Drag, Death, and AIDS: RENT in Review
David Hines: A rough scaffolding monolith loomed in front of the audience. Tom Pandolfo as Roger strutted to center stage where he strummed the first cords. On Thursday, April 12th, twenty-two cast members breathed life into John Larsen’s tragic rock opera RENT.
As the most ambitious main stage musical yet, the Babson Players sang and danced with zeal through 525, 600 minutes of Bohemian life in New York’s East Village in 1990. Relationships define RENT. For short periods Mimi’s desire for stability turns her to Benny. Maureen’s ambiguous sexuality allows her to flit between Mark and Joanne. AIDS tears computer genius, Collins, and drag queen musician, Angel, apart, yet such a terrible disease brings Roger and Mimi together finally.
Each moment on stage, I was faced with the question: How do I “live each moment as my last?” As a freshman, I was both thrilled and terrified to receive the role of Angel Dumont Schunard. With ludicrous high notes, lightning costume changes, and challenging choreography, I worried about my ability to breath, sing, dance, and maintain balance through “Today for You.”
I was challenged with making my death mid-way through Act II meaningful. The audience needed to feel invested in me. Angel is such an impactful, memorable character, however, in reality has little time on stage. Each sung note, each step, each spoken line was an opportunity to impress myself on the audience. Angel progresses from caring street drummer, to crazy dancing drag, from New Year’s James Bond girl to sick partner. With such a supportive cast, I managed to stay on my feet in 4’’ heels and hit all my notes.
As a reflection of Babson, RENT captivated students, staff, and faculty. With a full house Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I am excited about the future of theatre and future musicals at Babson.
Babson Players during RENT
David Hines, Class of 2015
Photo Credit: Benjamin Staples