Forget Regret or Life is Yours to Miss
Meadville's Academy Theatre brings Rent to life
PREMIERES FRIDAY, JUL. 14
If you grew up in the '90s, there is a good chance that you have memorized how many minutes there are in a year, and for that you can thank the song "Seasons of Love" from the hit Broadway musical Rent for that. Written by Jonathan Larson, Rent is loosely based on an opera made famous in 1896 known as La Boheme, which follows the life of a poor seamstress and her artist friends living in Paris in 1830. Larson drew from this storyline to create a modern-day version set in New York City during the height of the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1990s, with relatable music and themes for the younger generation. Rent began bridging gaps between stuffy theater-goers and the new wave of musical theater enthusiasts.
Julia Kemp, artistic director for Meadville's Academy Theatre, is responsible for all artistic endeavors for the theater and is very committed to bringing high quality entertainment to the community, so much so that she has also decided to grace the stage for this production as Joanne. She says, "Being in a room full of your peers and people from your community gathered for the same purpose, brings a sense of relatability to any showing." She continues, "You experience friendship, conflict, grief, and love all with those that you share a street with every day."
The narrator Mark poses the following question in every production: "Is anyone in the mainstream?" This question is geared toward the local audience and is meant to make individuals contemplate the theme — youthful optimism, seizing the day, and how that is a universal concept. It's also about searching out a community that transcends the separateness of individuals and finding understanding in a world where it seems impossible to fit in. "You'll hear us mention Jason during act one, and that is in reference to a lost loved one of a cast member. For that cast member, the themes of Rent hit closer than the rest," Kemp says. "The average age of our cast is 23, so we all have our own experiences to draw from for these performances."
With these showings Kemp and the director, Ted Watts Jr., hope to inspire audiences to embrace the concept of "carpe diem" (seize the day), and to not let fear or uncertainty hold them back from pursuing their dreams. "We'd also like to highlight the power of love, acceptance, and promoting the idea that love knows no boundaries and that everyone deserves respect and understanding. There is nothing more valuable and life-saving than authentic human connection and support." They also hope to inspire, uplift and provoke thought with this run.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., July 14 - 30 // Meadville Academy Theatre, 275 Chestnut St., Meadville // $17-$25 // For tickets and info: theacademytheatre.org