Student blog: “Thank you Jonathan Larson”

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With the recent release of Tic, Tic, Boom, I really started to think about the impact Jonathan Larson had on me as a director. I can honestly say that I don’t think I would do theater at all if I hadn’t been exposed to To rent.

I don’t necessarily remember my first meeting with To rent as a whole, but I know one of the first songs in the musical that I was exposed to was “Take Me or Leave Me”. At this point in my life, I didn’t know anything about the plot of the musical or the sexuality of Maureen and Johana, but I was impressed with how comfortable they were with themselves and the ‘with each other. I had never seen a show where women were not afraid to show off. The song is a bop, but I was really impressed with the vulnerability the two actresses brought to the scene.

Eventually I watched the full movie and then the live TV version but didn’t fully appreciate the musical as a whole until I started researching it for an audition. In this research, I began to connect and identify more with Mimi and Rogers’ story. I think these two characters have a lot of walls, and as an anxious person that’s something I can really relate to. I really identify with Roger because I appreciate how determined he is to find his legacy. I think especially now that a lot of young people are very focused on the impact they are going to leave on others. With Mimi, he’s a much more optimistic character than Roger. She still has the same fears and anxieties as Roger, but she fights them with hope. I think of the lyrics, “Forget the regrets or life is yours to miss.” It’s something that I really try to do for myself in my own life.

Mimi and Roger in Rent’s current touring cast

The summer after my last year of high school, I actually had the opportunity to be in a production of To rent. I was just in the chorus of the show, but at the time, I wasn’t going to go to college for the theater. My heart was turned to politics and history. Being in this show really reminded me of the family atmosphere you can have in a show. It reminded me of one of the many reasons I love theater.

Something else To rent allowed me to discover my interest in the history of theater and dramaturgy. When I was on the show, the actor who played Collins recommended the album “Without You (A Musical Memoir)” to the entire cast. This album was a combination of songs and monologues by Anthony Rapp, telling the story of the creation of To rent. Because of this album, I became obsessed with researching the history of the musical.

This was developed when I did a final project on To rent my second semester of college. One of the options for this project was to create a dramaturgical project. In this project, despite the amount of work it has been, I absolutely fell in love with dramaturgy, to the point that this is what I want to do after my studies.

There is a famous story after the first performance of To rent. Someone shouted into the audience, “Thanks Jonathan Larson. This is exactly my feeling. Thank you Jonathan Larson for creating such a deeply flawed, yet beautiful musical that encourages my curiosity to find out more. Thanks Jonathan Larson for reminding me why I love theater.

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