With the new rendition of RENT Live the story of seven friends is opened to a whole new generation of people who do not remember the struggle and stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS in the 90s.
RENT, written by Jonathan Larson, was originally seen at the New York Theatre Workshop in 1993. The Broadway production closed on September, 2018. In 2005 the production was adapted into a motion picture.
RENT was an icon of queer theater in the mainstream media, and shows how in tune and ahead of his time Larson was for the 90s. Bringing RENT to 2019s context it is easy to find problematic aspects, but also acknowledges how far we have come since its debut.
The 90’s are known as the decade when AIDS and HIV were at its peak. According to Avert there were over 307,000 AIDS cases reported, but the actual estimated number was close to a million. By July, 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was approved, prohibiting the discrimination against those with disabilities, and including people living with HIV.
“By the time 1994 came around, AIDS had worked its way around the states to become the number one leading cause of death for all Americans aged 25-44,” wrote Eduardo Albornoz for HIV World News.
So, it makes sense that art would become an escape for those who struggled with AIDS. Larson lost his closest friends to AIDS. The stigma surrounding AIDS and HIV also cause a lot of violence for the LGBTQ+ community. It is an important story to share.
In RENT, Larson shows the struggle of artists with HIV, but also shows how the LGBTQ+ community was constantly attacked and alienated. The characters come together through art, but they become a family through loss and pain.
The new rendition is not perfect, but RENT continues to be a story worth sharing and the characters continue to be a symbol of resilience for young queer artists.