
Poverty
Artistic Integrity
Isolation
Community
Life and Death in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic
IT FEATURED
RENT'S
meteoric rise to cult favorite and commercial success marks a point of undeniable change in American art, culture, politics and social values.
RENT
is the story of a particular moment in the history of New York City
WHAT
RENT
CONTAINED
Portraits of his friends and the artists and addicts in his neighborhood, young people on the edge of poverty and in the shadow of AIDS, battling the coming wave of gentrification in the name of "La Vie Bohème."
LA BOHÈME
Many of the characters from
RENT
and plot elements are drawn directly from Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème, the world premiere which was in 1896 a century before
Rent's
premiere.
La Bohème
was also about the lives of poor young artists.
Like his characters he endured poor living conditions.
Part of the motivation behind the storyline in which Maureen leaves Mark for a woman (Joanne) is based on the fact that Larson's own girlfriend left him for a woman.
Despite promising material and moving music the show did suffer from many structural problems- including cumbersome length and overly complex plot.
In Smash, the young composer was overtly based on Jonathon Larson.
The show is performed in high schools in an edited version. The avant garde becomes the mainstream.
"
Rent
", which cost $240,000 to put up downtown, has gone on to gross more than $280 million on Broadway and another $330 million on the road. Productions have been mounted on six continents.
Despite controversial subject matter,
RENT
was almost an instant critical and commercial hit.
New York Times the week the show finally closed on broadway: "An East Village rock version of Puccini's opera "La Bohème," "
Rent
" brought a youthful energy- and young theatergoers- to Broadway, to a degree not seen since "Hair."
Also- when it's sung through a piece can translate more universally into other languages. The mega musicals of the 80s/90s proved this over and over (Phantom, Les Mis etc.)
La Bohème shocked opera audiences in the late 1800's who were more accustomed to dramatized mythology or broad come with a portrayal of the hard lives and doomed dreams of struggling Parisian artists.
Rent
gathered a following of fans who refer to themselves as "Rentheads." The name originally referred to people who would camp out at the Nederlander Theater for hours in advance for the discounted $20 rush tickets to each show, though it generally refers to anyone who is obsessed with the show.
WHAT LARSON SAID HIS AIM WAS

A) people with AIDS can live full lives.
to quash the already clichèd AIDS victim and stereotypes and point out that:
B) AIDS affects everyone- not just homosexuals and drug abusers

C) in our desensitized culture, the ones grappling with life-and-death issues often live more fully than members of the so-called mainstream."
ALBUM
show is entirely sung through.

Young audiences who were not near NY and who couldn't afford to see a Broadway show.. could experience the show through the album.

Album BUILT the audience and was not a mere keepsake.
WHAT IT BROUGHT
It also brought with it a real-life story so affecting that it would have overwhelmed the musical itself had the substance of the musical not been so intertwined with the story of its creation.
Incorporated elements of his own life into his show.
Lived in New York as a starving artist with an uncertain future
Illegal wood burning stove
Bathtub in the middle of his kitchen
Broken buzzer
His guest had a call from across the street and he would throw down the keys as in "
RENT
".
Features which made their way into the play
Would he lose his dignity?
What happened in the 60's was that people who could have been writing for the theater- Lennon and McCartney for example-realized they didn't have to go down that road. They could start a band and write songs.
That's when I feel that popular music and theater music divided."
Tuberculosis, the plague of Puccini's opera, is replaced by HIV/AIDS in
Rent
;
1800s Paris is replaced by New York's East village in the late 1980s/early 1990s.
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