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Student Blog: 'Thank You Jonathan Larson' - How Rent Changed My Life

Everyone has that one show that will stick with them forever. For me, that musical is Rent.

With the recent release of Tick, Tick, Boom, I've really started to reflect on the impact that Jonathan Larson has had on me as a theatre maker. I can honestly say that I don't think that I would be doing theatre at all if I hadn't been exposed to Rent.

I don't necessarily remember my first encounter with Rent as a whole, but I do know that one of the first songs I was exposed to from the musical was "Take Me or Leave Me." At this point in my life, I did not know anything about the plot of the musical or about the sexuality of Maureen and Johana, but I was impressed by how comfortable they were with themselves and each other. I had never seen a performance where women were so unafraid of showing off themselves. The song is a bop, but I was really impressed by the vulnerability that the two actresses brought to the scene.

Eventually, I watched the full movie and then the live television version, but I did not fully appreciate the musical as a whole until I started doing research about it for an audition. In this research, I started to connect and identify more with Mimi and Rogers's story. I think these two characters have a lot of walls up, and as someone with anxiety, that's something I really can relate to. I really relate to Roger because I appreciate how determined he is to find his legacy. I think especially now, a lot of young people are very focused on the impact they are going to leave on other people. With Mimi, she is a much more optimistic character than Roger is. She still has a lot of the same fears and anxiety that Roger does, but she fights it with hope. I think about the lyric, "Forget regret or life is yours to miss." This is something I really try to do for myself in my own life.

Rent (Non Eq)
Mimi and Roger in the current touring cast of Rent

The summer after my senior year of high school, I actually had the opportunity to be in a production of Rent. I was just in the chorus of the show, but at the time, I was not going to go to college for theatre. I had my heart set on politics and history. Being in this show really reminded me of the family atmosphere being a part of a show can have. It made me remember one of the many reasons I love theatre.

Another thing Rent did for me was allow me to discover my interest for theatre history and dramaturgy. When I was in the show, the actor who was playing Collins recommended the album "Without You (A Musical Memoir)" to the whole cast. This album was a combination of songs and monologues by Anthony Rapp, telling the story of the creation of Rent. Because of this album, I became obsessed with researching the history of the musical.

This was expanded upon when I did a final project about Rent my second semester of college. One of the options for this project was to create a dramaturgical project. In this project, despite the sheer amount of work it was, I absolutely fell in love with dramaturgy, to the point that that's what I want to do after I graduate.

There is a famous story about after the first performance of Rent. Someone shouted in the audience, "Thank You Jonathan Larson." That's my sentiment exactly. Thank you Jonathan Larson for creating such a deeply flawed, but beautiful musical that encourages my curiosity to learn more. Thank you Jonathan Larson for making me remember why I love theatre.

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