20th Anniversary of Rent Demonstrates Power of Love and Art

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CSULB University Players kicks off its spring semester with the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play Rent, written by Jonathan Larson and directed by Joanne Gordon. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Broadway premiere, Rent opens March 3rd and runs through March 19th.

Inspired by Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent is the revolutionary rock musical that tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists living in New York City’s gritty, late 80’s, East Village, who despite poverty and illness, learn to have hope, fall in love, and discover their voices. Gordon believes that after 20 years, the themes of this play are still relevant, saying that “this is essentially an anti-capitalist piece. ‘The man,’ both in terms of the drug problem and Wall Street, is oppressive and destructive to the youth and to art. The only way that we can liberate ourselves is through art and love.” The cast of Rent is comprised of a diverse group of undergraduate students, including actors previously seen in S/He & Me like Joey Ruggiero, Kayla Kearney, and Christian Schmidt, as well as fresh newcomers Nicole Royster and Brandon Pascal.

Joanne Gordon is the former Artistic Director of California Repertory Company and Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at California State University Long Beach, and an award-winning director whose accolades include five Drama-Logue Awards, a Los Angeles Critics Choice Award, being named “Best of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times, and directing the original production of S/He & Me, which was chosen by Broadway World as one of the best productions in Los Angeles for 2015. As an internationally renowned Sondheim scholar, she has directed a number of this extraordinary artist’s works worldwide, including the first Chinese language production of West Side Story in Beijing. Published work includes Art Isn’t Easy: The Theater of Stephen Sondheim; Stephen Sondheim: A Casebook; and contributions to The Oxford Handbook of Sondheim Studies and The Sondheim Review. Gordon is equally well known for her dramatizations of the work of Charles Bukowski. Gordon did her undergraduate work in South Africa and her Ph. D. at UCLA.

Jonathan Larson was an American playwright and composer whose works also include Superbia, 30/90, and tick, tick…BOOM!, Larson died of an aortic dissection at age 35 on January 25, 1996 – the day before Rent’s Off-Broadway premiere. In April of that same year, Rent had its premiere debut on Broadway, where it ran for 12 years and had over five thousand performances. Larson was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score for his work on Rent.

Rent will open Friday, March 4th, and closes Saturday, March 19th with all performances at 8pm. This production will be presented in the University Theatre on the CSULB Campus, accessible via West Campus Drive. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students, seniors, and military (with valid ID). Convenient parking is available next to the theatre for $5. There will be a “High School Night” performance on Saturday March 12 including a talkback and reception with the cast. Students with valid high school ID can purchase tickets for this specific performance at a discounted rate of $10, with a limit of two tickets per ID. All other tickets for this performance will be sold at regular price. For tickets and additional information please call (562) 985-5526 or visit calrep.org.

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