BWW Interview: Logan Marks of RENT 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR at Fisher Theatre says You Can Always Use More Love In Your Life!
RENT is coming back to Detroit! The Detroit engagement is part of the 20th Anniversary Tour and will be here from January 8th -20th at the Fisher Theatre. In 1996, an original rock musical by a little-known composer opened on Broadway and forever changed the landscape of American theatre. Two decades later, Jonathan Larson's RENT continues to speak loudly and defiantly to audiences across generations and all over the world. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony-Award winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a vibrant 20th anniversary touring production. A reimagining of Puccini's La Bohème, RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Logan Marks, who plays the role of Mark Cohen in the 20th Anniversary Tour of RENT, about the show, his iconic role, and why RENT is still going strong 20 years later. Check out our conversation below!
BroadwayWorld Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and then your theatre career as an introduction?
Logan Marks: Growing up, I was huge into gymnastics and soccer and I did that for a long time. Then I broke my shoulder in a soccer game and I couldn't really do either anymore. I was getting close with some friends who were in the theatre community at my school. The very first thing I did was The Wizard of Oz in 5th grade and I was a munchkin. It was exciting for me, but I really didn't register how much I loved it. It wasn't until later until middle school that I did something in 8th grade, Once Upon A Mattress, and I really loved that. My junior year was when I became serious about theatre and I realized how much I really loved it, but even when I was looking at colleges, I applied to 13 of them and 11 of them were for business. I knew theatre was my greatest passion, but, as I think many of us are, a little nervous about making it a career, because truthfully, it's not the most promising so to say. Then I kind of had this moment where I was like, and I call it my Disney moment, where I was like I want to follow my dreams and see what would happen. Plus, I grew up outside of Boston and it was a really bad snowstorm and I really hate the snow in the winter, so I said let's try theatre and let's try going to somewhere a little warmer! By that point many program auditions had already happened, but this school called Western Carolina University in Western North Carolina was still having auditions for their B.F.A. program and I went, I did it, and I ended up being accepted. I kind of viewed it as a sign that I got such a strong program after it basically being my only audition. I was there all four years and I just graduated in May of 2017 with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. I had worked every summer in between my college years. After freshman year, I worked at Dollywood theme park. I started working at some regional theatres. Just kind of learning all about the industry and the business. After I graduated, I worked at a theatre in Colorado. I moved to New York last November of 2017. Then in February after just kind of auditioning for the past couple months, I got a few job offers and one of them was RENT. And here I am!
BWW Detroit: With it being the 20th Anniversary Tour and being such a staple in the theatre community, everyone should know what RENT is, but if you did meet someone who doesn't know the show, how would you describe RENT in your own words?
Logan Marks: I would say that RENT is about a group of struggling artists living in Alphabet City, like the Lower East Village of Manhattan, during the AIDS epidemic. It's just all about them trying to survive with what little they have just to get by, the friendships that have become family, and learning to lean on each other for love and support, while many of them are struggling with this disease.
BWW Detroit: What is like for you to play such an iconic role of Mark? He is such a staple in the theatre community, and here it is the 20th Anniversary Tour, RENT has been around a long time and Mark's shoes has been filled by a lot of performers. What is like for you, as you said to have just graduated and get to play this amazing role in the tour?
Logan Marks: Yeah, absolutely. There is a definitely a lot of pressure that comes with it not necessarily bad pressure. There are fans that will definitely remind you that you are this part in this specific show and because of how iconic the show is and all the little things and how even iconic the costumes are, they are some very big shoes to fill every day even when I put scarf and that sweater on such, I'm reminded of that. For an actor such as myself, especially one who has recently graduated, it sounds so cliché, but it is an honor and a dream to be able to feel like I'm kind of leaving my mark, oh my god no pun was intended right there, to leave my mark on the character in the show. Our assistant director's name is Trey Ellett and he played Mark on Broadway. I've actually had some text conversations with Anthony Rapp. It's just really neat to be able to talk to them and to kind of pick their brains. What's challenging, but fascinating about this role and this show, is that there are expectations that you do it justice because people who do know the show do have certain expectations. Since I'm not Trey; and I'm not Anthony; and I'm not all these people who have played it in the past; it's important for me to bring a bit of Logan into it and to make sure I'm still myself playing this role and make it my own. It's been a very interesting and fun challenge to keep the sincerity and how iconic the character is, while making sure I make it my own.
BWW Detroit: Who do you think Mark Cohen is?
Logan Marks: I think Mark is a very sweet, but sometimes misunderstood person. He is definitely, I relate to him a lot in this aspect, the definition of a people watcher, an observer. He notices everything and that's why it's so perfect that's he's a filmmaker because he always has his camera and he's always filming everything because you never know what you might catch. He's one of the few in the show that does not have AIDS. At the time the show takes place, he's basically, out of the other principles, really the only one who's not in a relationship because obviously Maureen just broke up with him and is now with Joanne. I like to relate him to the Evan Hansen or even the Boq in Wicked where, I don't want to say he's a loner, but he's kind of on the outside a little bit because he's living in his own world and just cares a lot about these more in-depth things then about being in a relationship and all these material goods. I think he's very relatable to people. A lot of people say that Mark is there favorite character and I think that is because everyone knows what it is like to kind of feel alone. Mark has this really great line that I love where he gets in a fight with Roger at the end of the show and Roger is talking about how everyone is all dying and Mark says, 'but I'm the one who has to survive.' It's kind of a beautiful and twisted thing because he's right where he's going to be left alone because he doesn't have this disease and all his friends, basically his chosen family, are all dying. He's going to be all by himself, but at the same time, isn't that still better than dying itself? Mark just has this really challenging internal struggle where he's kind of alone relationship-wise but he's stuck between where he should feel grateful because he doesn't have this disease, but he's also petrified about being left alone. He's just trying to kind of get through life as best he can.
