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Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson

Tonight, Sunday September 7, 2008 Rent will close at the Nederlander Theatre after the evening performance after playing 5,124 performances and 16 previews. On Friday, September 5th, in celebration of Rent and the enduring memory of Jonathan Larson, Kathy “Life” Kirkpatrick, owner of East Village’s fabled Life Café, a favorite hangout of Larson and an important location featured in the musical itself, unveiled a dedicated bench in his name.

Life Café has become the center of pilgrimage for large and small groups of Rentheads, as they’re known, from all over the United States and all over the world. Jonathan Larson frequented the East Village and he liked hanging out at Life Cafe, sipping coffee while watching, interviewing and writing. He observed the various groups of neighborhood people who regularly met at Life Cafe. Because, after all, there was never enough room in Lower East Side apartments or enough heat, or hot water. And sometimes there was no water at all.

The last scene of act one in Rent takes place in Life Café. For Kathy Life, that scene is a direct replica of the motley group of locals sitting together on the antique bench who practically lived at Life Café, sipping endless cups of coffee while playing chess and sharing – uninvited or not – their philosophies of life and everything in between. That scene is a moving reminder of the people that hung out at Life Café but are no longer with us. Most of them are gone from the neighborhood. Some of them have died of AIDS-related causes. Some of those people will always have a vivid place in Kathy Life’s memory.

The cast of Rent includes Tracie Thoms who starred as Joanne in the movie of Rent and has come to the Broadway company in the same role as well as Will Chase as Roger, Reneé Elise Goldsberry as Mimi, Eden Espinosa as Maureen, Michael McElroy as Collins, Adam Kantor as Mark, Justin Johnston as Angel, Rodney Hicks as Benny with Shaun Earl, Andrea Goss, Marcus Paul James, Telly Leung, Tracy McDowell, Jay Wilkison, and Gwen Stewart ("Seasons of Love" soloist).  Rodney Hicks and Gwen Stewart were both in the original company of Rent and have rejoined the cast to close the show.  

Rent opened off-Broadway in January 1996 before moving to Broadway's Nederlander Theatre in April of the same year. The musical tells the story of a group of destitute artists and musicians struggling to survive and be heard in New York's Lower East Side. Rent was one of the first Broadway musicals to feature an ethnically diverse cast, including homosexual and bisexual characters.

During Rent’s historic 12 year Broadway run, from April 29, 1996 to September 7, 2008 the production has raised $3,239,703 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

Rent, written by Jonathan Larson and directed by Michael Greif, opened at Broadway's Nederlander Theatre, on April 29, 1996 following a history making, sold out, extended limited engagement at off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop. The musical went on to win every major best musical award, including the Tony Award, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Rent is the seventh longest running show in Broadway history. 

Rent was responsible for helping to usher in a number of important changes to Broadway and its marketing, including the use of simpler, more contemporary advertising and logo design; the rebirth of 41 Street’s Nederlander Theatre; a shop and windows at Bloomingdales that featured clothing inspired by the show and its costumes; the institution of same day front row seats priced at $20; and the appeal to and attraction of teen and college-age audiences.

As the first show to sell same day orchestra seats for $20, Rent attracted a huge number of repeat visitors who came to be known as Rentheads.  Many fans saw the show ten, twenty, or thirty times, and some as many as a hundred or more.  Originally, hundreds of people lined up overnight (or over two nights!) to have a chance at the discounted tickets until the sale was changed to a lottery format, which then attracted huge numbers of contestants, often in the hundreds, for the prized seats in the first two rows.  Even today over a hundred people can be seen nightly in front of the Nederlander Theatre waiting for their chance at a front row $20 seat to their favorite show.

Tours of Rent have crisscrossed the country almost continuously since late 1996 and the U.S. nationals tours have grossed over $330 million.  A national tour starring original cast members Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp will launch in 2009.

The musical has been translated into every major language and been performed on six continents, including in the following countries Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. 

Rent is the seventh longest running show in Broadway history and has grossed over $280 million during its Broadway run.

Life Café is located at 343 E. 10th Street, Corner of Avenue B, New York, NY 10009, 212-477-8791, for more information please visit, info@lifecafe.com


Photos by Pablo Pimienta

 Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
The Famous Life Cafe

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
East Village's Life Cafe

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
The Celebration Logo

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Rent producer Allan S. Gordon and Jonathan's father, Allan Larson

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Former Rent Cast Member D'Monroe

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
D'Monroe greets the fans

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
A passionate group of fans celebrate Rent

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Life Cafe co-owner John Sunderland

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
John Sunderland

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Life Cafe owners Kathy Life Kirkpatrick and John Sunderland

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
The unveiling of the Jonathan Larson bench approaches

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Kathy Life Kirkpatrick unveils the name plate

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Kathy Life Kirkpatrick

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Kathy Life Kirkpatrick

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Jonathan's sister, Julie Larson

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Julie Larson

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Julie Larson with family

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
The fans celebrate the memory of Jonathan Larson

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
Serenading the fans

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
The Renthead register at Life Cafe

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
The Rent dream is alive at Life Cafe

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
A thank you to Jonathan Larson hangs above his favorite bench

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
The Jonathan Larson Bench

Photo Flash: Life Cafe Dedication in Honor of RENT Creator Jonathan Larson
His talent, spirit and memory lives on at Life Cafe

 

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Pablo Pimienta Born and raised in Miami Florida, Pablo's interest in photography began when he was in his early 20's. What started out as a hobby soon blossomed into a great passion. A fan of the theater since his youth, it was a viewing of "Les Miserables" that first introduced him to Broadway. A desire to combine his love of theater and photojournalism finally brought him to New York City in the summer of 2008. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife Monica.