by Lorie Lewis Ham
Rent is once again on stage in the Valley–this time in Fresno on December 28 and 29. KRL sat down to chat with the show’s director S. Eric Day.
Lorie: Why did California Public Theater decide to produce Rent and why in December?
Eric: Rent has that socially responsible material that California Public Theater likes to tackle. Rent delves into the lives of eight very different characters who are just trying to survive social anarchy, poverty, homelessness, drug addiction and AIDs. The musical/rock opera which takes place at the turn of the 21st century is a modern retelling of the classical opera La Boheme. The play starts in Winter and several of the scenes have an underlying element of cold. We even have a New Years Scene, and our show performs the weekend before New Years, It just seems fitting.
Lorie: What is Fresno Life Magazine’s role in this production?
Eric: They are a major contributor to our production with publicity and funding. It seemed like a no-brainer for them to be a part of something so epic. They are a magazine that is about the cultural opportunities in Fresno, and we are a cultural opportunity.
Lorie: Why only 2 performances?
Eric: Dollars and Sense. The cost of the royalties and the performance space and the number of seats we anticipate to sell in the theater make it an economic decision.
Lorie: How did you come to direct it and why did you want to?
Eric: The music paints pictures in my imagination and inspires me emotionally.
Lorie: Was it hard to cast?
Eric: Yes. There are some specifics in this show that you cannot toy with that your die hard Rent fans will hold you accountable for.
Lorie: Share with us a little about the casting process?
Eric: With this type of show you need to find the right vocals first. Then you need to make sure that your singers can work the intentions of the characters through the lyrics, both emotionally and physically.
Lorie: How did you choose the venue?
Eric: I like the Tower Theater and after having produced Rocky Horror in 2009 on the cusp of 2010 I have a better understanding of how to use the space and its attributes.
Lorie: Do you have a live orchestra?
Eric: We have a six piece rock band headed up by our Music Director, Matthew Wheeler.
Lorie: I understand that you have had to do most of your rehearsals somewhere else–where all have you had rehearsals?
Eric: We had vocal rehearsals at the The Voice Shop, owned by Debi Ruud, our Vocal Coach. We had dance rehearsals with Mishell Bougoukalos-Cuttone at Ballroom Live at Bullard & First. All other rehearsals are at a warehouse with our full set in the Downtown area.
Lorie: Is it harder not rehearsing in the actual theater you will be performing in?
Eric: It will always be more difficult, but you make allowances for such issues and like a touring company you research the space you’re going into ahead of time. My time with Missoula Children’s Theater allowed me to work in a new space with the same show every week.
Lorie: When do you get to have your first rehearsal there?
Eric: Our load in is on the 23rd and we will get about 16 hours total to work in the space. It takes a certain discipline from everyone involved to fill every second with quality.
Lorie: Any special challenges to directing Rent?
Eric: Trying to make it fresh and different from past productions, without compromising Jonathan Larson’s intention.
Lorie: What is the most exciting and fun thing about directing Rent?
Eric: Seeing the production come to life and the actors embody the characters.
Lorie: How do people purchase tickets?
Eric: Call the Tower Theater Box Office @ (559)485-9050 or go to www.towertheaterfresno.com
Lorie: Anything else you would like to share?
Eric: I think that audiences who have never seen this show will get a strong sense of how important Rent is to our culture, and those who have seen it before will not be disappointed in this cast. They are superb!
Watch for a KRL review of this production of Rent next week! Also there is the chance of a December 30 show being added–check KRL for updates.