Posts tagged ‘Rent’

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.”

(more…)

April 4, 2017 at 10:54 am 1 comment

A Sneak Preview of ‘Rent’ at Penn State

Sarah-Ellis

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 (more…)

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


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