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John Kinzer
Department of Theatre and Drama

Last modified: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

IU Department of Theatre and Drama opens 2010-11 season with rock opera 'Rent'

WHAT: Rent. Music, lyrics and book by Jonathan Larson. Directed and choreographed by George Pinney with musical direction by Terry LaBolt.
WHEN: Opens Friday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m. Additional performances are Oct. 9, Oct. 12-16 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 2 p.m.
WHERE: All performances take place at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre, Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center at 275 N. Jordan Ave. No photography or recording of any kind is permitted during performances. Note: This production contains mature content.
TICKETS: Regular admission is $22 for adults, $15 for students, $16 for senior citizens; Student Rush Tickets: $10 cash with a valid IU Bloomington student ID on the day of each performance. Special $10 "RENT-heads" tickets will be available in the first two rows of the theater reserved for sale first-come-first-served beginning one hour prior to each show.

Sept. 21, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Department of Theatre and Drama opens its 2010-2011 season Oct. 8 with Jonathan Larson's rock opera Rent, the official opening production of this year's Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center season.


Student actors rehearse for "Rent," opening Oct. 8 at Indiana University's Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center.

Print-Quality Photo

Rent is directed and choreographed by Tony nominated-, Emmy Award-winning IU faculty member George Pinney with musical direction by Terry LaBolt, musical director of IU's Musical Theatre Program.

LaBolt said he has long avoided the musical Rent but that now -- more than 20 years after he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 -- he's ready to talk about it. " I watched my friends grow pale, go blind, or get pneumonia or cancer, and die," LaBolt wrote. "Slowly. Painfully. Dozens and dozens of them . . . I had several months to figure out how to communicate this to a cast of young actors here at Indiana. But I knew that in order for them to understand the piece, I would have to share my experiences."

Read more about Terry LaBolt's experience with AIDS

Rent is a modern version of the timeless Giacomo Puccini opera La Bohéme, following a diverse community of friends, artists and musicians who are struggling to get by and celebrate life in New York while facing the devastating world of AIDS, addiction, homophobia and homelessness.

Larson's vision for this gritty musical was "to bring musical theater to the MTV generation." The hip rock opera went on to become one of the most successful musicals in American history. Rent ran for more than 5,000 Broadway performances over 12 years. It has received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, four Tony Awards including Best Musical, six Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical and Best Book and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.


IU student actors pose during a rehearsal for "Rent," the 2010-2011 season opening performance.

Print-Quality Photo

Pinney said he has long awaited this opportunity to direct Rent. "Rent is not only an exciting rock opera. Rent is incredibly relevant today," Pinney said.

"It seems the world is becoming complacent about AIDS and HIV infection, especially among our youth. Rent opens a door to understanding the magnitude of this disease. The production's dramatic action, theatrical punch, music, acting, staging -- all of it -- brings together a focus on what it was like in 1989. More exciting about this production is that it is a community effort bringing together Positive Link (an organization that offers care for people living with HIV/AIDS), the Kinsey Institute and Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Student Support Services (GLBT) on the IU campus, all contributing to an environmental piece. Rent is an exciting, life-changing evening of theater."

The IU production of Rent will be augmented by several social awareness outreach events:

  • "In the Middle of a Pandemic: AIDS and Rent: A conversation about the AIDS journey into the 21st Century," sponsored by Theatre Circle, is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 7, at 5:30 p.m. in the Bridgwaters Lounge in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. The panel will include LaBolt, Pinney, GLBT Student Support Services Student Services Director Doug Bauder, IU Health Center health educator Kathryn Brown and production dramaturg and B.F.A. coordinator Scott Jones.
  • In conjunction with performances, the Monroe Bank Theatre Art Gallery in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama building will exhibit educational and informational exhibits that include literature from Positive Link, including a display of a panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, art and artifacts from the from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and outreach material from GLBT Student Services and IU Health Center's Health and Wellness Education office.

The Rent cast includes senior Arianna Scoggins making her Norvelle Center debut as Joanne, sophomore Chloe Williamson making her Norvelle Center debut as Maureen, senior CJ Pawlikowski (A Little Night Music and Oklahoma) as Tom Collins, junior Cosmo Clemens (The Wild Party, Oklahoma!) as Angel, senior Gina Ricci (Seussical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) as Mimi, junior Andrew Brewer (The Wild Party, A Little Night Music) as Benny, sophomore Matt Birdsong (Wizard of Wall Street and Blood Brothers) as Mark and senior Trent Hulen (Wizard of Wall Street and Oklahoma!) as Roger. Joining director/choreographer Pinney and musical director LaBolt, the design team includes: M.F.A. scenic design student Tim Barbiaux, M.F.A. lighting design student Abby Wells, M.F.A. costume design student Jason Orlenko, undergraduate sound design student Colin Shay, Paul Brunner and M.F.A. technical directing student Sean Dumm.

To see information about the entire cast and production team, and the rest of the 2010-2011 season of award-winning plays, visit

Interview requests should be directed to John Kinzer, 812-855-0514 or