Murray Playhouse to perform ‘Rent’

Oftentimes students feel it is difficult to pay bills, live on their own and still find time for entertainment. Playhouse in the Park is hoping to provide musical and comedic relief to these problems with its production of “Rent” this April.

The production, set in the concrete jungle of New York City, follows a group of people who are trying to get by and make enough money to live. There are common problems they must face as well as those problems that may be controversial to this region of America.

“(Rent) gives people a look into real life issues that people deal with; some may be uncomfortable,” said Joshua M. Byrne, co-director of “Rent.”

The gritty production analyzes the trials and consequences of drug use, AIDS and homosexuality.

Brad Brauser, co-director of “Rent,” agreed with Byrne about the production.

“It would be weird for this community to do it, because it is so conservative and this is not a conservative production,” Brauser said.

“More than anything (“Rent”) shows a wide spectrum of the human condition,” Brauser said. “It is real people with real interaction.”

Despite the controversial issues covered in the production, many argue “Rent” is a testament to the new genre of musical theater. Byrne said that in addition to “Tommy” and “Hair,”  “Rent” paved the way for musical theater.

“‘Rent’ was kind of the one that put its foot down and set the way for musical theater,” Byrne said. “Musical theater is evolving and adopting a new genre, a pop/rock style, and ‘Rent’ is responsible for that big transition.”

Not only is Playhouse in the Park varying genres of productions, but it’s also implementing a new feature that Bryne and Brauser believe may attract college students. This introduction is called “Playhouse After Dark.”

A performance will begin at 7 p.m. under typical circumstances, however, with the new “Playhouse After Dark” feature, productions will begin at 9 p.m. Byrne said he believes college students will be more involved with a later performance and performances that are not as typical per family-friendly audiences. 

As the pioneer in the new genre of community theater musicals at Playhouse, “Rent” will be performed from April 16-26. Byrne said there are several roles in the ensemble with some cast members playing multiple characters. He said although they could cast 12 to 16 members, he would like to follow the script as well as possible with leads who will double up with a secondary role.

Byrne said everyone can take something away from this script.

“My goal is to not make people uncomfortable but for people to be open minded and appreciate our production,” Byrne said. “Not only are the cast members learning by performing the production but also educating others by providing them with a pioneering production.”

Both Byrne and Brauser encourage anyone with an interest in the play to audition for a role Feb. 23 and 24 at Playhouse in the Park at 6 p.m.

The performances will be held at Playhouse for the weekends of April 16 through 18 and 23 through 25 with all shows beginning at 9 p.m.

Story by Tiffany WhitfillStaff writer