Rent

RENT was performed at Weathervane Playhouse in Newark, Ohio in 2015. Director Adam Karsten wanted to take the iconic show and give it a new twist. Karsten drew inspiration from Puccini's opera, La Boheme, which inspired composer/lyricist Jonathan Larsen to write RENT. The costumes were modern with elements of traditional operatic design, creating a very different production of RENT.

There were many challenges within this production. The first was the instruments that were played by some actors. I was able to use my own electric guitar and guitar amplifier for the opening scene, with the amplifier output running through the sound system. The acoustic guitar was a different story. Since Roger needed to play it on many different areas of the stage and move freely, I could not use any cables. Instead, I attached a lavalier microphone and wireless belt pack to the back of the guitar with the element wrapping around the front and living near the sound hole. After a bit of EQ-ing, the guitar sounded very natural and I was able to control the guitar through the main sound system.

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Another challenge was using microphone effects for several iconic moments. For example, during "Tango: Maureen," Joanne sings "My Maureen" into the microphone she has been working on and the last syllable "echoes in digital delay land." Maureen also utilizes this effect during "Over the Moon." Since I had never used digital delay in head microphones that needed to be cued for certain syllables, this required some experimenting. I was able to set up the effect in the board's effect rack and cue the effect exactly when needed. The effect was very successful.

My greatest challenge was controlling the band. Karsten wanted the band to play stage right, completely visible and unimpeded. The problem was that with a live drumset in a relatively small room, every other instrument and microphone had to be pushed to their limit to be heard at all. We ended up having to "cage" the drummer in a plexiglass sound dampened area. This helped a bit, but having the band run through the system itself became an impedance to their effectiveness. After much experimentation, Karsten and I decided to have the band play live with their amplifiers and speakers functioning as their full sound. This meant the only things going through my system were actor microphones and the practical instruments.

 

I also got to do quite a bit of sound creation. Besides the iconic "SPEAK" and typical sound effects, Karsten wanted this production to feel real. This meant creating atmospheres to enhance the setting. I created an Alphabet City ambience using real recordings I made when I was in New York earlier that year. I also created a loud, rowdy riot that was used in the end of "La Vie Boheme B" all the way through intermission. Karsten also wanted the show to have moments reminiscent of documentary, since Mark is a film maker. During moments where he had aside monologues to explain characters and moments, I created the sound of a 16 mm camera filming that was brought in and out in conjunction with a flickering light effect.

I was also given the opportunity to design an effect to take the audience from preshow straight into the action. Karsten and I talked at lengths about what it could be. His idea was "something that signifies the exclusion and separation between those with AIDS/HIV and those without." I came up with the idea of using a heart monitor that is punctuated by the slamming of a large hospital ward door then slows until it flatlines. This symbolized how vital help was withheld from those who needed it the most.

Director: Adam Karsten
​Music Director: Kevin Wines
Scenic Design: Steve Herbst
Lighting Design: Jennifer Sansfacon
Costume Design: Hannah Chalman
​Stage Manager: Michael Minite

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