Everything is RENT
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
So, yes: everyone (including me) has been posting a ton about RENT in the last few days since Rent on FOX starts at 8pm tonight. It's sent us all down a crazy Memory Lane. Yes, I lost count after I saw the show 75 times on Bway. Yes, I have countless photos, bootleg recordings, ticket stubs, merch, playbills, posters, understudy inserts, costume pieces, lobby cast board slides, and prop bags of drugs and guitar picks and flyers. Yes, I would collect promo ads for the show from newspapers and tourist racks from visitors centers and the Marriott Marquis and paper my walls with them. Yes, I met tons of amazing people over the years because of that show, several of whom remain very close friends. Yes, we schlepped all over the city and surrounding boroughs to support gigs, readings, and appearances of the performers we loved so much. Yes, we stayed up all night on the NYC streets (multiple times) to wait for tickets, or to line up for an event, or sitting on the sidewalk to have arts-and-crafts time while we made signs to hold up the next morning outside GMA where the cast was performing at 6am. Yes, we stayed out too late and missed the last train home so we had to sleep in Penn Station, or ride the entire subway system all night for warmth. Yes, we were at the Neder during the great east coast blackout of 2003. Yes, we cheered on and brought flowers and gifts for every so-and-so’s debut performance as a swing, or for every so-and-so’s final performance. Yes, we asked for autographs and photos a hundred thousand times. Yes, we tried to be extra nice to the lotto guys. Yes, we tried to catch the key. Yes, we signed the wall. Yes, we snuck backstage. Yes, we acted like we owned the place (building / block / city). Yes, we moo’ed the loudest from SRO and scared the crap out of the tourists in the row ahead of us. Yes, this show means a lot to all of us, and always will.
But what I think is most significant about it is how this show literally set so many of us on our path(s) in life.
Without going into a complete novel of a story, I will just say that without RENT, I would not have started my company.
Because I wouldn’t have discovered so many awesome independent musicians, one of whom became my vocal coach and friend, and who hired me to help run merch at shows. I wouldn’t have left college to move to Brooklyn to try to make it in NYC. I wouldn’t have run out of money and learned to live on mustard sandwiches and snacks from the 24-hr gas station at the corner. I wouldn’t have had to move back home, feeling like a complete dumpster fire and failure. I wouldn’t have happened upon a part time box office job at a local NJ concert venue. I wouldn’t have worked my way up to management there, while checking out this new thing called MySpace and social media. I wouldn’t have decided to make a page for the venue, and start plugging in our events and realize I was actually (kinda) doing “marketing”. I wouldn’t have been asked by actors and musicians from my NYC days to help them build out their pages. They wouldn’t have hired me to design t-shirts or sell CD’s or get them set up on iTunes. I wouldn’t have started exploring that Facebook new thing, and I wouldn’t have been asked by the venue’s marketing department if I’d prefer to get paid for the creative things I was doing. I wouldn’t have eventually ended up giving talks and classes about how arts organizations can use social media marketing to their advantage. I wouldn’t have learned video editing and email marketing and been given the chance to take one-on-one Photoshop tutoring sessions for 12 weeks, rapidly making me a one-woman-band churning out tons of multimedia content, and being able to eventually call myself a graphic designer. I wouldn’t have then felt the pull of the arts world and moved on to then work at a professional regional theater, doing the same kinds of work and leading the same kinds of classes and workshops. I wouldn’t have been continuing to follow other brands and shows and organizations, honing my skills, and getting ideas. I wouldn’t have known exactly what to do when the theater was producing a completely-unknown world premiere rock musical all about the perils of high school and fitting in, and how to reach the right audiences who might be interested in this topic. I lived the RENThead life for years, and I wanted this new musical to develop that same kind of following. I knew these kids, because I was that kid. I wouldn’t have watched everything that happened in the months and years to come with that show, feeling so happy and proud to have been a part of working on it, as its TV commercial aired before SNL last night and it makes it’s debut on Broadway next month. I wouldn’t have decided to take the leap with my best friend and launch our own marketing/design company and go for it. And I certainly then wouldn’t have been hired by the record label who put out the cast recording for that musical to design the vinyl record for it.
I was being hired as Art Director of the project. I had never officially been an Art Director and didn’t even know what that entailed. But do you know who I asked for advice? Another connection from my RENT days, Mayumi, who was an actress/dancer/singer but now also had her own graphic design company and who I knew had been an Art Director many times. I literally have known this girl for 17 years (…omg…), but we don’t talk very often. However, I reached out, and she was there for me. She came thru and was able to talk me thru everything and help me figure out what the duties may entail and how to sort out my process.
This is a pic of the 2 of us in the lobby of the Neder in 2003 while she’s holding a BCEFA collection bucket, while she was playing Alexi Darling. She looks exactly the same now, btw. The vinyl album is now out in the world, and it’s one of the projects I am most proud of to date. Due to this project, and others, I have somehow found a way into a career that merges so many things I love: design, marketing, and The Arts.
And I could not, and would not, have done any of that without RENT, and, without Jonathan Larson. 🖤
I am only one person who has a story like this. But we ALL have stories like this. Everyone eternally connected to each other’s lives and stories because of this show. Yes, I’m in hardcore nostalgia land this week, but it remains true:
Everything is RENT.
(Believe it or not, this was the short version. Hey, I said I’m a marketer/designer — not an editor).