BWW Interview: Out Tonight with RENT's Daphne Rubin-Vega on Her New Web Series TUESDAY NIGHTS and the Legacy of RENT!
Stage and screen star Daphne Rubin-Vega is most notably known for starring in two Pulitzer Prize winning shows, Rent and Anna in the Tropics, and she received Tony nominations for both.
Rubin-Vega (the original Mimi Marquez) and the rest of her RENT co-stars created a legacy, starring in a show that changed the face of musical theatre when it opened on Broadway in 1996, and continues today with FOX's upcoming live broadcast.
Daphne sat down with BroadwayWorld to discuss her latest project, Tuesday Nights, a web series chronicling the life of one woman, played by several different actresses.
You are part of this new web series Tuesday Nights! Can you tell us about the series and more specifically your part in the show?
Shiva Kalaiselvan and Joe Bandelli, among many other people, birthed the project that allowed a lot of artists to collaborate. She created a space where many collaborators could tell one story of a particular woman who happens to be every woman as portrayed in this series. A woman goes through a divorce with her husband and starts a new life after challenges with him, with dating, with children, with parents. It takes place over many episodes all happening on a Tuesday night and the series of events as follows.
Each episode has a different woman from a different background having the exactly the same experience. It's a unifying factor of a very particular story. I love to support and be part of women artists in particular and they don't have to have vaginas, but people with a desire to express and find new ways to express themselves, not as defined by a hegemonic structure but rather figuring it out on your own which is a good new paradigm to build on. That's exactly what she does.
What drew you to this and made you want to be part of it?
The fact that it was a bunch of young people of color telling stories and working with young artists. That's what it came from, they're really what drew me to it. I also love the concept of every woman.
What a cool concept to have five women portray one character. Was it weird seeing the other actors' takes on this character?
I found it really thrilling and I loved the different qualities of episodes. It creates different vignettes and different feels to each different episode.
I was able to watch your wonderful episode and was expecting to sit down and watch a 30 minute show, but it was only about seven minutes and so much is explored in that short period of time.
We can judge it all we want but the internet and social media and the ways we watch content, it just is a platform. Everything is a platform to watch content so we really haven't got much time! It makes it really desirable and palatable to have these short spurts of content. I have a son so I get to see how that plays out first hand, it's a powerful tool and if you can really dig in to the platform, it's amazing. We have technology that allows us to create worlds in the palm of our hands. So who knows where that's going to go and I'm excited to see. It scares the shit out of me.
Why do you think people will be able to connect with and enjoy this story?
It takes care to represent all kinds of different people, the way they look, I was talking about being very supportive of people of color because of their presence in the world and in the medium. It represents the level playing field of experience and how it effects everyone no matter what you look like. It illustrates we have more in common than we could have ever not have in common and it really does that clearly by having different people have the same experience. It's a really beautiful way of telling a story.
Last year you were part of Miss You Like Hell at The Public Theater and now there's a cast recording. How does it feel getting to immortalize this beautiful piece of theatre?
It always feels good but honestly I haven't listened to it yet. It's heartbreaking to me still because it's, pardon the expression, so close to home, close to the bone. It's so beautiful and it makes me cry.
I should actually listen to it because it'll actually make me happy but I get too critical of myself, but that's a really narcissistic way to answer a question. I am honored to be part of something will last beyond me. It's a way of leaving messages to the future. This is what happens, it was like this.
Another show you have left your stamp on for the future is RENT. How has the show impacted your life over the past 23 years and does it continue to?
It's been 23 years, huh? How has it impacted my life... it completely changed my life. I had the opportunity do this and have that all because of RENT. I have the great privilege to do what I most love. That's how RENT is a gift that has always kept on giving. It's good to remember because it was born out of the innocence of love that I find gravely lacking but I know there's nothing I can do about that, what I can do is be that person.
I keep remembering after 23 years toe-curling painful moments. It was a devastating moment in our lives that got reflected in history. It was beautiful and it was hideous and painful. We were lucky we had each other to share it with. I cannot resist the opportunity to say in this environment, where we are with our climate, to know that Michael Greif is directing RENT on Fox Live is the ultimate irony. I can't help the sides of lips turning up. It's a positive smile in what's going. It's a silver lining. It's like a family. You can hate them but you still love them and if something happens to them, you kind of give a shit. You don't have to quote on me that! (laughter)
Speaking about RENT Live, is there anything in general that you are particularly excited to see?
I just hope those young people in the cast are unified, feeling right, tight and out of sight. They're going to be great and wherever we are, we're cheering them on.
It was a good reminder. First of all, it's always good to see the family. It was good to see everyone, it was good to remember those songs. To hear really wonderful, incredibly talented people sing them and bring them into this time. There was a minute where Jonathan seemed prolifically dated, he was so 80s, so 80s and 90s. Now that we're 23 years later and more because some of these songs were written when he was in school learning to write, doing what Lin [Manuel-Miranda] does today, which is like 'Oh yeah! I can do that, let me do that!' Like 'this makes me feel something, let me talk about that, I can talk about that, I can articulate about that and I have the power of all the creative vibrations, the wind at my back to do it.' Jonathan really had that as well, only he never got to know that he had that. Now to hear these songs, 23 or 25 years later, they resonate in so much truth. They're poetic, he's a poet. He's a poet like Bob Dylan was a poet, Leonard Cohen was a poet, Pete Seeger was a poet, Lin is a poet, Sondheim's a poet and so is Johnny. It's good to hear them and be reminded.
It must've been a very reflective night. Did you hear any songs you hadn't heard before?
It's been so long. I'm sure I heard stuff I'd never heard before, they dug deep. It's good for me because I think I've had heard it all before and then you don't really hear, you're not listening to the words. The first time you say something it rings really true, but like the billionth time we sang "Seasons of Love" it kind of felt like 'oooh my god!' So then you stop singing it for a long time and then it becomes beautiful when you sing it again because it means something.
Daphne can be seen in Tuesday Nights at https://tuesday-nights.com.