What do “The Simpsons,” “The Office,” “Will and Grace,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “2 Broke Girls” and “Supernatural” all have in common? They’ve all referenced, quoted or talked about the musical “RENT.” It is still just as relevant today as it was 20 years ago when actors like Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs took the stage. It won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and four Tony Awards way back in 1996. Yet, “RENT” hasn’t aged because its lessons haven’t aged. “RENT” kept it real when cats were crawling around a stage and a Phantom hid behind a mask.
“RENT” is a harmonic exploration of poverty, health and social imbalance and injustice. In this groundbreaking rock musical, the characters remind us about the importance of living for the moment, even in the face of struggle. Its message of acceptance, compassion and, above all, love will always be relevant. The real question is what are we going to do about the issues and struggles that run through these characters’ lives when they are still part of our world today?
What are the connections that separate us? Yes, you read that right. I’m talking about the ways we should be connecting with each other, but we can’t. In the 1990s, living in the moment meant you stopped dwelling on the past and stopped fearing the future. Today it means you put your phone down.
Living in the moment is the direct opposite of having your head stuck in your phone. We all do it. How unconnected are we when we connect to our phones, iPads and laptops? How many moments do we miss? You have to wonder how many hellos or goodbyes will never happen in 2018. Keyboard cowards vomit opinions and sling insults at people they don’t know, but hope to offend. Friendships die because texts are misinterpreted. Relationships fail because of an accidental lack of a text message response. Phone calls, on an actual phone device, are weird to the point that we are startled when it rings. We don’t hear each other’s voices. We have to ask ourselves whether we are living in the moment and are we missing out on truly living life. The lesson that is still relevant comes from an iconic song in “RENT.”
“There’s only us. There’s only this. Forget regret. Or life is yours to miss.”
To really connect with a show, you have to buy into the characters and how they are feeling. The characters in “RENT” are a study in human interaction and connection. True friends stay together when everything else is torn away or lives are ending. “RENT” shows us that bonds can be formed from any type of connection, suffering from an awful disease, chasing an impossible dream or facing the consequences of our own decisions, all within the context of drug abuse, AIDS, racism, suicide, poverty, gender inequality and discrimination. Major stuff.
Just yesterday, our neighbor cupped her hand over her mouth and leaned into my mom asking, “are you sure you want to bring the kids to that show?” Her answer was “definitely.” I’m looking forward to seeing “RENT” in its 20th Anniversary Tour at The Hanover Theatre. If kids aren’t aware, the world won’t change.
What is past is prologue.