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ASU for ‘Rent’



Article Published: Dec. 6, 2012 | Modified: Dec. 10, 2012
ASU for ‘Rent’

Students playing principal roles in Appalachian State University’s production of ‘Rent’ are, back row from left, Freddy Perkins, Will Allen, Luke Schaffer and Tim Reis, and, front row from left, Hunter Boyette, Blair Howerton, Dominique Atwater and Madeline Hintz.
Photos by Natalie Carpenter



“Rent,” Broadway’s 1990s rock musical, is a semi-biography of young bohemians’ grasps for stability through HIV/AIDS.

Written by the late Jonathan Larson, the production shows both the stifling and propulsion of its characters by love, illness, poverty and drug addictions.

The musical has won four Tony awards, six Drama Desk awards and a Pulitzer Prize.
On Sunday, Dec. 9, at 2 and 8 p.m., Appalachian State University’s Musical Theatre Club is performing a concert version of “Rent.”

The production lasts two hours and 15 minutes and will be performed at the Rosen Concert Hall in the Broyhill Music Center on the Appalachian campus. Tickets are $8. Through Friday, tickets will be sold in advance at the Valborg Theatre lobby from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets will also be sold at the door, beginning one hour prior to each performance.

“Rent” has been performed in Raleigh and Charlotte, but never in the High Country. ASU’s production will coincide with World AIDS Day, nationally celebrated on Dec. 1.

Stage manager Emily Siegal said the musical’s message is one often encountered in theater, “so it really speaks to us.”

“Rent” is the first production of the campus Musical Theatre Club. The club was formed earlier this year and is open to all students on campus interested in promoting and performing in musical theater.

“There are 18 or 19 different majors and a mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors within the club,” said Kieth Martin, co-director of the production and the John M. Blackburn Distinguished Professor of Theatre.

“Everyone is really dedicated,” said sophomore business major Blair Howerton, who plays the lead role of Mimi.

The club is advised by Martin, voice and acting professor Derek Gagnier and sacred music and organ professor Joby Bell.

Bell is the music director, and professor Linda Larson is the vocal director for “Rent.”

Senior theater education major Jonathan Green co-directs “Rent.” After a history as assistant director for two Main Stage productions and director of two New Play Festival shows, Green said that working on “Rent” has interested him in a career of professional directing.

“Rent’s” cast is composed of eight actors and 26 ensemble members. Martin said club members were nearly unanimous in their decision, made this fall, to present the popular musical at ASU.

Because the size of Rosen Concert Hall does not lend itself to an extravagant set, Martin said that the musical will be “a little more formal.”

Cast members wear one defining accessory, like Mark’s striped scarf and Roger’s leather jacket, and will “be stage reading,” while the ensemble circles around the orchestra, Siegal said.

“Other than that, it’ll be word for word and song for song of the original,” Martin said. “It’s a staged reading of the show that focuses on the written work itself.”

“Rent” originally premiered Jan. 25, 1996, on the 100th anniversary of “La Bohème.” The musical is a modern adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme,” a four-act opera, based on a collection of vignettes about young Parisian bohemians in the 1840s.

“I consider ‘Rent’ and ‘Angels in America’ to be the two most important works in America in the last quarter century,” Martin said.

“I’d tell the audience that they might want to clap along with some of the songs, but definitely to expect to cry their hearts out,” Green said. “I know I will be.”

Freddy Perkins plays Angel Dumott Schunard, Tim Reis plays Benjamin Coffin III, Dominique Atwater plays Joanne Jefferson, Luke Schaffer plays Mark Cohen, Madeline Hintz plays Maureen Johnson, Blair Howerton plays Mimi Marquez, Will Allen plays Roger David, and Hunter Boyette plays Tom Collins.

For more information, email Martin at (martinkt1@appstate.edu)

Additional Images

Students playing principal roles in Appalachian State University’s production of ‘Rent’ are, back row from left, Freddy Perkins, Will Allen, Luke Schaffer and Tim Reis, and, front row from left, Hunter Boyette, Blair Howerton, Dominique Atwater and Madeline Hintz.
Photos by Natalie Carpenter

‘Rent’ co-director Keith Martin, right, shares a light moment in rehearsal with cast members, from left, Yvette Townsley, Sarah Duttlinger, Blair Howerton and Samuel Melo. The students are members of a new musical theatre club on campus and auditioned for roles in the Appalachian Musical Theatre Ensemble.

More than four dozen students make up the cast, crew and live orchestra for the Dec. 9 production of ‘Rent’ at Appalachian State University. The students represent 18 different academic majors from across the university.

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