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Southern Miss Theatre Kicks off Fall Season with Jonathan Larson's RENT

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Southern Miss Theatre will perform Jonathan Larson's RENT.
Southern Miss Theatre will perform Jonathan Larson's RENT, which opens on the Hattiesburg campus Oct. 3.

The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Theatre opens its fall 2013 season with RENT, a rock musical. Loosely based on Puccini’s classic opera, La Boheme, RENT earned both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for best musical in 1996.

With song favorites such as the catchy “Seasons of Love” and “No Day But Today,” Jonathan Larson succeeded in “bring[ing] musical theatre to the MTV generation.” The piece achieves much more, however, in humanely depicting the fragility and hope of urban youth in New York City during the gritty 1990s.

All performances of RENT will take place at the Tatum Theatre in the Theatre and Dance Building at Southern Miss. Performance dates are Oct. 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 for the public; $10 for faculty, staff, and military; and $8 for students. For tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at 601.266.5418 or 800.844.8425 or visit www.southernmisstickets.com.

Jonathan Larson received the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for RENT. He also won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 1994 Richard Rodgers Award for RENT and twice received The Gilman & Gonzales-Falla Theatre Foundation's Commendation Award.

“This is not going to be a duplication of the movie or Broadway production. As a creative and artistic team, we have created something new and very exciting,” said Robin Carr, associate professor of the Department of Theatre and director of RENT. “Audiences will have a great time, connect to the characters, and leave the performance singing the songs.”

Jennifer Diaz, a senior theatre major originally from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and now living in Biloxi, Miss., is fulfilling a long-time dream by playing the role of “Mimi” in Southern Miss Theatre’s production of RENT. “I’ve wanted to play Mimi since I was in the seventh grade, and I never thought I’d have the chance to play her. Now that I’m at the university level and doing RENT, I’m really excited to be doing a show of this caliber here,” said Diaz.

Diaz describes the character “Mimi” as wise beyond her years, but at the end of the day, Mimi still nineteen years old. “I want to bring that childlike radiance to her and that little spark of innocence that the world hasn’t taken away from her,” Diaz said.

Bennett Forrest, a senior theatre major from Tupelo, Miss. plays the role of “Roger” in RENT. Forrest spoke to the relevance of RENT to a Mississippi audience. “I don’t think Mississippi necessarily relates to the East Village of New York City, but the overall message of the show is about love and acceptance and how life isn’t fair,” he said. “That relates to everybody. Not everybody can relate to having AIDS, but everybody can relate to tragedy.”

For more information about the Department of Theatre, call 601.266.4994 or visit www.usm.edu/theatre.