Longmeadow High School’s production of RENT is more than just an after-school activity for many students. “I started theater at a really dark time in my life. Theater and performing means playing someone you’re not. I found peace in the world and peace within myself by pretending to be someone I’m not,” said Co-President of the Drama Club, Brady Russell, in a solemn tone.
The grand opening of RENT, the musical, is on December 9th and 10th in the high school’s auditorium. Before the big show, there is a lot of preparation to be done.
The show takes months of planning and precise teamwork. Ms. Julie Betancourt, Drama Club’s Co-Advisor, along with Ms. Sandra Macdonald explains that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes: “Money, organization, people showing up. There’s a lot more to all of it than the day of the performance,” says Ms. Betancourt.
Choreography for a single scene took the cast an hour and a half. Therefore, patience and collaboration are crucial. The process may take a long time, but the results are worth it.
Some of the greatest challenges of a show are obtaining commitment from the entirety of the team. Actors who do not show up will miss blocking, interactions, and other instructions. “We can have people fill in, but it’s not the same and scenes need to be redone constantly. The night of the show you want everything to be automatic. It needs to be seamless. If you miss someone backstage or in the lighting booth it impacts everyone,” says Ms. Betancourt.
Throughout all the chaos and stress, the most rewarding part of the show is when “we did it and it was successful,” says Ms. Macdonald, with a smile on her face. Everyone has something to say about the play. The more individuals that attend the show, the better feeling the audience gets about the production.
RENT is a musical that consists of great diversity. It contains serious topics such as HIV, AIDS, and poverty. Audrey Chasen, Drama Club’s Co-President, feels it is significant to put on the production. Any backlash can be handled by “explaining that these issues are present in our society. We are putting out what is already in the world,” says Chasen. This has been a serious issue impacting people since the late 90s, so Chasen feels representing it in the media is powerful.
Furthermore, Chasen and Russell share a common goal: creating a super tight cast, like family. “Doing a show is everyone working together constantly. Encouraging people to get to rehearsal on time and knowing your lines because responsibility is important,” says Chasen, proudly.
The lead, Lucia Vega, playing “Mark,” feels excited to take on her role. Although rehearsals have been progressing slowly, she is confident of the results. “In order to have a successful show, we really need to work together and practice a lot!” says Vega.
The students work hard and want to feel appreciated. “If it was more of us dragging the kids through it, I doubt we would have a show,” says Ms. Betancourt.
Ms. Betancourt loved theater growing up, but had horrible stage fright and social anxiety. She couldn’t talk to people in normal conversations, however in theater, “you’re able to take on the persona of someone else. The lights are so bright you can barely see the audience,” says Ms. Betancourt. Students get out of their comfort zone and some kids who aren’t socially active become active in the play.