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By Michael Still
Ames247 Staff Writer
Towering metal structures, electrifying rock music and a cast of 24 devoted actors and actresses are all set to take center stage this weekend as ISU Theatre brings one of the most well-known musicals to Fisher Theater.
ISU Theatre’s Stars Over Veishea production of “Rent” opens Friday and will perform again Veishea weekend.
Stars Over Veishea is the annual musical that the ISU Theatre program puts on during Veishea week. It has been a popular tradition at Iowa State for many years, and productions have included “Music Man,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Kiss Me Kate.” This year, the Broadway hit “Rent” is added to the long list of Stars Over Veishea shows.
“Rent” is one of the most popular musicals in the country right now. The story is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” and it’s set in New York’s Lower East Village during a time where AIDS was becoming a major problem. It follows a group of friends over the course of a year, as they experience love, tragedy and poverty together.
Brad Dell, director of “Rent” and member of the theater faculty at Iowa State, has always had a strong connection to the show and thought it was time for Iowa State to tackle the production.
“I’ve always wanted to do this show,” Dell said. “It came out in 1996 when I was 16 years old, and it means so much to me as it was a major part of the formative years of my life.”
The cast has been working hard since February to make this show a success. They have rehearsed their musical numbers, choreographed the dances, learned their lines and developed their characters. However, the actors are not the only ones who had to put in a lot of effort to make “Rent” really come alive.
Rob Sunderman, the scenic designer for “Rent,” has been hard at work designing the set for the production. He read the script, listened to the music, researched the story and made multiple sketches and models. All in all, his main goal was to communicate his ideas and thoughts as best as he could.
“The play to us as a production team is about family. Young artists coming together and being pulled apart, trying to survive the artist’s lifestyle,” Sunderman said. “I wanted the set to reflect this through line, color, steel, texture and space. There is a definite contrast between the cool metal industrial feel and the fabric quilt look of the colorfully painted pallets.”
Another person who has been working to make “Rent” a success is Kiah Kayser, the show’s stage manager. Apart from calling the numerous light and sound cues for the show, she and the backstage crew also makes sure that everything is ready and set before performances.
“On a daily basis before a performance, we first make sure everyone is there,” Kayser explained. “Then we do a sound mic test with the actors and make sure each of them has their hand props. We also preset any props or set pieces that need to happen before the show starts.”
Like the characters in “Rent,” the cast and crew have formed a sense of community during the months of rehearsals. From rehearsals to production meetings, the team has devoted countless hours to making “Rent” the best it can be.
“This is a rock concert that hugs the audience,” Dell said. “It is a powerful play about a community of people, and hopefully the audience will feel like a part of the community of humanity we are trying to create.”
Stars Over Veishea: “Rent”
Where: Fisher Theater
When: 7:30 p.m. April 13, 14, 20, 21 and 2 p.m. April 15
Tickets: $16 for students, $20 for adults