“Today; today is the day everything is going to be awesome,”
stated Zach Zamchick (’12), student producer of RENT a few days ago in the midst of an grueling yet energetic tech week. The production, directed by Bea Mora (’12), choreographed by Katie York (’14), with vocal direction by Samantha Friedman (’12) started rehearsal just a few weeks before spring break and has jumped a few hurdles: changing musical directors and a few musicians, fundraising (the show has a budget of over $3000, more than half of which was donated by Student Senate) and figuring out how to contain such an enormous production on the Heimbold Sound Stage, usually used by the Film Department. The show’s producers have been up until 4am every night this week constructing the set and making sure everything is just so. The rest of the cast and crew have been working until 2am to perfect every number.
Of the production, Zamchick says “I grew up on RENT– I saw the Original Broadway Cast when I was six years old and listened to the cassette tape on family road trips. That we were able to have Anthony Rapp (the original “Mark”) come in and speak with our cast was surreal. But the show is more than just nostalgia for me. It is an opportunity to push the limits of student-run performance on campus both creatively and financially.”
Everyone involved seems to be wearing at least two hats. James Neiley (’14) plays Angel and has coordinated costume design for the entire production. (Neiley is also Fashion Editor of SLCSpeaks). Tassa Markman (’14) plays two characters in the show, “is James’ make-up bitch” and says, “it’s more of a community thing, rather than having a director yell at you all the time. It’s good to do this the way you want.” Charles Peoples (’12), who plays Collins, remarked that, “This is actually my dream role…His songs are just absolutely incredible…That’s why it’s so exciting for me to play this role, because I get to hit these ridiculously high notes that I didn’t know I could hit.”
There is a definite “RENT aesthetic,” perhaps best characterized as down-and-out New York grunge. However, the students involved in set and costume design are decidedly bringing their own ideas to the table–and to life. Of the costumes, Neiley says RENT “is like the closet of a Sarah Lawrence student. The costumes are really actor-based.” Many of the costumes come straight out of the actor’s wardrobes — arranged and designed, of course, by Neiley.
Rob Winslow (’12), editor of the impending “Work” section of SLCSpeaks, sat in on a rehearsal this week and reports:
This is the kind of show that calls musical theater lovers to prayer. We all know the songs, and these kids have clearly seized on the opportunity to make it their own—and it really is their own. It takes a lot to take on a classic like this.
I walk in as this “hell week” rehearsal is getting started. Zach, Bea, and Julia are there fixing a sound crisis, sorting wires, boxes, and duct tape. The cast and crew rushes in and gets right to work—everything feels up in the air, everyone is in motion. The set is terrific—grunge minimalist—and reminds me of those vacant lots in the outer boroughs claimed by street youth, very true to RENT. Heimbold Sound Stage is a small space that houses big imagination, and they’ve used every inch of it (pushing the film equipment that usually occupies the space into the corners). Lights surround the soon-to-be stage and the set consists of (what I can only assume are) found chain-link gates, trash cans, tables, crates, bags of clothes, and a bandstand underneath a wall plastered with eviction notices.
Once the whole cast and crew are in the room, everyone is bustling, rushing; it seems as though everything is moving. Clothes are flying everywhere, choreography and high notes are practiced. Players finished with their chores pull out their computers to spend their few moments of downtime doing homework. These kids are working hard.
Based on the few numbers I see practiced, everything is falling into place. The space is small, and the choreography clearly has to struggle to stay in-bounds—which speaks well to the energy of the production.