In the pop culture cannon of musicals you must see, Jonathan Larson’s RENT always ranks high. This year the touring Broadway show has been re-imagined for it’s 20th anniversary, following the lives of seven passionate artists in one unforgettable year while living in NYC’s East Village. I’ve never seen RENT but this Friday I’ll finally get to cross it off my musical bucket list when it stops at the Orpheum Theatre for a limited weekend engagement of five performances.
RENT’s origins date back to 1993 when the musical was first seen in a workshop at the New York Theatre Workshop. The theatre was also the show’s home when it opened Off-Broadway in 1996. The show didn’t take long to move to Broadway though and on April 29, 1996 the show opened at the Nederlander Theatre.
RENT is the winner of a Pulitzer prize (this year that award went to Lynn Nottage’s fantastic Sweat) and several Tony’s including, Best Musical. If you’re a fan of musical theatre odds are you’ve probably at least heard a song from RENT. And the story is still vitally important, especially in this month for Pride.
This week I spoke to Danny Harris Kornfeld who’s role is the narrator, Mark. Danny is a recent college graduate who explains that RENT’s story is about “appreciating what is not only unique about [you], but also what is unique about others.” Kornfeld has a number of great credits to his name (and you can see his full resume/ upcoming productions here), but what is he most excited about doing once the show is over? Read our interview to find out!
- Hi Danny! RENT is such an iconic show, but there’s a new generation of fans who have never seen it. How would you describe the 20th anniversary tour?
If you saw it on Broadway, great! If you didn’t, great! This 20th Anniversary tour is the same production that everyone fell in love with but with a whole new generation of actors— getting to share that story, now.
- How were you cast in the show?
So I recently graduated college and had gigs in and out of the city working regionally, doing readings and workshops. Auditions for RENT started back in February of last year and it wasn’t until three months and several callbacks later that I found out that I got the gig. By the end of it I think I had 7 auditions/callbacks for it in total. Fortunately at the time I was in rehearsals for a brand new musical opening at City Center – also my off Broadway debut. It was an adaption of the young adult book Wringer by Jerry Spinelli. It was great getting to focus on that through what could have been a very mentally stressful Rent audition process.
- What about RENT do you think resonates with audiences? Do you think a show like this is even more powerful in 2017?
Any story that promotes inclusivity and love is a story worth telling and for that reason especially I think the show remains timeless. RENT was my first introduction as a young person to AIDS and homosexuality. It brought up so many questions I had to ask to my parents. I hadn’t seen or heard stories about that before. The show continues to have the potential of opening peoples’ eyes to lifestyles they might know nothing about. Stories like this need to be told across America. These stories need to be celebrated.
- How would you describe your character Mark?
Mark is the observer. He is the show’s narrator. We get to see the show through his eyes. I think it’s fascinating that Mark is onstage for the majority of the show, and the times when he is present but not directly participating in the action are VERY intriguing to me. He’s a young hungry artist and reconciles with the struggles of someone who is wanting to create something meaningful. He’s single. I’m currently single. And there’s something about being the one who gets to watch other people in their relationships. But with that he has individual connections to all these different characters that we see collectively throughout the show. In my group of friends I have always very much been a “floater.” I like having different people in my life from all different areas. That’s what I love about Mark and his chosen “family.” On paper you wouldn’t expect for them all to have found one another…but they have.
- RENT touches on so many relevant themes, but most notably is AIDS. How do you tackle difficult subjects like this every night on tour?
For me, it’s always reminding myself of the story that we are telling. Somebody in the audience might really need to hear this story tonight and that always inspires me to go out and do it this piece justice. The show is emotional, and can be really heavy, but there is so much light and humor in it to that I try to always keep that in mind when I go home every night. I listen to music backstage, and I’ll sing a lot in my dressing room before and after the show. This always keeps me in good spirits. And practicing a lot of self-love is really important when doing pieces of theatre that have the potential to get you down emotionally.
- You’ll be heading to the South for our stop in Memphis. What do you hope our audience takes away from the show?
RENT is a story about love and inclusivity. Getting to unplug and watch a story that celebrates those things for an evening will always be worthwhile and I hope people take away that love should always be celebrated. I hope people continue to celebrate what is not only unique about them, but also what is unique about others. Life is short. And it’s not about how long you live but how you live. To have a meaningful life you have to live your truth…and RENT exemplifies that.
- Lastly, where can audiences find you next?
After 11 months on the road? I’ll be taking a vacation! 3 weeks at the beach baby. Can’t wait.
For anyone wondering, RENT is not sold out! Tickets can still be purchased here, and there will be a lottery for all five performances to purchase tickets for $20. Information from the Orpehum about the lottery is below:
“A ticket lottery will be held for all five performances of RENT June 16-18. A select number of winners will be awarded seats in the first two rows of the theatre. Entries will be accepted in the Orpheum Theatre beginning two and a half hours before each showtime, and winners will be drawn two hours before showtime. Each winner will be able to purchase a maximum of two $20 cash-only tickets in the first two rows. Lotteries are open to all patrons. For more information, call the box office at 901-525-3000.”
DATES: June 16 – 18, 2017
• Friday, June 16, 2017 8:00 PM
• Saturday, June 17, 2017 2:00 PM
• Saturday, June 17, 2017 8:00 PM
• Sunday, June 18, 2017 1:00 PM
• Sunday, June 18, 2017 6:30 PM
TICKETS: $35 -$100
BOX OFFICE: 901.525.3000
GROUP SALES: 901.529.4226
See you at the show!