No Day But Today: Rent School Edition Connects with a New Generation

No Day But Today: Rent School Edition Connects with a New Generation

This month, we celebrate both Pride Month and the International Thespian Festival, taking place June 23-28 in Bloomingotn, IN. Rock Ridge High School Troupe 8104 (Ashburn, VA) will bring Rent School Edition to the ITF Main Stage, along with five other MTI titles. As Rent School Edition's themes of inequity and the essential human need for belonging still ring true for many marginalized groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, it is more than fitting to put the spotlight on both this title and Troupe 8104's production.

Rent’s success began in 1993 with an Off-Broadway workshop production that blossomed into a 12-year Broadway run, winning four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Following Rent's undeniable influence on contemporary musical theatre and its groundbreaking representation for the LGBTQ+ community on Broadway, Rent School Edition continues the legacy of Jonathan Larson's musical. Developed closely with the Larson estate, Rent School Edition retains the dramatic intent of Rent with minimal changes that make the show more possible for high schools to perform.

Based loosely on Puccini's La Boheme, Rent School Edition follows a year in the life of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York's Lower East Side, under the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Roger, Mimi, Tom and Angel, grapple with both the physical and emotional complications of living with the disease. Maureen and Joanne struggle with the ongoing infidelity and lack of commitment in their relationship. Benny has been exiled from the friend group after selling out his Bohemian ideals in exchange for a hefty income at his fiancée’s father’s company. And Mark, an aspiring filmmaker, feels like an outsider to life in general. How these young Bohemians negotiate their dreams, loves, and conflicts provides the narrative thread to this groundbreaking musical.

In honor of Pride, we asked the cast and crew of Troupe 8104 what Rent School Edition meant to them as the next generation of theatre artists.

What about Rent stood out to you?

“I love the way that Rent represents problems and experiences across a diverse group of people, including the HIV & AIDS epidemic, social injustice between different classes of people, people that suffered through homelessness, and even representation for the LGBTQ+ community. Having premiered in 1996, for this musical to cover issues and topics so unacceptable yet common at the time shows the bravery of Jonathan Larson and the company of Rent as a whole. I took it as an honor to be able to help this legacy continue to thrive through different generations, and play Angel, who is a very down-to-earth and a real representation of queer history, which means so much to me.”

-Angel Labosette '26, Angel Dumont Schunard

Rent is a production that follows the themes of found family and it truly spreads that message. It was a reminder that family wasn’t just by blood, but by those who give you unconditional love and support. To show that even if you didn’t understand someone’s differences or struggles, you could simply just be there for them, to support them in the way that they needed to be.”

-Omaiza Fatima ‘24, Stage Manager

What did performing in Rent School Edition mean to you?

"Rent was the first time I have ever performed in a show that directly discussed queer issues. Before this show, I had never performed in a show that even really referenced this, and I thought I never would. This is not my story, but it feels good to finally tell."

- Emily Gruessing ‘24, Paul and Houseless Ensemble

"To me, it meant being able to support those who may have a deeper connection to the story and time period along with uplifting the message the play conveys to those who may need it."

- Josh Bell ‘25, Houseless Ensemble

Is there anything you learned in performing this show about the LGBTQ+ community or yourself you didn’t know before?

“Playing the role of Maureen has helped me become a more confident individual. She’s helped me stand up for myself and be more confident in who I am. When I play Maureen, I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to, because she just has so much confidence which I need to have more of.”

-Hayley Sutton ‘24, Maureen, Choreographer

“Even now the LGBTQ community is still fighting for the right to belong. “

-Jaden Thomas-Falcon ‘25, Houseless Ensemble/ Mrs.Jefferson

What number in the show was most empowering to you?

"In my personal opinion, “Will I?” or “Finale B” would have to take the cake for the most empowering songs in Rent. Both of these songs portray people of different experiences coming together in times of desperate need, relating to each other, and ultimately giving the audience a feeling of bittersweet acceptance and temporary peace in knowing that the characters and audience alike are not alone."

- Angel Labosette ‘26, Angel Dumont Schunard

"“Will I?” was such an empowering song. Even though we repeat the same phrase, it expresses the struggles and trials of every single character and it reaches out to everyone who relates. When we sing "Will I?", we sing as ourselves and it’s such a beautiful moment."

- Grace Monet Carper ‘26, Houseless Ensemble

If there is one thing you want audiences to take away from this show, what would it be?

“Live in the moment. Time isn’t something that’s promised so always live in a way that you want people to remember you by.”

-Palmer Jolly ‘26, Mark

“I want people to walk out of Rent feeling grateful for everything and everyone that they have. Rent tells you time goes by fast, and nothing is guaranteed– so be grateful for what you love while it's here right now.”

-Claire Wood ‘24, Scenic Designer

“Family is created when a group of people embrace each other for their true authentic selves. That is a family that nurtures our souls through the most difficult challenges and is worth fighting for.”

-Jordan Markwood, Vocal Director

Why do you think this show is important for today’s audiences?

"I think any show that makes an audience slightly uncomfortable is a story that needs to be told. No matter how outdated it may seem, these topics are never really gone or over. The themes in Rent can still be applied to the world we live in today and the stories of the leads still need to be told."

- Kaylie Rivers ‘25, Blanket Person and Houseless Ensemble

"Rent is a show that is very much of its time and place. It does not make sense in any other setting. Despite that though, the music and the way it tells the story is still so approachable and appealing to a modern audience that it continues to give it new life. Because of this, the messages and themes are so potent in Rent and give them a lasting impact."

- Claire Wood ‘24, Scenic Designer

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with this show?

“This show states heavy topics, it forces people to get uncomfortable, and that is necessary in today’s society. People need to be able to open up their eyes and musical theater has allowed for that doorway. Rent brought humanity to such topics, to remind us that what these characters were going through was suffering and that they shouldn’t have been treated as any less.”

- Omaiza Fatima ‘24, Stage Manager

“Nothing more than to be kind and respect each other’s differences because nobody is perfect.”

- Josh Bell ‘25, Houseless Ensemble

Photo by Scott Sikes