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Key figure in original production of 'RENT' visits Fredonia
Monday, April 28, 2014

Key figure in original production of 'RENT' visits Fredonia

Meeting on the Marvel Theatre set of “RENT” are (from left), James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop; Tom Loughlin, chairman of the Department of Theatre and Dance and the director of the production of RENT; and Jefferson Westwood, director of Rockefeller Arts Center.

One of the key figures in the development of the original production of “RENT” made a visit to SUNY Fredonia on April 11 and 12.

James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, was on campus to work with theatre students. He also participated in a talk about the creative process involved in the original production of “RENT.” This talk was open to students, the campus community and donors to the Friends of Rockefeller Arts Center.

Mr. Nicola has been involved in creating and staging innovative new works in New York City for more than two decades. The New York Theatre Workshop developed the recent award-winning shows, “Once,” and, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

It was at the New York Theatre Workshop that “RENT” had its genesis. Working closely with writer Jonathan Larson and director Michael Greif, Mr. Nicola played an integral role in shaping RENT for production.

After its limited opening run at the New York Theatre Workshop, the show moved to Broadway in 1996 and went on to win four Tony Awards, including best musical, win a Pulitzer Prize and become one of the longest-running shows in theater history.

During his SUNY Fredonia talk, Mr. Nicola shared many insights he has gained from decades in the world of professional theater.

“It’s really interesting to look out on so many young faces,” he said to the students. “You are the people who are going to inherit American theater. Where is theater in the United States heading? What will it look like and where will the resources come from? You are the answer.”

Mr. Nicola also stressed to the students that having the ability to collaborate is a key to success in the world of theater.

“Theater, at its core, is about relationships between individuals. It can only happen when people connect with other people,” he said. “It takes time to learn how other people work and think. The challenge is to create continuing relationships.”

Mr. Nicola and Rockefeller Director Jefferson Westwood both attended Tufts University, where they were good friends and worked on shows together. In addition to a talk with students, campus community members, and Friends donors, Mr. Nicola attended a performance of “RENT” (which sold out its entire six-date run) and held a workshop with students on April 12.

Mr. Nicola’s appearance at SUNY Fredonia was made possible through support provided by the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the Department of Theatre and Dance, and the Friends of Rockefeller Arts Center.

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