ABOUT THE PLAY
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Directed by Thom Allison
Choreographed by Marc Kimelman
House Program for Rent
Grade Recommendation Grade 9+
Please see the show page for a detailed audience advisory.
When Jonathan Larson's genre-bending musical debuted on Broadway in 1996, it redefined the genre for a new generation of audiences. Considered to be the first live rock opera, Rent won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony for Best Musical. Its 12-year run was one of the longest in Broadway history, and it has since been adapted to the big screen and performed worldwide in over 25 languages.
Inspired by Puccini's 1896 opera La Bohème, Rent focuses on a group of young East Village artists, performers and philosophers as they struggle through the hardships of poverty, societal discord and the AIDS epidemic. Loft-mates Mark, a struggling filmmaker, and rockstar wannabe Roger who is HIV-positive are facing a Christmas without electricity after they fail to make the rent. Over the next year, Mark, Roger and their fellow artists chase their dreams while trying to keep the lights on.
Rent's innovative blend of pop music and breakneck pacing, coupled with its bold exploration of social taboos and contemporary issues, helped to bridge the gap between the traditional Broadway musical and younger generations. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the smash musical Hamilton, became obsessed with Rent after watching the film adaptation and cites Jonathan Larson as an essential influence on all of his work. Like many young people at the time, Miranda was blown away by Rent's ground-breaking depiction of underrepresented and marginalized 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, members of the global majority, immigrants and those living in poverty. Those representations matter more than ever. So do the characters' anxieties about pandemics, skyrocketing rents and financial insecurity.
Shortly before his tragic and untimely death at age 35-on the very day of Rent's off-Broadway premiere-Jonathan Larson shared his hopes for the play with a journalist. "In these dangerous times," he said, "where it seems that the world is ripping apart at the seams, we all can learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and should reach out to each other and bond as a community." With a song list that includes the iconic "Seasons of Love," Rent tells a story as relevant today as when it took Broadway by storm.
- Global Competencies:
- Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Metacognition, Self-Awareness
- Grade 9-12
- The Arts (Dance, Drama, Music, Visual Arts)
- Canadian and World Studies
- Grades 11-12
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- 2SLGBTQIA+ Love and Life
- Art as Resistance
- Chosen Family
- Death, Dignity and Dying
- East Village, New York City in the 1990s
- Home, Being Unhoused and the Housing Crisis
- Living Life to the Fullest
- Mental Health
- Performance Art
- Substance Use Disorder and Addiction