Rent is the musical theatre adaptation of Puccini's La Boheme. Written by Jonathan Larson, who saw it reach off-Broadway success, then re-wrote it for Broadway. He saw the first performance on January 24, 1996, returned to his home content, and died that night of an aneurysm.

The play it set in New York's East Village. It focuses on two artists who are squatters in a building. One is a film maker who isolates himself from the world by using his camera, the other is a musician who has AIDS. The musical shares with its audience a year in the life of these two men, along with that it shares the lives of all the people they are involved with. From ex-lovers, to old friends.

This won the Tony award for best musical in 1996. Rent had a following of groupies, partly due to their sale of 20 dollar front row tickets to those fans who would wait outside the theatre for hours. Some considered this play to be revolutionary and timeless. Those who felt that way were mostly theatre novices. Critics felt that the lyrics and plotline were dated, and that would keep Rent from becoming a Broadway staple like Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.

RENT, a play

Dramatis Personae:
Villian, with mustache
Heroine, with bow
Hero, with bowtie
Note: all characters may be played by one actor, and all props may be depicted with one scrunched up bit of paper.

Villain: You must pay the rent.
Heroine: I can't pay the rent!
Villain: (angrily) You must pay the rent!
Heroine: (desperately) I can't pay the rent!
   Hero: I'll pay the rent!
Heroine: My hero!
Villain: Curses, foiled again! 
Node your Homework! - a paper, written sometime in 1998. It got a C- That teacher hated me. Literally. But that's another story...
Note: the author is no longer a Renthead. But I still like the essay.

It takes a certain amount of dedication to sit in the lobby of the Providence Performing Arts Center for ten hours or more at a time. But for me and about thirty other fans of the new musical Rent during the touring production's week-long stint in Providence, it was not only a way to score cheap tickets (the show's producers make it a policy to offer two rows of seats in the unused orchestra pit for $20 apiece on the day of the show), but to make new friends. This show, since its Broadway debut, has received massive media attention for its rock-flavored depiction of the lives of starving artists, homosexuals, and AIDS "victims" in New York's Lower East Side. Almost as much attention has been focused on us – the Rentheads – who, it is said, relate to these characters and situations as an accurate reflection of our generation; that we are, in essence, all oh-so-trendy bohemians or bohemian wannabes. Yet it seems that these newsmen have not taken the time to look at the actual people in lines in Providence and across the rest of the country. They'd be sure to find more middle-class poli-sci majors and high-school honors students there than poor filmmakers, drag queens, or HIV-positive S&M dancers. Perhaps these media types are missing another factor that really makes Rent find such dedicated young followers.

Jonathan Larson, after a three-year struggle to see his show realized on stage, died suddenly on the eve of Rent's last Off-Broadway dress rehearsal. This tragedy, naturally, put the small show in the spotlight, and the production was rushed to Broadway where it won every award from a Tony for Best Musical to a Pulitzer Prize for drama. It was new, fresh, and different, mixing modern musical style with traditional dramatic structure. The gritty yet charming characters were portrayed by largely unknown young actors, who despite their collective lack of experience (only three or four cast members out of nineteen had any significant stage experience beforehand), won acclaim for their realistic performances. In short, Rent was a perfect rags-to-riches story for the media to grab.

And grab hold they did. Every major newspaper and trade publication reviewed this hot new show and reported Jonathan Larson's story, which, though sad, made for great copy. Newsweek did a cover story about it; MTV aired a special with numbers from the show. And with this focus on Rent, naturally much of the attention spilled over onto the young people that camped outside the Nederlander Theatre, sometimes for days, to get the coveted pit tickets. These were the first Rentheads. So the media made a deductive leap; this, they said, was the show that would bring kids who had dismissed musicals as silly and stodgy onto Broadway. For some reason, this show appealed to youth as no other show had before, and so they must identify with these settings and people in the show as they couldn't to, say, Les Misérables. Therefore, the younger generation that came again and again to see Rent must see itself as sexy, artistic, and rebellious, mocking authority at every turn, yearning to live "la vie bohème." How very hip of them.

But they overlooked one important factor: the fans themselves. They weren't bohemians-in-training...they were the same middle-class students from Brooklyn and Long Island and New Jersey that had been seeing Les Misérables and Miss Saigon and Guys and Dolls for years. Yes, they came together at the Nederlander, which owed to the fact that the first-come, first-serve $20 tickets were being offered and students were about the only ones broke and dedicated enough to actually wait long enough for them. And, yes, they did see themselves in the characters, but not because they were transvestites or dying songwriters or lesbian performance artists. They saw beyond the sex, drugs, 'n' rock-and-roll exterior of the show and saw through to what Jonathan Larson had often said he had wanted for his show – a story about staying true to yourself, your dreams, and most importantly your friends, no matter what happens. This was a show for and about friendship; even if you entered the line alone, you would have thirty or so new friends by the time you actually entered for that night's show.

