Posts tagged ‘musical theatre’

Being Benny

What You Own: (L to R) Danny Harris Kornfeld, Christian Thompson, Kaleb Wells
RENT 20th Anniversary Tour, Credit Carol Rosegg, 2016.

If Christian Thompson ’15 seems taken with his role of portraying Benny, the landlord and de facto bad guy in the musical “Rent,” that could be because he’s been preparing for it since he was a senior at Penn State. That’s where School of Musical Theatre musical director Beth Burrier encountered him and felt he fit the role perfectly.

“She said, ‘You’re the most Benny-est Benny I’ve ever seen and one day you’re going to play this so you should know the solo,’” Thompson recalled. “And so she taught it to me and who would think that two years later I’d be coming back to Penn State playing that role.”

But Thompson won’t have much time to reminisce once he gets to Dear Old State. “Rent,” the late Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking musical that debuted 20 years ago and has been revived for a multi-city U.S. tour, comes to Eisenhower Auditorium for one night only on Thursday, April 6. Thompson and company might not even have time to tour the Creamery—“We may just have to walk by it and be like, ‘That’s it. It’s really good. If you’re not too cold, make it happen.’”—before heading out for three nights of performances in Providence, R.I., starting April 7.

“Rent” chronicles the lives of starving artists in their close-knit community in New York’s East Village bound by a collective energy they summon daily in their struggle to make ends meet, all while dealing with the hardships brought about by discrimination, AIDS and—most visibly—a demanding landlord.

Thompson plays that landlord, Benjamin Coffin III, trying to collect the rent from his one-time friends—filmmaker Mark and AIDS-stricken musician Roger—who haven’t kept up with him financially and are now living in one of Benny’s East Village buildings, facing eviction.

When we caught up with Thompson by phone, it was a few hours before the show opened a six-night run in downtown Detroit’s historic Fisher Theater last month. As he prepared to partake in one of his favorite activities—exploring a new city for some good local coffee—he reflected on what it’s like to play the bad guy, taking on the added role of being the understudy for Roger, the importance of diversity in the arts, and his near-miss at landing a role in another landmark musical, “Hamilton.”


April 4, 2017 at 10:54 am 1 comment

A Few Photos From Reunion Weekend

We just wrapped up our annual Reunion Weekend here at University Park—members of the Class of 1960 were here to celebrate their 50th reunion, and grads from other class years came back as well. One of the activities I helped to staff was the All-Class Luncheon on Saturday at the Penn Stater Conference Center, and I thought I’d share a few photos I took at that event.

First we have a couple of returning grads posing for photos with the lion mascot…

…and then later the attendees discovered that the lion is none other than President Spanier, who, after taking the lion head off, gave some remarks about the state of things at Penn State.

A highlight of the lunch was a performance by some musical theatre students:

Among the attendees at the luncheon were not only the returning grads but also a group of Penn Staters who had just been recognized on Friday as Distinguished Alumni. Perhaps the most prominent of those was Richard Trumka ’71, president of the AFL-CIO.

The luncheon closed with a Penn State tradition: everyone singing the alma mater.

Afterward, many of the attendees piled onto buses for campus tours led by the Lion Ambassadors. The group below was especially lucky and got to ride on “Molly Trolley” instead of a school bus.

All in all, it seemed like everyone was pretty happy to be back.

Tina Hay, editor

June 7, 2010 at 8:42 am 1 comment

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