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Students’ passion for ‘RENT’ leads to genuine community, sold-out performances
Monday, April 07, 2014

Students’ passion for ‘RENT’ leads to genuine community, sold-out performances

Ilana Lieberman and Clayton Howe play the roles of Mimi and Roger, respectively, in the Department of Theatre and Dance's production of "RENT."

For the past several months, Clayton Howe has been able to experience something which no other student at Fredonia has.

“I get to fall in love, every single night,” he says. “I love that I get to fall in love, and sing about it.  It’s such a fun rollercoaster.”

Originally from Long Island, N.Y., Howe, a senior Musical Theatre major, plays Roger Davis, a struggling musician in the musical, “RENT.” He is describing his relationship with another character, Mimi Márquez, played by Ilana Lieberman, an Acting major from Vestal, N.Y.

The close-knit group of actors in this production has grown to know each other during their time at Fredonia. They have the advantage of a strong chemistry, creating a genuine sense of community. Like the characters in “RENT,” these Fredonia students are artists working together and depending on each other to achieve something bigger than themselves.

The actors have been especially excited for the opportunity to present this musical.  “RENT” stands out from many others because of its relevance to younger audiences and artists of all ages. Created by Jonathan Larson and first presented off-Broadway in 1996, “RENT” takes place the late 1980s/early 1990s, a time to which the majority of the cast and crew can relate.

Tom Loughlin, chairman of the Department of Theatre and Dance, and the director of the show, points out that his faculty and staff members have been working to stretch themselves to find opportunities to allow students to experience some more contemporary works.

“We have to be able to say, ‘These are the musicals our students grew up with,’ and give them an opportunity to break out and do things they know and are familiar with,” explains Loughlin.

Jacklyn Rahmlow, a fellow Musical Theatre senior, plays the role of Maureen Johnson, a performance artist. A native of Honeoye Falls, N.Y., Rahmlow cannot see herself doing anything other than acting. When asked about her experience in “RENT,” she emphasized how grateful she is for the opportunity to take chances.

“The total freedom I was given from the start has allowed me to experiment and define who Maureen is,” said Rahmlow. “These characters are larger than life. As an actress, it’s great to have no limits.”

Anna-Beth Wheaton, a senior Theatre major from Bath, N.Y., is the show’s stage manager. In this role, she acts as the “central hub” for the show, communicating with the heads of each production area.

“My favorite part of my job is the first time the actors see the full set,” explains Wheaton. “Everyone works very hard to get everything in place, and it’s very rewarding to see their reactions.”

When asked who has influenced them the most during their time at Fredonia, all three students immediately respond with the same person: Loughlin, the campus icon who holds SUNY’s highest honor of Distinguished Teaching Professor. They are thankful for his wisdom, experience and dedication to each and every member of the department.

These students’ collective passion led to a very successful opening weekend for “RENT,” whose remaining shows are all now officially sold out as well. “RENT” is a Department of Theatre and Dance Walter Gloor Mainstage Series production, and sponsored by Niebel Realty as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.

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