One of the first-ever college productions of the acclaimed musical Rent, directed by Christopher Grabowski, will be presented by the Experimental Theater of the Drama Department at Vassar College, December 2*, 3, 4, and 5 (*preview performance). The performances, free and open to the public, will begin at 8:00pm in the Martel Theater in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. Please note that seating is very limited and advance reservations are required. For information and reservations (available two weeks before the performance), call the box office at (845) 437-5599 or visit http://drama.vassar.edu.
The Pulitzer and two-time Tony Award-winning Rent is based on the plot of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème. This rock musical is set in the early 1990s and features script, music, and lyrics by Jonathan Larson. Rent, which gives voIce To a group of young artists in the East Village who are struggling to be heard, touches upon issues of race, class, and sexual orientation, and helps shed dramatic light on the recognition of AIDS.
Drama professor Chris Grabowski, who directed the first staged reading of Rent during its early days in development at New York Theater Workshop (NYTW), will direct this production featuring Vassar students. He was an artistic associate at NYTW while Larson was an emerging composer in the 1990s before the off Broadway premiere and subsequent move to Broadway of Rent.
Grabowski decided to stage Rent at Vassar, once the rights were released to perform the musical at colleges. Rather than producing a mere imitation of the glamorous Broadway productions of the musical, Grabowski said he decided to present a Rent that is "more reminiscent of its earlier off-Broadway days, when the musical was considered cutting-edge, with a cast comprised of unfamiliar faces, and the production thrifty."
Grabowski asked the entire Vassar Experimental Theater cast, on the first day of the rehearsals, to stop listening to the soundtracks of the musical, in order to re-interpret and re-textualize the material at Vassar in year 2009. This production is unique in merging Grabowski's intimate experience and interpretation of the production, from his direction of the first reading of Rent, with the fresh experiences of the diverse young cast of actors, musicians, dancers, and filmmakers. Along with actors and actresses, the cast also incorporates dancers, musicians, and filmmakers from the student body.
"I think it's a great play to do at a college," said senior Nate Silver, the associate director of the Vassar production. "What we're doing is going back, finding what the story is in the play, and also what it means to us as a group of young artists in the Drama Department, trying to get ourselves heard now and in the future."
According to Silver, as a group of young unrecognized artists, the entire Vassar cast has the passion of the original cast and the characters in the musical. He said, "We have that energy right here."
The production is supported in part by The Joan Kostick Andrews '52 Fund For Musical Theater and is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).
About the Vassar Drama Department's Experimental Theater ?
The Experimental Theater is a place to explore theories learned in the classroom and to experiment with theatrical forms. In the tradition of pioneering stage director Hallie Flanagan, students are encouraged to experience and experiment with all aspects of the theater. Flanagan, who accepted a position to teach drama at Vassar in 1925, founded the Experimental Theater following her visit to the theaters of Europe in 1926 on a Guggenheim Fellowship (http://drama.vassar.edu).
Reservations for The Experimental Theater of Vassar College Drama Department performances are available in person through the Box Office located at the Powerhouse Theater, Monday through Friday, from 1:00 - 5:00 pm. Reservations may also be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (845) 437-5584 or (845) 437-5599. (Please note the box office cannot respond on weekends.)
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370 and/or Box office directly x5584. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.