Why 'RENT' Matters

Trish Befus

I first bought RENT on cassette. I saw the cast sing "Seasons of Love" on the Rosie O’Donnell show. I fell in love with the words. 

Then I fell in love with the show. The characters. The struggles. The friendships. The love.

As I have struggled with my own life, this became my soundtrack.

In 2010 I had the opportunity to stage manage tick, tick, BOOM! Seeing inside Jonathan Larson’s soul, changed the way I look at life. His family, friends, relationships, and his struggle as an artist. 

This was my first realization that I have his approval. We had one Sunday matinee. So we were those fools,  Who'd pay less at home Drinking coffee… 

We had broken the show into two acts. The top of Act One starts with a tick, tick sound, followed by Jonathan speaking, before the show lights come on. Act Two, we had a blackout, the actors went into place. Well, not that Sunday. I have one hand on my house lights and one on the lighting board. I plan to look to see my actor walk across the stage, to behind a screen, past the blue light. We have done this a few times.

Not on Sunday. All of a sudden, there is the loudest boom I have ever heard. I look at my sound operator, he looks at me. I mouth some swear words. I look to the stage and hope my actor is in place.

As we continued with Act Two, I realize what has happened. tick, tick,..BOOM. Jonathan’s BOOM. He’s with us.

By December 2010, I know I am directing RENT to be produced in spring of 2011. I have never directed on my own before. And now, it’s RENT.


Jonathan Larson’s RENT.


I begin to research as mush as I can. I read that someone asked if RENT is still relevant. 
I get it.

Friends are your family. Jonathan has incredible friends. They all have great stories to tell. They are all a family.

I have amazing friends, too. I want to celebrate my friends and their great stories. 

I visit as many locations as I can in New York. I had lunch at the Life Café. 

Can I do this? 

At our first rehearsal, we listen to the CD of the original cast. As they sing ‘and its beginning to snow’, it flurries. He is with me again. Actually, every time we blocked, rehearsed or just sang it, it snowed. For real. I receive and email from my producer. She’s tired of the snow. I am too, but it does make me smile.

Our tech week was the 15th Anniversary of RENT on Broadway.

BroadwayCon 2016 is the 20th Anniversary of RENT on Broadway and the 5th Anniversary of my production. I constantly think about the show. I think about how my life would be measured. I think about my mom. After she died in 2012, I thought about how many cups of coffee we drank together. I think about the love. I think about how she brought me flowers when she came to opening night. I have a tattoo, in her memory with “No Day But Today”. 

As long as we all have friends to love and be loved by, Rent will always be relevant.

The day before the RENT reunion at BroadwayCon, I have a few things I want to get done. I want a sim card, a manicure and a pair of Dr. Martens as I can’t be Joanne with out them! 

After I get the sim card, I go for a manicure. A French manicure. However, I use red, green, yellow and blue. A RENT manicure, like I did for my opening night. I have a picture on my phone to show the manicurist. When I thought they were dry, I showed the lady sitting beside me. I expect to have to explain what a RENT manicure means.

She leans in, and says “I’m Julie Larson, Jonathan’s sister.”

He has sent her to me. He really does approve of me and my passion for RENT.

I leave the shop and go buy a pair of Dr. Martens. I carry them back to my hotel in a medium brown bag.