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Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

RENT was due: COPA students serve in recent production

Photo by John Altdorfer
Jordan Threatt, senior musical theater major, passionately grabs a payphone during a performance of RENT.

Point Park’s production of RENT at the Pittsburgh Playhouse this past week successfully revitalized the show that broke ground on Broadway 30 years ago. 

RENT follows a year in the life of a group of friends in the East Village of New York. They navigate how to pay their outstanding rent, the AIDS epidemic, addiction, rocky relationships and sexuality. A musician, a filmmaker, a drag queen, an actress, a landlord, an anarchist educator, an exotic dancer and an ivy-league lawyer go through many highs and lows with each other but are held together with love. The “savior” of the group is Angel Dumott Schunard, a drag queen with a heart of gold. Multiple characters are HIV positive, and one character’s demise is shown throughout the performance. 

Even though the show is set in 1989 and 1990, amidst the AIDS epidemic, the overall themes of love, poverty and disease are still relevant to today’s society. 

“Rent is all about seizing the day and taking every opportunity you can to live to the fullest,” said Cami Caldwell, who played Maureen Johnson. 

This quote perfectly encapsulates Rent and what it means to Cami Caldwell, me, and many other fans. 

 “Rent is culturally important because from a musical theater perspective, it shows that you can tell contemporary stories for your audiences but they can be compelling. Not from the spectacle but from the honesty that the characters bring. The stories come from real experiences rather than being fun and fanciable.” said Alexandra McGee, an attendee on opening night. This show aims to be a thought-provoking one rather than a musical meant for pure entertainment. 

The performances of each cast member, from the leads to the ensemble, were electric. 

Captivating renditions of “Without You,” “Will I” and the reprise of “I’ll Cover You” were heart-wrenching, full of intensity and remorse. On opening night, anger was absent in the song “Take Me or Leave Me.” However, the performances on the second night changed my opinion.

“Take Me or Leave Me” is the iconic duet between Joanne Jefferson and Mureen Johnson, girlfriends that are complete opposites. Tension rises after Joanne, a Harvard graduate and lawyer, discovers that Mureen Johnson may be acting promiscuous in the relationship, which was an unfair stereotype that was assigned to bisexual individuals in the eighties and the nineties. 

In the show, the two have multiple fights and “Take Me or Leave Me” is an anger-fueled anthem that happens during the second act of the show, whenever all the characters are dealing with loss, breakups and death. The two performers, Renee Agben and Cami Caldwell, executed the song perfectly.

The choreography was perfect, especially during the highly-anticipated fan favorite “La Vie Bohème.” It was fun to watch the table dance in that part, and it was exhilarating seeing all of the moving parts that make up the ensemble. I felt like I would miss something, and each time I looked at a different person they were doing something different. 

RENT means different things to different people, and the impact varies from person to person. For Adrian Escalona, sophomore acting major, this production led to the changing of his major.

 “Ever since I was little, this has been a dream role of mine. Angel is uninhibited by society’s standards and what’s considered conventional or acceptable. She doesn’t care, and she lives for herself and that is what’s so lovely about her,” said Esclona about what drew him to the character. Angel’s character traits led to Esclona’s career shift and impacted him in a shocking way. “Not caring and being uninhibited was cool and refreshing, and it made me have a new outlook on my work as an artist.”

Outside of the playhouse, multiple student organizations and outside organizations provided helpful resources for attendees. The Gender and Sexuality Spectrum Alliance and the Point Park Students for Change were a few of the student organizations that were in attendance, as well as SisTers PGH, a local Black and Transgender led organization that strives to provide support to the BIPOC transgender and nonbinary communities in Pittsburgh. 

RENT stands the test of time and continues to impact and influence audience members, regardless of whether the attendee is a seasoned fan or a first-timer, after every performance. Attendees left the theater in awe and in tears after the show was completed and expressed their love for the performance. 

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