In this poll we asked: If someone came up to you and asked "What is Rent about?" -- what would you tell them?
Here are the responses:
From Jim Kiniery:
It is hearing the word 'candle' sung with ten syllables. It is wanting to hear the music so bad. I need the CD now. The energy and love displayed are wonderful. Seeing Forest Whitaker in the seat next to me was a bonus. All this for a postal worker from Crescent City, CA.
From Brian Graham:
It's a modern setting of Puccini's La Boheme, but with AIDS and sex and homosexuality and all those things Puccini really wanted it to be about in the first place.
From Michael J Lasley:
Rent gives us a glimpse of a passion few of us will ever feel. The passion of Jonathan Larson. The passion of his characters whose hopes and fears are based upon simple survival. Rent is about life, about living as well as you can for as long as you can.
From Christopher French:
If someone were to ask for a quick answer, I'd tell them that it's about a group of people in the East Village whose lives give a striking impression of life in the 90's.
However, I feel that the show deserves a more in-depth explanation. Though I've only seen RENT once, and wish I could hear the album even now to think it through, I felt that it's main theme came through one of the show's more beautiful metaphors: We don't have feelings, we rent them. Many of the characters' journeys show their discovery that their feelings towards loved ones can become a wonderful history of shifting emotion. This theme is seen most vividly in the transition from "Take Me or Leave Me" into "Without You," but is most beautfully summed up in the musical's anthem, "Seasons of Love."
From Ina Burwasser:
There were, of course, several themes I saw inherent in "Rent". This is what I tell my friends it it's about:
1. Homosexuality, homelessness, cross-dressing, AIDS, poverty and how the young artists who chose this life deal with its struggle.
2. This is a real generational thing: ignoring parents' phone calls and trying to make it without either parental involvement or help.
3. Most of all it is about the strong assertion of making the most out of each day and living it to the fullest.
4. Another strong theme is the importance of remaining true to one's art, having confidence in it and not "settling" for crass commercialism as a way out of the gritty poverty facing oneself.
These are my views. Perhaps age has to do with my lack of the overwhelming enthusiasm which usually accompanies discussion of Rent. I am an early "boomer" who does not relate to its themes.
Rent: Smart, intelligent, raw look at life in New York's Alphabet City. The music is rock, not pop or theater music but great rock 'n' roll. One of the best shows I've seen in years. Can't stop thinking about it. Can't wait for the CD and to see it again.
I would tell someone, if asked, that Rent is about stereotypes trying to be passed off as characters. It is also about hype, exploitation, an incredibly poor sound system, and how to write an extremely poor book for a musical, all of this of course, underscored by absolutely wonderful melodies with unintelligible lyrics. Never have I attended a show where more people were absolutely dumbfounded at intermission as to what they had just seen. As for the subplots, who cares!
From Devon Tutak:
Rent is about real life. It is how half the world does not want to see life. It is Bob Dole's worst nightmare, because it isn't a dream. It's a reality.
After seeing the shows on five different occasions, with five different friends (because I think that everyone must see it) I think I have somewhat of a good idea of what the show is about . . .
In my own view, I think that Rent is all about hope and the awareness of life. Its about the will to believe; to believe in oneself, to believe in life, and, especially, to believe in the love that we have for one another.
Sure, its about Mark the film maker, Roger the isolated guitarist with AIDS, Mimi the S&M dancer with AIDS, Angel the drag queen, and so on, but the take home message of Rent, in my opinion, is that of hope. How can I forget, its also about the present . . . "no day but today."
As the name implies, Rent focuses on the lives of a diverse group of people whose lives have been/are being torn apart (rent). During the course of the play, the characters show that by focusing on what we all have in common with one another, being human and needing love, we can overlook these surface differences and make it through just about anything. The simple fact that the characters are Bohemians and viewed as "different" by so-called "normal" people serves to teach them the most important quality that the play highlights: tolerance.
About first loving and respecting others and then going beyond the idea that success (in material terms) comes from greed or superficiality.
From Barbara Bergeron:
It's a cold cold, cruel cruel world, so we must all love each other very much, let each other squat in our rental properties, and never ever answer the phone when mom and dad call. And then (almost) die beautifully.
It is a rock musical, celebrating the ups and downs of life, love and sex.
Rent is about Love! Valour! Compassion!
A musical that is highly entertaining (though not perfect) and is actually contemporary in sound as well as visually. . . About Rent I would have to say . . . it's about time.