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Singing 'Seasons of Love'

Martinsburg High School presents a student production of the hit Broadway musical

Martinsburg High School presents a student production of the hit Broadway musical

October 07, 2008|By MIKKEL WALLECH / Pulse Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- In the Broadway musical "Rent," a group of struggling young artists unite to form their own kind of family in spite of the harshness of New York City.

So in a sense of unity, students from five West Virginia schools have come together to stage a student version of the award-winning hit.

Martinsburg High School will produce "Rent" at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 12., in the high school auditorium. There will also be a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets cost $6 for students and $8 for adults and will be available at the door.

According to David Ryan, director, and Martinsburg High School theater teacher, "Rent" is a play that people of all ages can take something from. And Martinsburg High is one of the first 10 high schools in the entire country to be granted permission to perform the school edition of the play, Ryan said.

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Based on "La Boheme," "Rent" is about eight artists living and struggling in New York city in the late 1980s. They are all dealing with their own issues and hardships. Some are infected with AIDS, some dealing with loss and some are addicted to drugs. Through their differences, they all come together as a family to help each other find their way and deal with life, all while trying to pay the Rent.

Written by Jonathan Larson, "Rent" has won numerous awards, including the 1996 Pulitzer Prize, and the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical is known for such songs as "One Song Glory," "Seasons of Love" and "Take Me or Leave Me."

"Rent" became available to perform after the Broadway version had closed its doors for the last time on Sept. 7, 2008 after 12 years and 5,124 performances. Open auditions were held in July in Martinsburg. Students from Martinsburg, Musselman, Hedgesville, Jefferson and Washington high schools could audition.

Ryan said the school version of the play, which is about two hours long, will be edited for time and have the harshest language removed, but the story will remain the same.

Ryan said it was really by chance that the school was able to perform the play because it was a first-come, first-served basis. "When we heard the rights to the play were available, we applied and were granted permission," he said.

Anyone familiar with "Rent" knows the play deals with controversial issues, such as homosexuality and AIDS. Ryan said that is a main reason for bringing the play to the Martinsburg area. He said he wanted to raise awareness and get people talking about these issues because they are what some people in the Eastern Panhandle deal with every day.

Brook McCormick, 17, a junior at Hedgesville High, portrays Maureen. Brooke sees her character as a strong woman and one who stands up for herself and what she believes.

"This is not a play about the characters, but about each and every one of us," she said. "I think everyone in the audience will be able to take something from this play when they leave."

Asia Casey, 18, a senior at Musselman High, plays Mimi, an exotic dancer who is HIV-positive. Casey said she realizes some people may be turned off by the fact that the play deals with homosexuality and AIDS. "This is not just a show about drugs or sex, but rather one about people and relationships and how they deal with things, stuff that happens to people every day," she said.

Ryan agreed. "These issues are present in our community, but not many people know about them or how to approach them," he said.

To help raise awareness about the issues, each performance will have a 30-minute open forum at the beginning of the show featuring various groups from the area that deal with some of the issues in the play.

According to Ryan, each group that speaks will have ways for audience members to anonymously contact them and get help with the issues they may be dealing with.

Each organization that hosts the forum each night -- Berkeley County (W.Va.) Health Department, New Light Church in Hagerstown and Positive Influence of Frederick, Md. -- will receive 20 percent of the event's profits.

Jessica Aubin, 17, a senior at Martinsburg High, plays the character of Joanne, a Harvard Law graduate and girlfriend to Maureen.

Aubin said she wants the audience to leave with more than humming a song from the show -- she wants them to leave with an open mind.

"Hopefully the audience will see the characters as people being able to work through things," she said. "We really want to change people's perceptions with this play." 




If you go:



What: Student version of "Rent"

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 through Sunday, Oct. 12; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12

Where: Martinsburg High School, 701 S. Queen St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

Cost: $6 for students; $8 for adults. Tickets are available at the door, but advance tickets are encouraged

MORE: For more information, call Dave Ryan at 540-336-2423 or e-mail him at daveryan83@hotmail.com

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