VIDEO: RENT Opens Tonight in South Korea; Hear the Cast Sing 'No Day But Today' and Read a Touching Tribute to Theatre Artists Across the World
Rent opens tonight in Seoul, South Korea. In honor of the opening, director Andy Senor, Jr. posted a video of the cast singing 'No Day But Today' with a touching tribute letter to theatre artists all over the world.
He said that he hopes this opening night, the way they were able to overcome the obstacles, will provide hope to other theatre artists on Broadway, the West End, and beyond.
Read his full note below, and watch the performance
To my dearest Broadway and West End community, and theatre artists all over the world.
Tonight is the opening of Jonathan Larson's rock musical RENT here in Seoul, South Korea. I wasn't exactly sure we would make it. Putting up a show during the coronavirus crisis seemed like an impossible task.
During the rehearsal process there were several spikes of COVID-19 infections. "Will we make it? Will we have to shut down?" I kept asking myself and the company. Working in a group setting also had me quite concerned. You can't really rehearse a show like RENT with social distancing practices. We'd take our temperatures daily upon signing in and frequently sanitize our hands. Our stage managers would disinfect all props and the rehearsal set. And outside of rehearsals, we'd wear masks at all times when commuting. We took care of ourselves and one another. Our health and show depended on it.
There was also a different kind of "social distancing" issue to be dealt with: How does a group of young South Korean actors understand and embody the lives of East Village, New York City bohemians in the early 90's living and dying during the AIDS crisis in the United States, particularly in a Korean society where homosexuality is taboo and AIDS education has many shortcomings and still remains a problem? Yeah, thats a big sentence, and it was quite a task.
I found it so curious to be directing the show in Seoul while reading the news back at home in the United States. The parallels between what was happening in RENT and what was happening in the U.S. fueled my conversations with the actors. From the coronavirus taking so many lives in New York City, eerily echoing the AIDS crisis in the 80's, to the moment in RENT where the character Mark captures a police officer on film being rough with a homeless person, or the riots in Tompkins Square Park and Maureen's protest, it was the perfect time for a show like RENT to re-emerge despite it having a reputation as a period piece. On May 27, 2020, the death and contributions of AIDS activist and playwright Larry Kramer was even discussed in rehearsal. Mr Kramer founded the organization ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), and was a force behind AIDS drug research and gay rights. In an iconic moment during the song "La Vie Boheme" in Act 1 of RENT, the company pays tribute to his work with a huge "ACT UP! Fight AIDS!" I found myself wondering if he and Jonathan had ever crossed paths.
Moving into the theatre and receiving our fist preview audiences was also quite challenging. Coronavirus infections currently continue to rise and warnings of a second wave in Seoul threaten the run of the show. I now ask myself once again, "will we make it?" I am grateful to the D-Cube Arts staff for working hard towards everyone's safety.
Theatre's are dark all around the world in the midst of one of the darkest times of our lives. Theatre companies are shutting down. A countless number of theatre artists are unemployed with no real sense or promise of what is next. All of them asking themselves, "How are we going to pay RENT?" Will we make it? All of this has me thinking and reflecting deeply about tonight's opening.
There is another definition of RENT besides the one where you pay someone for the use of something. A "rent" is also a large tear, like in a piece of fabric, or a slash in the clouds. This is the "rent" that Jonathan Larson spoke of when he wrote "How can you connect in an age where strangers, landlords, lovers, your own blood cells betray? What binds the fabric together when the raging, shifting winds of change keep ripping away?" in the opening title song. Those are the questions he was asking at that time.
His answers? "Draw a line in the sand and then make a stand. Use your camera to spar. Use your guitar. When they act tough you call their bluff."
During this process and in these times it has become even more clear to me that we must continue to find ways to connect while we are being ripped apart. As artists, we must "light up a mean blaze" and use our gifts and talents as a contribution to the evolution and continued creation of our society, and like the characters in RENT, we must take care of one another despite our differences, measuring in love and "remember the love" that is innately there.
I hope that tonight's opening of RENT and hopeful run is a beacon of light and hope to the all theatre artists all over the world. We must see to it that we support each other and come back as a medium and community stronger than ever. Will we make it? Yes. We will. Thats what we do. We make it.
No Day But Today.
The video is from our sitzprobe and final day in the rehearsal studio.