Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Hey Folks-

So the great musical, "Rent" closed on Broadway last week after a 12 year run. This show means as much or more to me as any other, and my cousin reminded me of a blog that I wrote a couple of years ago, as the movie was coming out. I read through it... I still think it perfectly sums up my thoughts, so... thanks Abbey.

Here's that original blog.

Here it is so that you don't have to click. From October 29, 2005.

I've decided to write about Rent, the movie, the musical, the music...not in the prepared way I've been working on for a week, but just kind of from the heart, which may make for bad writing, but who cares?

My grandmother bought me my first copy of the soundtrack for Rent. I was 16. That was December of 1996, and the show had already won Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize. I remember a lot about that night. First, it was Hanukah, and the first one that the family had in my grandparent's new condo. They had lived in a small suburb called Roselawn since 1962, and they decided to move, because the once ethnically diverse neighborhood was falling into ruin, and they had had too many neighbors have their homes violated. They didn't want to be the next ones.

Anyway... I loved that house. I had many great moments there. I saw the Reds win the World Series there. It also housed almost all of my most precious times with my grandmother. I'll never forget the smell of that place. I'll never forget how much I looked forward to off-days at school when I was a young teen, and looking forward to the spoiling I'd have at the hands of my gramma. I loved her immensely. It's because of her, that I gave Rent a chance.

I was absolutely against it at the time it came out. Not because of any reason that was any good. Just because it was popular, and trendy, and I was 16 right? So..screw trendy. When she gave me that double disc soundtrack, I smiled and hugged her, and was kinda disappointed, because...well...like I said..against it. Still, there was something inherently wrong about not giving a gramma gift a chance, so I did. I've never heard a single soundtrack...hell...a single song since then without thinking about how it compares with the way I felt the first time I listened to Rent all of the way through.

Rent makes me think of my Grandmother Marilyn. When she died in January of 2000, I lost a great deal. I think about her every time I listen.

When I hear Rent, I think about the Summer before my senior year of high school, and being in the show Big River, and how listening to that album with a few of the coolest people I'd ever met, made me feel cool for the first time. People like Andy Hare and Justin Schwartz and Heidi Deuter. When I hear Rent, I think of Heidi. I also think about that night when I stayed out too late with those same folks, and got myself kicked out of my mother's house for good. I was 17. I think about sitting in the car with my friend Charlie, and just raging away at "Living in America" as loud as we could, and I think about how I had a hard time with the high notes then. That Summer was amazing, and it was framed by Rent.

When I hear Rent, I think about riding up to Wright State for my audition with my dad, and talking to him about how great it would be to go there. I think about the first time I sang in front of people as a full fledged WSU Musical Theatre major, when a group of the us sang "Seasons of Love" for a fund raiser. I think about being asked to leave after my freshman year. Maybe that wasn't so great, but I still think about Rent.

I think of the few good times with my roommate Ian, who really isn't such a bad dude.Whenever

I hear Rent, I think of the best first date ever, and how at that moment, I believed that I could achieve happiness again after a long bout with sadness.

I think about the friendships I've gained (and occasionally lost). I think about people who've gone away.

Rent makes me think about all of those things, and yet...I don't know if any of those matter as much as this: Whenever I hear Rent, I think about how much can be done when you push and drive and search and fight for what you love and believe in. I am not a songwriter like Jonathan Larson. I am not a playwrite like Lee Blessing or John Guare. I am not an artist like my friend Paul, or an author like my uncle[s]. I don't know exactly what I am. I do know that whenever I hear Rent, I feel like there's got to be more for me. There's a hope that fills me, that tells me my life will be remembered after I'm gone. I know I've got plenty of time, but there's never more of an aching than when I hear Rent. I think Roger says it best: "One Song. Glory. One song before I go. Glory. One song to leave behind."

The first time I saw the new Rent trailer, and heard the voice over guy say "The musical that defined a generation", I laughed. It's exactly what those guys always say.

But...now, I'm not sure it's wrong. The more I think about it, the more I realize that whether or not it defined my generation, it's definitely defined me, and I owe that to the late Jonathan Larson, and my Gramma.

Coming tomorrow, the first Wednesdays With Walt.

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