Saturday, 11 July 2015

Renting Dramaturgy: Uncompromising Artistry @ Edfringe 2015


Jonathan Larson’s landmark rock opera presented by a team of young New York artists.

Paradise in Augustine’s (V152) Tickets: Mon-Thurs, Sun £12/9

7 August - 30 August (not 16 or 23) Fri, Sat £15/12

6:00pm (2hr40min) Box Office: 0131 510 0022

Jonathan Larson's gripping rock musical is brought to life by NYC based Uncompromising Artistry Productions. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning RENT took the world by storm when it premiered on Broadway in 1996. Seeking to recapture the immediacy of this modern day classic, UAProductions pays tribute to the legacy of Larson's beloved masterpiece, with creative consultation from original Broadway cast member, Anthony Rapp. Set in New York's bohemian Alphabet City under the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, RENT illuminates the power of community and the necessity of love in our darkest times. This production is under the direction of Nicola Murphy.

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Samantha Cunha, Michael Quadrino and Erin Mizer:
This production is one that is near and dear to us. Once we decided to become Uncompromising Artistry Productions, RENT became the logical next step.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
We decided to bring our work to Edinburgh because it’s the largest performing arts festival in the world, and yet there is an intimacy to the festival setting that is completely perfect for the show. 

You have this massive festival being seen out of churches and little
black box theaters and there’s this hunger for information and artistry that is such a unique experience. We thought it the perfect journey for the show.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Authenticity. That’s something that we have really prided ourselves on thus far in the process. We rehearse in the Village - this show is the real deal! It is so truthful to the message and to the story that Jonathan Larson worked to tirelessly on. That is what you should walk away from this feeling - like this group of people is pushing for truth in the storytelling. Because they are, they absolutely are and it is so palpable. The audience will have no choice but to feel that.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I have no better answer than to cite La Vie Boheme. Look into the audience during that number - you will watch the faces of people engaged with what is, essentially, a laundry list of pop-culture, musical theater, literary, film and historical references. 

If the cast doesn’t get them, they cannot be expected to communicate them effectively. But even beyond that, what about La Boheme in general! This show is a perpetuating of the beautiful work that came before in the form of the opera by Puccini and even before that, the collected stories by Murger. This story is a legacy in one way or another and that is important to the narrative and the grandeur of this story that has overcome the ages.

What particular traditions and influences would you
acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I think that RENT broke many barriers, and created a new means of storytelling for musical theater. Jonathan Larson often talked about creating musical theater for the “MTV Generation”. Ultimately, he did more than that, but he made it more accessible, and that is something I have always been drawn to. 

One of the most exciting things we can do in the theater is affect people who are not traditionally “theater people”, or better still “musical theater people”. RENT is magical in that way- it has everything, great rock songs, pop, gospel , and it feels very inclusive of the audience. I have always been drawn to pieces that break the fourth wall, and allow us to really use the surroundings we are working in so we don’t make people feel isolated, the audience are a part of the collaboration.

In regards to particular artists I am a huge fan of American playwright Kristoffer Diaz, his play The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity changed how I began to think about presenting theater, he greatly inspired me, and people like Lin-Manuel Miranda who are pushing boundaries and giving voices to people,and stories that should be told. 

At the end of the day it all comes down to the story we are telling, RENT was hugely important for its time due to the AIDS epidemic, but outside of that, its core messages “No day but today” and “measure your life in love” always warrant being shared, and if the audience walks away thinking about those messages we have succeeded in honoring Jonathan’s work.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
Usually on a new piece of writing it is very much a collaboration between writer and director. I think that is why there are many writer/director collaborations that happen over and over again. Trust is hugely important, and when you find that trust with someone who understands your work its a very precious thing. It goes for designers too. Everyone should inspire each other to work harder towards the common goal which should ultimately be to serve the text. 

RENT has come to us in a finished format, and there is a certain freedom to that, but it’s also intimidating because it is so iconic. You have to find your own way in. For me it has always been Mimi’s line “ The heart may freeze or it can burn, the pain will ease if I can learn, there is no future, there is no past. I live this moment as my last.” It’s about that time in our lives when we can either choose to run from or face pain, fear, grief, anguish, and find a way to move forward, to become better artists, and ultimately better human beings. 

Also collaborating with Anthony Rapp, who is working with us as Artistic Consultant is really wonderful. He has so much insight to offer us, but he also knows how special the show was for him, and how it has become that way for us now, and he has given us the freedom to enjoy that.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
I think that without the audience, there is an argument to be made as to the purpose of the work that is much larger than this show. So, in an effort to avoid that grand question, I believe that the meaning of the work is personal. 

We put up this thing that means the world to us and we follow our team, fearlessly into this world that they have created, that we have facilitated, and we believe. And what the audience makes of that is entirely theirs. I think there are things we hope they take away, and under the best of circumstances, messages that they perpetuate: “Measure your life in love.”, “No day but today,” being at the forefront of my mind, but the best we can do is trust. Both in the work we’ve done and the people in front of us who’ve sought it out.

Featuring a cast comprised of young New York actors, Rapp agrees - the cast is “dynamic, authentic, and extraordinarily talented”. Featuring, fresh from Broadway, Janet Krupin (“If/Then”) as Maureen, and announcing Johnny Newcomb ("The Last Ship", "American Idiot") as Roger.

“We have such an amazing group of talented artists and also really genuine, down to earth, authentic people which was really important to us as a creative team to find because this piece is so much about community and they’re so confident in themselves as people and as performers in what they can bring, and I think we did a really good job with that”, Murphy says of the cast.

Uncompromising Artistry Productions was founded by Samantha Cunha, Michael Quadrino, and Erin Mizer. UAProductions aims to support new work, new artists, or new viewpoints; it may be an entirely original script or a new take on a classic. “This production is as relevant today as it was in 1996,” says Artistic Director, Samantha Cunha. “With this reputation comes many challenges, but we are up to the task - presenting this piece in a way that is as urgent and pulsing as ever with a stamp on it that says, ‘this is ours’.” 

No comments :

Post a Comment