COAL CITY – Theater-goers will be transported back to the 1980s in New York City’s East Village as actors portray a group of poor young artists struggling to survive during a time where HIV and AIDS were coming to light.
Small Town Theatrics will bring the Tony Award winning rock musical “Rent” to the stage at Coal City Community High School Auditorium this weekend.
“We knew we wanted to perform either a family show or a contemporary piece,” Jack Micetich, director with Small Town Theatrics said. “We originally chose ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ but due to a national tour in the area the rights were pulled, so we chose the contemporary piece, ‘Rent.’ ”
He said they chose “Rent” for their fifth year anniversary, because they knew the message would be groundbreaking for the area.
The actors who come from a wide area including, Coal City, Morris, Braidwood, Custer Park, Plainfield, Channahon and Minooka, auditioned in early May and began rehearsals for the stage performance the first week in June. They have met three days a week perfecting their parts.
“They had to be 17 to audition because of the content,” Micetich said. “Because they are older, they come more prepared to rehearse and it’s been extremely nice to watch it come together.”
Seventeen-year-old Kevin Soto of Coal City is playing his first lead role as Mark Cohen, a struggling Jewish-American filmmaker who is not only the narrator of the show, but also is seen on stage with a camera documenting the acts portrayed.
“The fact that this is my first lead role, and I’m working with people in their 20s, is making me step up my performance to match what they are doing,” Soto said.
He said “Rent” has more of a message than his former performances as a student of Coal City High School, and he hopes that people are open to the subject matter of the play, despite it being performed in his small home town.
Madison Schlegel a 17-year-old Channahon resident who goes to Joliet West High School, plays a supporting ensemble role and also agrees that conveying the story is important to their performance.
“It’s about AIDS and loss,” she said. “It’s difficult to share a story when you don’t know what it’s like.”
She said the story it tells of the people who lost their life deserves to be told and she hopes it is well received.
Micetich said the musical contains references to adult themes and language that may be offensive to some viewers, so people should take this into consideration when attending the show.
The show will be performed Thursday evening for VIPs who have donated to the theater group and family, and to the general public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Small Town Theatrics presents “Rent”
Open to the public Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday
Coal City Community High School Auditorium, 655 W. Division St., Coal City
Tickets are $10