BWW Detroit: You already talked about you have a favorite line, do you have a favorite moment or song in the show that you get to be part of every night?
Logan Marks: I feel like it's so cliché to say 'Seasons of Love' but it really is with the way the world is today with politics and everything and all these awful shootings and stuff going on. It's such a beautiful reminder no matter what if you had a family member dealing with - it doesn't have to be AIDS - it can be cancer or anything, the song is just so brilliant in a sense that it's just about asking how you live your life. Do you measure in the cups of coffee you pour every morning? The breaths you take? Why don't you measure in something else? Why can't that something else just be love? It's such a simple thing that is timeless. I think it can benefit everyone to think about and ponder so I really love getting to sing that song. It's at the top of Act Two and we're still our characters, but we're still kind of ourselves and get to stare into the eyes of the audience members. We're kind of lucky that we get to break the fourth wall and really share that moment with the audience and kind of become one for everyone who's in the theatre at the moment. So, for kind of all those reasons it's a very special part of the show that I love to do.
BWW Detroit: This is RENT's 20th Anniversary Tour, this is a show set back in the 90s about struggling artists during the AIDS epidemic yet it resonates so much with people so easily? Yes, we will have AIDS, but it's different today. Why do you think it's still such a show that touches people and people love? Why is this show still going so strongly and such a hit?
Logan Marks: That's a good question. I feel like there a couple answers for that. I think this is kind of a smaller answer, and I wonder about it myself too, because if you know RENT decently well, you know that the composer, Jonathan Larson, passed away the night of the first preview. So, RENT, we were kind of taught in rehearsals, even though it is such a brilliant show, it is technically unfinished because if you know the theatre world, you know that even after a first preview, so many changes and edits go into a show. Michael Greif, the director, and all the people didn't really want to change much of the show because they didn't want to change it without Jonathan being there. RENT deep down truthfully is kind of an unfinished show and I think that makes it really unique and beautiful, especially today when we have all these shows that are based off of cartoons or movies or more touristy kind of things, RENT is really more of an original idea that isn't perfect. People aren't perfect and world isn't perfect, but I also think what made RENT so special is that it talked about, not only AIDS, but everything from being gay or lesbian during a time when it really wasn't accepted as it is today. Even unfortunately 20, 23 years ago, it was a very different time, it put characters on stage that talked about drug use, depression, suicide, being gay, being lesbian, interracial love was really kind of slightly groundbreaking at the time to have all of that in a show, and it's definitely not a PG show, but it opened a lot of people's eyes to how some people are forced to live, especially the unfortunate people who don't have a lot money. I think that really was a groundbreaking thing for the theatre community, but also the world. Today people relate to it because they know that it made that change. It made that change in the theatre world and the normal world. And like you said, AIDS is obliviously much more under control, but it's still an issue, but it can also be related to things like cancer where you can still learn to live like there is no day but today and to measure your life in love because there are still these fatal diseases and there are still these people who feel like they are not accepted for who they are whether that's transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, who can find some solace and comfort in a show that celebrates that and celebrates individuality. The whole show has this theme that is just timeless about it - loving who you are and loving who you love, not being afraid of it, expressing it, and doing what you can to survive because that's all we can do.
BWW Detroit: Why should people come see come see the 20th anniversary tour? There are people who have seen it before or there might be new people - what would you say to them? Why should they come see come see RENT?
Logan Marks: I guess it kind of goes along with the previous question that it really is a different type of show. It's very fascinating to talk to people who have never seen RENT, but have seen shows before like if you go see The Lion King then go see RENT, you are going to have a very different experience. They can both be equally as incredible just for different reasons. I like to think it's very neat to challenge yourself as a theatregoer to have an open mind and to see a show like RENT, which you might one, not know about, and two, might not really feel comfortable about, but to challenge yourself to say let me experience this art and let me see what these people have to offer and let see what I can learn from it to apply to myself and my everyday life. I would love people to come see the show just because there are so many beautiful lessons that can be learned from it. There is a lot of talk about how we are very young and what not, but we are the people who are living the lives of our stories. The characters we play are our age. And it's very nice hearing the people who have seen the Broadway production say that ours is just as good because we do work very hard to make sure that the story is just as authentic, relevant, and told as it's meant to be told. It's just a really beautiful, different story that people who might not expect to take anything from it, really can, because again no matter who you are, you can always take more love into your life, and always be reminded that every day is special and every moment of every day is very important so to not let it go or to not let it go to waste.
**RUSH TICKETS: Broadway In Detroit announced that there will be a limited number of main floor seats near the front of the theatre will be available for $20, day of the performance only. The $20 tickets are limited to two tickets per person, cash only. The line to purchase may begin forming two and one-half hours prior to the performance time with ticket sales beginning two hours prior until all designated rush tickets have been sold.**
RENT 20th Anniversary Tour will be here January 8th - 20th at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. For more information and tickets, visit www.BroadwayInDetroit.com.