By: Jen Russon
RENT, the revolutionary rock musical celebrating the lives of impoverished artists in Manhattan at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1989, has come to the Coral Springs Center for the Arts.
Written by Jonathan Larson in the early 90s, Next Stop Broadway’s teen cast rehearsed hundreds of hours for RENT, embodying the hardships of artists in New York City decades before they were born.
Aiden Scott, an incoming senior at J.P. Taravella High School, plays Mark Cohen, the musical’s chief narrator.
Cohen’s life is, in a word, problematic.
A Jewish-American filmmaker who can barely make rent, Cohen lives with an HIV-positive guitarist named Roger Davis.
Davis is desperate to write one last hit song before he succumbs to a disease that caused his girlfriend’s suicide when she was diagnosed with AIDS.
“My character is a literal lens. Through me, the story is recorded. Detailing what happens in RENT is to live through these individual experiences personally. It’s heavy stuff,” said Scott.
His co-star, Hunter Quinn, agrees, adding how fearful AIDS made everyone in a time when the disease was largely misunderstood.
“The part of Roger requires an understanding of what it would be like to go through an incredible amount of trauma, with no idea what’s going to happen to you. It takes a lot out of you, but it also sharpens your sense of how important it is to really live your life while you still can,” said Quinn.
Quinn graduated from J.P. Taravella last year and is a product of the school’s award-winning drama department. Quinn won best supporting actor in the 2020 South Florida Cappies.
Jasmine Iacullo, a rising sophomore at the North Broward Preparatory School, plays Quinn/Roger Davis’s girlfriend, Mimi, in RENT.
Iacullo said playing the part of an HIV-positive dancer, forced to work in clubs while sick, has been the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I didn’t expect this to become my family,” she said, referring to both cast and crew.
Veterans of the theatrical arts, Cynthia O’Brien, Sophia Beharice, and Jerrel Brown have worked tirelessly to not only direct and choreograph RENT but teach its young cast members everything they know about performing in a professional-grade show.
With just 56 hours to learn every facet of live stage performance art, RENT’s cast had no time to be idle.
“We haven’t shied away from the darkness or heaviness of the material, as theatre is a cultural phenomenon that invites the audience to examine social history through the lens of storytelling,” said O’Brien.
She added, RENT’s large cast brought some of its most recognizable songs, like Seasons of Love, La Vie Boheme, Tango Maureen, and Santa Fe to life on stage.
On Saturday, August 7, RENT will be performed in two performances at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Coral Springs Center for the Arts is located at 2855 at Coral Springs Drive. To buy tickets, click here.
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