by Lorie Lewis Ham
The idea to do Rent grew out of a casual conversation director Corey Ralston had with his student co-director. “This has been one of my favorite musicals for a while and when I found out the rights were available the process just got rolling.”
From the very beginning they knew they wanted this show to serve as more than just entertainment. “We knew that this show has the power to raise awareness and tolerance and thought it would be very fitting to donate proceeds to a local HIV/AIDS charity,” continued Corey.
Corey stated that they were faced with the possibility of having to create a non-profit org and theatre group just to put on one show. “I am friends with Jack Patino, the President of Fourth Wall, and he said that we should pitch the idea to see if Fourth Wall wanted to get behind it. They had not produced a show since 2008 I believe. They were really excited for the chance to premiere Rent in the Valley and to be able to donate to local HIV/AIDS survivors.”
While the production is being produced by The Fourth Wall Theatre Company in Visalia, it will take place at the Enchanted Playhouse on Main Street in Visalia as a venue. “I am excited because it is in a great location and holds around 400 people but still feels intimate.”
As director of a community theatre production, Corey has his hands in a lot of different aspects of the show, especially in the early stages. But he stated that they have been blessed with a ton of support and resources from Fourth Wall and they now have a crew lined up, so he hopes soon he can focus on the direction of the show itself.Helping him direct is student co-director Cabrilla McGinn who has been directing student productions for a couple of years and was a driving force behind getting this show off the ground. “I hope to teach her as much as I can and use her youthful fresh eye to see things I would not normally see.” Auditions for Rent took place in February with people coming from all over the Valley. According to Corey, approximately 40 people showed up for the two day auditions. “It was exciting to see people from Fresno, Exeter, Visalia, Hanford and even the Lemoore Naval Base come out.”
One of those who came out to audition was well known local actor Peter Allwine, who has been a leading actor in many Valley productions. Peter will be playing Mark in this production of Rent. He heard about the auditions from Corey’s brother. Peter stated that he was excited to audition as this show was one of the most influential shows in his life in terms of him wanting to do theatre. “I discovered the show when it first came to Broadway in 1996, I was a junior in high school and the show had a powerful impact on me. I’ve wanted to do it ever since and jumped at the opportunity.”
The fact that it will be doubling as a fundraiser was an added bonus for Peter. “It makes me honored to be a part of such a worth while cause while getting to do what I love.
“I think for me I am most excited to be playing a character that is, in so many ways, based on the author, Jonathan Larsen,” Peter continued. “He is the narrator and really drives the whole story. That is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking at the same time. Also, I think the character of Mark and I share so many qualities that it will be a challenge to play someone so similar to myself.”
Local actress Danielle Jorn was cast in the role of Maureen. She too has been involved in many shows in the Valley and is excited for this opportunity. “Maureen is, quite literally, my dream role. That is both so exciting and also extremely scary- she is one of those dream roles that I was never sure I would ever get the chance to do. Now that I am, I want to do everything possible to make her shine the way Maureen should! Her two big musical numbers are such fun and challenging opportunities for an actress to play with- I truly cannot put into words how excited I actually am.
“Doing theater is already a privilege but to be a part of a piece of theater that it’s sole purpose is to benefit an important cause is all the more rewarding- that definitely makes the experience even more special.”
To help offset the expensive production costs, so more money can go to the charity, Corey is looking for sponsors and companies willing to help. Also for volunteers to help with all the different fundraising efforts. “Our hope is to raise all of the production costs and allow ourselves to be able to donate all ticket proceeds.”
One thing they are doing as a fundraiser for production costs, is a trip to New York. Elizabeth Lamar from Jest4Fun is running this fundraiser. It is a group NYC trip at the end of August. There is an informational meeting on Wednesday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at the Olive Plant Business Park, 315 E. Tulare Suite F., on the corner of Tulare and Santa Fe in Visalia. Dinner is provided. (link to the NYC fundraiser event page for more details)
Rehearsals will formerly begin in May but some members are already getting together to work on songs to perform at local events for the purpose of promoting the show. One such performance will be at the Reedley Street Faire on May 1 in an entertainment area sponsored by Kings River Life. Watch here for more details.
If you would like more information on how you can help, you can contact Corey at Coreyralston@gmail.com.
Watch KRL for updates on the production throughout the next few months!
Show dates are July 22-31!