‘RENT’ production to premiere this weekend

Helen Lee, Reporter


After months of work, the Jewish Theatre Ensemble’s production of “RENT” will premiere this weekend in the Louis Room in Norris University Center.

The musical is a 200-person effort, headed by co-producers Kate Leggett and Tristan Chiruvolu and director Jessie Klueter. It will be one of JTE’s largest productions ever.

Communication freshman Maxwell Beer, the freshman board representative for the Jewish Theatre Ensemble, said he particularly admires Klueter’s direction.

“She had a clear image of the story she wanted to tell from the first day of rehearsal,” he said. “She found a way to turn what could have been a cookie-cutter, crowd-pleasing musical into a heartbreaking exploration of love and our struggle with insignificance.”

“RENT” is the second production this school year to have AIDS as a theme, following the Struble Project Series’ “The Normal Heart” production last fall. Leggett said they decided to spearhead the topic and become the second show to highlight AIDS for many reasons.

“We drew a parallel to it,” she said. “The AIDS crisis is something that impacts so many people and is still relevant to us. The show really talks about the tragedy in a very beautiful and intellectual way.”

Leggett said “RENT” honors the community of “others” who were ostracized and rejected during the AIDS crisis. Furthermore, she said that it’s an important conversation for us all to take seriously because, as younger people, it’s something we need to consider.

Beer said he thinks JTE knew it was taking on a “very hefty issue” when it decided to produce “RENT.” He thinks both JTE and the Struble Project Series decided to produce these shows because they’re about more than just AIDS. Having performed in “The Normal Heart” and cast in “RENT,” Beer has seen the issue come to life on stage before.

“So I think these two productions were green-lit and met with a great deal of anticipation because they’re filled with such humanity and hope,” Beer said.

However, he points out that while AIDS is a circumstance in the show, it’s not the central message.

“While we’ve certainly put some emphasis on AIDS, we’re more interested in spreading the message of love and community,” he said.

After seeing “RENT,” Beer hopes that the audience learns to truly live each moment to the fullest — to cherish the connections made and to learn to love fully. In addition, he says he thinks the show plays a lot with the ideas of grief and death.

“The lesson is that we should use the people around us to help and support us throughout life’s many difficult losses and decisions,” Beer said.

Although the show has a weighty and serious topic, Leggett says that it’s been thrilling. She describes the feeling of production as an “injection of energy” and says she’s most excited to see the visions of the director and the designers come to life and to see everyone’s hard work come together.

“For so long we would talk theoretically about how this is going to look and how that is going to sound,” she said. “To know that all of those things are going to become reality is very exciting.”

With the topic of AIDS in mind, both Leggett and Beer hope that the audience has a positive experience with “Rent” and that the issue resonates with everyone in some way.

“It might resonate in different levels, but I want everyone to feel something they did not feel when they walked into the show,” Leggett said. “That’s the magic of theater. You just have to have faith that it’ll come together in the end and be something beautiful.”

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