The original Broadway cast of RENT pictured above including Anthony Rapp , Idina Menzel, Jesse L. Martin ), Adam Paschal , Taye Diggs, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Wilson Jermaine Heredia and Fredi Walker Jeffery Seller one of RENT’s original producers would go on to have an esteemed career as a Broadway producer. Seller would go on to produce blockbuster and Tony Award winning productions of Avenue Q, In the Heights, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and an award winning revival of West Side Story in 2009, but most notably producing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton in 2015. During the peak of success of Hamilton, Seller was asked about the impact of Hamilton in the 20-teens compared to RENT in the mid-90s. Welling up with tears Sellers responded: “Most shows have a negligible impact on American culture, rent did have an impact on American culture. It affected the everyday lives of people. Rent saved young people from suicide. It helped young people come out of the closet. But the appeal of rent was for young people. People over 40 just didn’t understand why they didn’t just pay the rent. As people got older they enjoyed it less.” Chief music critic at the New York Times Anthony Tommasini wrote this lead introduction for a series of articles about RENT for the March 17th 1996 Edition. [Please Read] The Birth of a Theatrical Comet, IT BURST on the scene seemingly out of nowhere, this pulsing musical with the beat and cadences of the East Village. Almost instantly, the glowing reviews started pouring in, and limousines began pulling up in front of the modest New York Theater Workshop, where the show opened last month. The show, of course, is “Rent,” the acclaimed rock musical that was inspired by Puccini’s “Boheme” and that is already bound for Broadway. “Rent” was quickly hailed as a rock opera for our time, a “Hair” for the 90’s. Its reception has been made poignant by the fact that its creator, Jonathan Larson, died just before the opening, at the age of 35. The show really didn’t arrive out of nowhere, though. It was born of one man’s vision and determination. The story of how it came to be also serves as a reminder of the vibrant theatrical life that exists beyond Broadway and how that life nourishes Broadway. The making of “Rent” is a classic theatrical tale of luck, grit, ambition and, finally, applause. Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, March 17, 1996 [Your Assignment] Click the following link to watch “RENT the Final Broadway Performance”, after you have completed watching it answer and respond to the following prompts. [This link should work on all devices, if you are having trouble please contact me as soon as possible] https://photos.app.goo.gl/D2URHBqTar76Nur79 1) Read the following criticism of RENT by Scott Miller a Musical Theater historian and writer of “Rebels with Applause” in 2001: “And what about Mark and Roger’s refusal to pay Benny rent for their apartment? Why is that portrayed as such a gutsy gesture? Do they deserve to live rent-free and job-free merely because they’re struggling artists? And let’s not forget that they’re struggling artists by choice. They could get jobs. Larson did; he waited tables for a living. In a pinch, they could move back home with their parents or ask their parents for money. Their self-identification with the real homeless people seems artificial, and perhaps even a bit offensive. It’s safe to say that most of the homeless people living in the tent city on Benny’s lot are not there by choice, some probably suffering from mental illness, addiction, and who knows what else? Then again, this issue was raised over Hair – why were these kids panhandling on the streets when they came from middle class suburban homes, when most of them were college educated? Is it idealism, naiveté, or just arrogance when Mark and Roger declare they’re not going to pay rent this year or next even next year?” http://newlinetheatre.com/rentchapter.html After watching the musical do you agree or disagree with this view point? Resist the urge to judge these characters on a “superficial level” ( saying things like “they’re dumb”, “that’s just stupid”, “I don’t understand”) and try to relate to why they’re making the choices they’re making. Why are they rebelling? Why aren’t they conforming to society or the “Status-Quo”? (2 Paragraph Min, use examples from the play as needed). 2) The song “La Vie Boheme” (starting at 01:07:05 after the line “Bohemia is dead…”) is a song written to celebrate the idea of “Bohemianism”. The agreed definition of Bohemianism or a Bohemian meaning: “the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. This use of the word bohemian first appeared in the English language in the 19th century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities (First occurrence in this sense in English, 1848) . Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which often were expressed through free love, frugality, and—in some cases—simple living or voluntary poverty. A more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as haute bohème (literally “high Bohemia”). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemianism#American_bohemianism The song then goes on to list Bohemian icons/figure which the characters look up to and identify with: Sontag Sondheim (Bob) Dylan (Alan) Ginsberg Cunningham and Cage Lenny Bruce Langston Hughes Uta Hagen Buddah Pablo Neruda Gertrude Stein Antoniotti Bertolucci Kurosawa Carmina Burana Vaclav Havel Sex Pistols Choose one of these listed Bohemian references, and explain to me what makes them “Bohemian”, what makes the person or item associated with “the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties…involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits.” [DO NOT answer with “They wrote a play once”, “Cause they performed music”, “Cause it’s a poetry book”] (One Paragraph, Minimum…) 3) Without telling me the plot of this play and after reading this week’s lecture (re-read if needed), what is this play about? Does it resonate in the year 2020 (nearly 25 years after it’s original Off-Broadway workshop) or is it a time capsule of a world and identity we don’t see anymore? Give me examples of what you see (or what you don’t see) around you that 2020 has in common with this play? 1-2 paragraphs with specifics/examples Example- Give me examples of what you see (or what you don’t see) around you that 2020 has in common with this play: The play rely’s on the idea of an answering machine telling some of the exposition and background needed for the play’s scenes. We may not have answering machines anymore, but we have email, voice mail, and social media which tell us much more background about a person(s) then we ever had before. In 2020 it is far easier to get the word out about a show, event, performance or protests- with a few clicks you can invite hundreds of people immediately. However, we are so inundated with invitations and events in general that it is nearly impossible to stand out, whereas in 1996 a strategic flyer on a well placed wall felt like an intimate invitation from “the in crowd”. Maureen’s protest (phone calls and messages she leaves) or Roger’s concert appearances (flyers on walls throughout the neighborhood) create a feeling of something special, uncommon, and curiosity that patrons may want to investigate. This kind of marketing and the concept of “the happening” may never be felt again with 2020 technology.
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