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Photo: Carle Gaier
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Photo: Carle Gaier
Music, lyrics and book by Jonathan Larson. Direction and choreography by George Pinney. Music directed by Terry LaBolt.
Ruth N. Halls Theatre, Indiana University Bloomington
Oct 8-9 and 12-16, 2010
The IU Department of Theater and Drama opens their production of Jonathan Larson’s popular musical Rent this Friday.
George Pinney is the director and choreographer. Terry LaBolt, the music director for IU’s Musical Theater Program, is directing the music for the show. LaBolt is also a veteran of the AIDS scene that the musical deals with.
Not Quite The AIDS Of The 19th Century
Rent is loosely based on Puccini’s account of the artists of Paris’s Left Bank, the opera La Boheme. In Puccini’s piece, the looming killer was consumption, otherwise known as tuberculosis.
While tuberculosis targeted no special economic or social group, though, AIDS certainly did. Indeed, when Rent opened, staging it was quite controversial. LaBolt describes his own reaction to it, then.
“Even when it opened in 1996, Rent was a bit of a period piece. It was a look back to the ’80s. 1996 was the year of hope, the year of the introduction of ‘the cocktail.’”
‘The cocktail’ was a combination of antiretroviral drugs introduced in ’96 that was developed to treat the human immunodeficiency retrovirus, HIV. It was a ray of light after years of darkness. “In fact,” LaBolt says, “I sort of didn’t want to see it, because I was leery of revisiting those dark earlier times.”
A Lesson In Recent History
If the show was a bit of a period piece in 1996, one wonders what it was like to teach the piece to current college students, who were then barely in elementary school.
“During tryouts, a young stage manager asked me about it. I told him just a bit about how bad it really was. That people were deserted by their frightened partners, and that some doctors and nurses refused to treat AIDS patients. There were isolation wings for those suffering. And, I added, I had friends who died from it.”
The stage manager’s question highlighted for LaBolt the meaning of what he was doing. “It really came home to me that it’s important that we do Rent, in part because it is a solid piece with interesting characters, an involving plot, good music, but also because it is a part of our history that we could use a reminder about.”
- Visit the official website for the Broadway musical Rent.