Northwestern alumni to put on charity showing of ‘Rent’ for launch of nonprofit startup

Alice Yin, Campus Editor

A nonprofit startup spearheaded by Northwestern graduates is launching its inaugural production this quarter with a charity showing of “Rent.”

Artists Giving Back, which aims to use art as a channel for philanthropy, was founded this February with three of the four members on its leadership team hailing from NU. The new organization will debut with its first show on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. All proceeds will go to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

The nonprofit’s executive director, Justin Callis (Communication ‘11), was a prolific member of NU’s student theater community. The NU alum, who was also the organization’s co-founder, is joined by director of finance Tyler McLean (McCormick ‘11) and corporation counsel Kristin Leasia (WCAS ‘11, Law ‘14).

“I know for myself and Justin at least, quite a bit of what we learned and experienced as NU students has directly influenced our desire and ability to pursue an endeavor such as AGB,” Leasia said in an email statement to The Daily.

The one-night showing of “Rent” will star guest artist Steve Grand, an LGBT singer from Chicago. Grand, who peaked at the third spot on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart, will perform the rock musical’s finale song, “Seasons of Love.”

“‘Rent’ is a show that has inspired me for years,” said artistic director and co-founder Peter Ruger in a news release. “The passion of the music and the story, and the connection I felt to the wonderful characters, brought me not only to the fight against AIDS, but also helped guide me to my life as a singer.”

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