Leah Anderson speaks on how RENT has helped shape her view on theatre friendships.

Take a quick mental inventory of your friends… How many categories can you put them into? Besties, Family, Old friends, New friends, Theatre friends, facebook friends, Party friends, work friends, Old flames, crushes, Gay friends, coffee friends… the list goes on. Now ask yourself, of ALL these people, how many of them could you say you actually know really well? Could you list their fears, passions, a secret from their past, their dreams, their parents/brothers/sisters names, what school they went to, what they wanted to be when they grew up?

On Thursday 30th September, the Cast and Production team of Whitehorse Music Theatre’s RENT came together for their final rehearsal before bump in. We ran the show and did the traditional ‘notes session’ but then we did something a bit special. We spent a bit of time learning about the people we had spent the past few months working so closely with.

Back in July, during the first few weeks of rehearsal, we were asked, by our illustrious director, Paul Watson, to think of something from our own lives that we would like to contribute to the show in the form of a set piece. Any item that symbolizes a dedication to someone we have lost, a demon from the past, a special memory, a tribute to a loved one, or anything else that we would like to offer that enables us to connect with the ‘alphabet city/bohemian community’ we are trying to create on stage. On Thursday, we began the process of sharing those items and stories with the rest of the group.

We heard about Grandparents, friends, traumatic pasts, happy memories, regrets, fears, loves and every other human experience you could possibly imagine. We listened, shared, laughed and comforted, but it wasn’t until it was time to leave that a fellow cast member said something that cut right to the core of what I was feeling… He said:
“Its funny, you get to know Theatre People at their happiest, when they’re on a high from doing a show, but you don’t often find out much about their real lives, You know, the bad times…’
I started to think… Is the Musical Theatre community really just a bunch of ‘Fair-weather friends’? Or in this age of social networking and digital communication, could it be one of the few remaining opportunities for ‘Connection in an Isolating age?’

In 2006, the Oberlin Review described RENT as ‘Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece’ but some critics now describe the musical as ‘Dated… Living on only in High School Drama Classes’. I would like to challenge that description. In an age where people are becoming increasingly disconnected from community involvement, where incidents of bullying and exclusion have reached epidemic proportions and where it is possible to chat with people on the other side of the world via the internet, but never learn your next door neighbour’s name, RENT serves as a poignant reminder to create your own community, live each day to its full potential and have no regrets.

That means throwing yourself head first into Musical Theatre if that is what you love! Doing the shows YOU like instead of the newest/most popular/competitive ones. Not caring about reviews – they are just another person’s experience. Care about the experience you had and the memories you have made for yourself! Remember those you have lost and love the people you still have because they may not be here tomorrow…

My challenge to you is to call up an old friend, or a new one you’d like to get to know better and invite them to come and see RENT with you and as you take to your comfy seat in the Besen Centre and get your first look at the huge set, take note of the massive metal tree in the background which is draped with the items that each of us have contributed and then take a moment, with your friend, to share something real about yourself… It’s liberating and hey, you never know – One of your ‘fair-weather’ friends could just move into a closer, more important category…

Whitehorse Musical Thatre presents


Opening this Thursday

Check out our ‘Whats On’ section for more details.