Many of the original Rentheads have by now sickened of seeing the show live, but to this day they remain friends even after the show. And we thirty or so in the line those days in Providence, more then two years after Rent's premiere and a year after the line system was abolished in New York, carried on their tradition by bonding over our shared love for a musical, when just a few hours ago we'd been complete strangers. The underlying message that makes the show for us ironically remains beyond the knowledge of many journalists despite the fact that it is the direct theme of "Seasons of Love," the show's unofficial anthem, always performed on talk-show cast appearances.

"Celebrate a year in the life of friends... Measure in love," the song runs. The fans don't just identify with these words. They live them. Maybe the newspapers and magazines aren't able to understand that.

Rent (r?nt), v. i.

To rant. [R. & Obs.] Hudibras.

 

© Webster 1913


Rent,

imp. & p. p. of Rend.

 

© Webster 1913


Rent, n. [From Rend.]

1.

An opening made by rending; a break or breach made by force; a tear.

See what a rent the envious Casca made.
Shak.

2.

Figuratively, a schism; a rupture of harmony; a separation; as, a rent in the church.

Syn. -- Fissure; breach; disrupture; rupture; tear; dilaceration; break; fracture.

 

© Webster 1913


Rent, v. t.

To tear. See Rend. [Obs.] Chaucer.

 

© Webster 1913


Rent, n. [F. rente, LL. renta, fr. L. reddita, fem. sing. or neut. pl. of redditus, p. p. of reddere to give back, pay. See Render.]

1.

Income; revenue. See Catel. [Obs.] "Catel had they enough and rent." Chaucer.

[Bacchus] a waster was and all his rent
In wine and bordel he dispent.
Gower.

So bought an annual rent or two,
And liv'd, just as you see I do.
Pope.

2.

Pay; reward; share; toll. [Obs.]

Death, that taketh of high and low his rent.
Chaucer.

3. (Law)

A certain periodical profit, whether in money, provisions, chattels, or labor, issuing out of lands and tenements in payment for the use; commonly, a certain pecuniary sum agreed upon between a tenant and his landlord, paid at fixed intervals by the lessee to the lessor, for the use of land or its appendages; as, rent for a farm, a house, a park, etc.

⇒ The term rent is also popularly applied to compensation for the use of certain personal chattels, as a piano, a sewing machine, etc.

Black rent. See Blackmail, 3. --
Forehand rent, rent which is paid in advance; foregift. --
Rent arrear, rent in arrears; unpaid rent. Blackstone. --
Rent charge (Law), a rent reserved on a conveyance of land in fee simple, or granted out of lands by deed; -- so called because, by a covenant or clause in the deed of conveyance, the land is charged with a distress for the payment of it. Bouvier. --
Rent roll, a list or account of rents or income; a rental. --
Rent seck (Law), a rent reserved by deed, but without any clause of distress; barren rent. A power of distress was made incident to rent seck by Statute 4 George II. c. 28. --
Rent service (Eng. Law), rent reserved out of land held by fealty or other corporeal service; -- so called from such service being incident to it. --
White rent, a quitrent when paid in silver; -- opposed to black rent.

 

© Webster 1913


Rent, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Rented; p. pr. & vb. n. Renting.] [F. renter. See Rent, n.]

1.

To grant the possession and enjoyment of, for a rent; to lease; as, the owwner of an estate or house rents it.

2.

To take and hold under an agreement to pay rent; as, the tennant rents an estate of the owner.

 

© Webster 1913


Rent, v. i.

To be leased, or let for rent; as, an estate rents for five hundred dollars a year.

 

© Webster 1913


Rent (?), n. (Polit. Econ.)

(a)

That portion of the produce of the earth paid to the landlord for the use of the "original and indestructible powers of the soil;" the excess of the return from a given piece of cultivated land over that from land of equal area at the "margin of cultivation." Called also economic, or Ricardian, rent. Economic rent is due partly to differences of productivity, but chiefly to advantages of location; it is equivalent to ordinary or commercial rent less interest on improvements, and nearly equivalent to ground rent.

(b)

Loosely, a return or profit from a differential advantage for production, as in case of income or earnings due to rare natural gifts creating a natural monopoly.

 

© Webster 1913

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