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"RENT School Edition" on Stage in January Impact
Fairmont State News

"RENT School Edition" on Stage in January

Dec 29, 2008

When the Town & Gown Youth Company presents "RENT School Edition" in January, the all-star high school student cast will be one of the first in the nation performing the rock musical.

The special version of the popular Broadway play "RENT" developed for performance in public schools will be onstage in Fairmont State University's and Pierpont Community & Technical College's Wallman Hall Theatre from January 22-25 at 7:30 p.m. Fairmont will be among the first venues where "RENT School Edition" can be seen. Although it is the "School Edition," the show retains its dramatic intent and some mature subject matter.

Based on Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Boheme," "RENT" presents the story of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York's Lower East Side in the thriving days of the Bohemian East Village, in the shadow of AIDS. 

One hundred ten high school students from Harrison, Marion and Monongalia counties auditioned for the 17-member cast. The students selected for roles have been participating in an educational experience. They have done performance art pieces and reports based on issues featured in the show, such as Bohemian lifestyle, AIDS, drug addiction and homelessness.

To prepare for the production, cast members and Director Charles Dillon traveled to New York City to immerse themselves in the life of the East Village, the setting of "RENT." They visited several of the show's actual settings, including the East Village restaurant Life Café, where they had the opportunity to perform a song from the show to the restaurant owners and patrons. Original "RENT" stars Daphne Rubin-Vega conducted a private Q&A and workshop for the students. While in the city, the narrator of the play, Anthony Kolanko who plays video artist Mark Cohen, filmed a documentary that will be shown at the end of the Fairmont performances. The cast also attended "Fuerzabruta," a show as model-breaking in its own way as was "RENT." In late December, the cast held a "Peasant's Feast" in tradition with creator Jonathan Larson's annual holiday event, where they enjoyed a potluck dinner and exchanged homemade gifts including crafts, songs and poems that they created for each other.

Charles Dillon directs the Fairmont production; Jeremy Batten provides the musical direction; and Dan'l Linehan is artistic director of the show. Troy Snyder is technical director and lighting designer. Book, music and lyrics are by Jonathan Larson.

The cast for these performances includes the following: Anthony Kolanko (Morgantown High School) as Mark Cohen; Hughston Nelson (Robert C. Byrd High School) as Roger Davis; Julia Paladino (University High School) as Mimi Marquez; Alex Herbst (University High School) as Benjamin Coffin III; Clayton Dunn (Fairmont Senior High School) as Tom Collins; Tai Tonkphontong (Robert C. Byrd High School) as Angel; Cassidy Thompson (Morgantown High School) as Joanne Jefferson; Katy Koval (Morgantown High School) as Maureen Johnson; and the following as the ensemble: Jack Butler (University High School); Rachel Dineen (University High School); Amy Hein (Morgantown High School); Rickie Huffman (North Marion High School); Kyle Lehosit (Bridgeport High School); Nick Osler (University High School); Kayla Pomp (East Fairmont High School); Sarah Satterwhite (North Marion High School); and Linclon Sklar (Bridgeport High School).

"RENT," which opened on Broadway on April 29, 1996, won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Book. In 2007, a modified edition of RENT was made available to five non-professional acting groups in the United States for production.

Music supervision and additional arrangements are provided by Tim Weil; musical arrangements by Steve Skinner; original concept and additional lyrics by Billy Aronson.  Dramaturg is Lynn Thompson. "RENT" was originally produced in New York by New York Theatre Workshop and, on Broadway, by Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Allan S. Gordon and New York Theatre Workshop. The school edition was specially adapted and licensed by Music Theatre International.

Tickets prices for the FSU performances are $15 general admission; $12 seniors; and $10 for students with ID. Call the Box Office for reservations at (304) 367-4240.