Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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JTE’s ‘Rent’ looks to teach and entertain with an educational rock show

Courtesy of Sierra Mergliano
The Jewish Theatre Ensemble’s “Rent” is set to premiere at Shanley Pavilion this weekend.

The Jewish Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Rent” is more than singing and dancing. It’s a tortured tale about addiction, loss and the AIDS epidemic — as well as a channel for educating the Northwestern community about an often overlooked era.

“Rent” will premiere on Friday at Shanley Pavilion at 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. There will be another two shows on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Communication junior and Director Ferdinand Moscat said he recalled sitting in a gay and lesbian history class last spring and learning about the AIDS epidemic. He said the class made him wish he had known more about the topic earlier, and he and Communication junior and Producer Maya Slaughter pitched Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” to the JTE board.

Moscat said the production team plans to not only entertain people with a rock musical but also to take the time to teach audience members about a historical time that is often overlooked.

“We’re taking a really methodical and respectful approach to “Rent” in that we’re viewing it as a slice of history,” said Communication sophomore and JTE Executive Director Aiden Kaliner.

In creating its own rendition, JTE focused on dramaturgy — the research aspect of theater that emphasizes giving the story accurate context — said Kiki Sikora, Communication sophomore and the show’s dramaturg.

Slaughter said the show received the Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grant, and the group used the funds to learn about the AIDS crisis and find avenues to educate audience members.

“Rent” seeks to reinvent and change the usual format of theater production, keeping with the themes of protest art that are at the heart of the story, Kaliner said.

The show also plans on having a lobby display before the show where audience members can view artifacts from the time period, including newspaper clippings, images and information about AIDS activism.

Sikora said that while the role of dramaturg is a newer one in the theater world, she works to provide context and add “texture” to the show. For Sikora, this can mean anything from preparing presentations to the entire cast to working one-on-one with an actor to understand something a character is going through.

“There are times where it feels like a party, but I think that’s why the show will be cool to see is that it’s also really set in a very dark period of time, especially for the community of ‘Rent,’” Sikora said.

The show has been in the works for over a year, which has given the team plenty of time to take a show of classic themes and bring a fresh perspective to it, Kaliner said.

Communication sophomore Veronica Gonzalez, who plays Mimi, a character grappling with addiction, said the overarching theme of connection is still relevant in 2024.

“I hope the takeaway is the importance of now,” Gonzalez said. “I hope that (audience members) go home and express love to their family and friends.”

Email: [email protected]
X: @LydiaPlahn13

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