A Sneak Preview of ‘Rent’ at Penn State

April 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment


Junior musical theatre major Sarah Ellis as Maureen.

I had a chance last night to see the first half of a dress rehearsal for Rent, the final production of the Penn State Centre Stage season. Better yet, I got to shoot photos. And better than that, I had a partner shooting photos with me: my brother Chris, who is a professional photographer in our hometown of Somerset, Pa.

Chris’ work involves shooting a lot of weddings, portraits of high school seniors, family portraits, and the like. So shooting live theatre was kind of a change of pace for him. We split up—he sat on one side of the theatre and I sat on the other—so we could get the action from more than one angle. And Rent proved to have plenty of action.

It was unlike any other stage performance I’ve seen before. Action is taking place everywhere in the theatre—not just onstage but all above/around it and in the aisles as well. If you’ve seen shows at the Pavilion, you know just how close the audience is to the action, so that makes Rent an especially intense show.


Penn State musical theatre students Paul-Jordan Jansen, Brad Frenette, and Adam Jepsen in Rent.

Practically everybody in the cast is an undergraduate in Penn State’s musical theatre program (Cary Libkin, head of the program, is director of the show), and they’re terrific. Sarah Ellis, a junior, especially stood out in the role of Maureen, the bisexual rock singer. And it was fun to see Paul-Jordan Jansen, who sang the national anthem when President Obama visited campus in February, as Collins.

But maybe the most fun for me was watching the guy who played the drag queen Angel. (He’s the guy in the Santa suit in the photo above; click on it to see it larger.) He was a crowd favorite, really played the role to the hilt—and he looked so familiar to me. Later, I got my hands on a playbill and realized he’s Adam Jepsen, the junior from Chicago whom we featured as our “Everyday Person” in our November-December issue. At the time he had just gotten back from playing the scarecrow in the national tour of The Wizard of Oz.

The Penn State production of Rent opens Thursday night and runs through April 19 in the Pavilion Theatre. You can read a preview story about the show at the Centre Daily Times website, and see some of the shots Chris and I took on The Penn Stater magazine’s Facebook page.

Tina Hay, editor

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