Xavier’s ‘Rent’ sends off graduating seniors

By: Zenab Saeed ~Staff Writer~

Photo courtesy of facebook.com | Maya Farhat (bottom right) and Sean Burlingame (top left) are two of the six graduating senior theater majors who will be concluding their Xavier Theatre careers with “Rent.”

Xavier Theatre will present a production of the musical “Rent” from April 21-24.

The show, loosely based on the opera “La Bohème” by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, tells the multifaceted story of young artists living in New York City and the challenges and struggles they face. “Rent” first hit Broadway in 1996 and has since won a Tony Award for Best Musical and a Pulitzer Prize. The production is under the direction of Stephen Skiles, Xavier’s director of theater.

The musical is known for the complexity of its characters and its dedication to portraying a realistic interpretation of different sides of humanity. Maya Farhat, a graduating senior, is playing the role of Joanne, who is dating Maureen, the ex-girlfriend of one of the other main characters in the show.

“It’s kind of a little joke used at the beginning of the play between Mark and all of his friends, but as the play progresses, the audience gets to know Joanne and everything she’s about,” Farhat said.

“She’s a smart, independent lawyer who is introduced to all of Maureen’s friends and is sort of like the newcomer to the group.”

The show’s cast and production teams have been working hard to prepare for opening night.

“There is a lot of preparation that goes into any role in a musical, but Joanne is definitely different than anything I’ve played before. Since she is a lawyer and she comes from a family that is fully immersed in the judicial system, there is a lot of legal jargon she uses in her songs, so research into that sort of stuff was super helpful,” Farhat said.

“Vocally, this role is challenging but also so fun to sing. There’s a lot of personality in Joanne’s lyrics and melody lines. It’s been awesome.”

Senior Sean Burlingame is a part of the ensemble cast and will play a few roles in “Rent.” One role is Kyle, who was renamed from Gordon in the original production to honor the high school theater director of an incoming student who passed away weeks before their show opened.

“This role involved researching a lot about the HIV/AIDS crisis in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The support group is a group of people dealing with having AIDS, which was really a death sentence at the time,” Burlingame said.

“I sing that ‘reason says I should have died three years ago,’ which to me is such a tragic line. Even though he should have died, Kyle/Gordon struggles with the affirmation of the group to ‘forget regret, or life is yours to miss.’”

Burlingame also plays The Man, a drug dealer.

“It’s really fun to play darker roles like (The Man). I had to do some research into the junkie culture of the ‘90s, which is another thematic vein that runs through the show, since reusing needles was the primary non-sex way that HIV was transmitted,” Burlingame said.

“For The Man, I really just have tried to embody this really sneaky, secretive persona, but at the same time I think he really loves the attention he gets from the junkies who hound him.

“The Man and Kyle exist on two really different ends of life, with The Man really being a representative of the way HIV spread, and Kyle being a voice for people who struggled with their diagnosis.”

The show, which will end the Theatre Department’s 2015-16 season, will be the last Xavier production for members of the graduating senior class.

“This is my last show as a senior at XU and it’s starting to get a little real,” Farhat said.

“Sounds pretty cliché, but I have really found my second family with the theatre department. I’ve watched it grow from year one of the major, and to see where we are now compared to other schools who have been around for years before us is incredibly humbling and quite impressive.

“Instead of feeling sad when I leave, I know I’ll leave feeling proud and hopeful for where Xavier Theatre department will go long after my class has left.”

The production opens at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday through Sunday, Apr. 24 in the Gallagher Student Center Theatre. Tickets cost $12 for students and faculty and $17 for general admission.