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yracuse Stage is committed to providing students with rich theatre experiences that explore and examine what it is to be human. Research shows that children who participate in or are exposed to the arts show higher academic achievement, stronger selfesteem, and improved ability to plan and work toward a future goal. Many students in our community have their first taste of live theatre through Syracuse Stage’s outreach programs. Last season more than 30,000 students from across New York State attended or participated in the Bank of America Children’s Tour, Backstory performances, artsEmerging, the Young Playwrights Festival, and our Student Matinee Program. We gratefully acknowledge the corporations and foundations who support our commitment to in-depth arts education for our community. Children’s Tour Naming Sponsor

Student Matinee Series Sponsor

additional support by

ArtsEmerging supported in part by

John Ben Snow Foundation, Inc.

Kathy & Dan Mezzalingua

The Kochian Family The Bass Family

Backstory Program supported in part by

General Educational Outreach supported in part by

The Golub Foundation

Lori Pasqualino as “Annabel” in the 2010 Bank of America Children’s Tour: Annabel Drudge... and the Second Day of School. Photo by Michael Davis

09/10 SEASON CLASSROOM STUDY GUIDE Editing, Layout & Design by Michelle Scully

CONTENTS Timothy Bond

Producing Artistic Director Syracuse Stage & SU Drama

820 E Genesee Street Syracuse, NY 13210 www.SyracuseStage.org Director of Educational Outreach

Lauren Unbekant (315) 443-1150

4. 5. 7. 8. 10. 12. 14. 15. 16.

Introduction & Planning Your Visit Teaching Theatre Title Page/Credits About the Play Context About the Authors History Resources Syracuse Stage Season 2010-11

Manager of Educational Outreach

Michelle Scully (315) 442-7755


Group Sales & Student Matinees

Tracey White (315) 443-9844

Since 1849 National Grid and its predecessor companies have been part of the Syracuse community, helping to meet the energy needs of over two million Upstate New York customers. We are proud to contribute to the quality of life through the energy we deliver and through the many ways we give back to the communities we serve.

Box Office

with additional support by

(315) 443-3275

Syracuse Stage is Central New York’s premiere professional theatre. Founded in 1974, Stage has produced more than 230 plays in 37 seasons including numerous world and American premieres. Each season, upwards of 90,000 patrons enjoy an exciting mix of comedies, dramas and musicals featuring leading designers, directors and performers from New York and across the country, supported by a full-time and seasonal staff of artisans, technicians and administrators.

EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH AT SYRACUSE STAGE The Bank of America CHILDREN’S TOUR brings high-energy, interactive, and culturally diverse performances to elementary school audiences. The BACKSTORY Program brings history to life, as professional actors portray historical figures in classrooms and other venues. artsEMERGING takes students on an in-depth exploration of our mainstage season using a multi-cultural, multi-arts lens. The YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL challenges students to submit original tenminute plays for a chance to see their work performed at Syracuse Stage.

Find us on:



hen the first cavedweller got up to tell a story, theatre began. Almost every culture has some sort of live performance tradition to tell stories. Television and film may have diminished the desire for access to theatre, but they have not diminished the importance.

Live theatre gives each audience member an opportunity to connect with the performers in a way he/she never could with actors on a television or movie screen. The emotions can be more intense because the events are happening right in front of the audience. In the classroom, theatre can be an effective teaching tool. The NY State Teaching Standards value students’ observation of and participation in theatrical performances, both in traditional settings and classroom exercises. We at Syracuse Stage hope that our Study Guides will help you discover a multitude of possibilities for integrating this season’s productions into your lesson plans. We encourage you to delve deeply into our plays with your students and examine not just the story and its themes, but also the manner in which it is told — the casting, visual design, sound design, movement and choreography, and dialogue. If we can be of any further assistance toward this end, please feel free to call our Education Department at (315) 4431150.


“Theatre brings life to life.”

Zelda Fichandler

Founding Artistic Director Arena Stage, Washington DC

PROMPT ARRIVAL gives your students plenty of time to arrive, find their seats, and get situated. We ask that you arrive 30 minutes prior to the performance.

BUSSES should load and unload students on E. Genesee

St., where red cones will indicate bus-only parking. Please do not block the Centro Bus Stop at the corner.

USHERS will escort you to your seats. We request that

teachers and chaperones distribute themselves among the students, and help us to keep students in their seats once seated.

BACKPACKS, cameras, food, and drink are not

allowed into the theatre, nor can we store them. Please leave these items at school or on the bus.

PHOTOGRAPHY and video recording per-

formances is illegal, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous. Cameras and other recording devices, including cell phones, will be confiscated.

SNACKS & SODA, whenever possible, will be available during intermission for $1. These are to be consumed in the lobby only.

RESTROOMS are located in the main lobby, but

please only allow students to exit during a performance in the case of an emergency.


Instead of instructing students to remain totally silent, please discuss the difference between appropriate responses (laughter, applause, participation when requested) and inappropriate noise (talking, texting, etc). 4


A heatre




Any piece of theatre comprises multiple art forms. As you explore the play with your students, examine the use of: WRITING


Teaching Theatre



Most (but not all) plays begin with a script — a story to be told and a blueprint of how to tell it. In his famous treatise, The Poetics, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle outlined

SIX ELEMENTS OF DRAMA that playwrights are mindful of to this day:

Plot What is the story line? Language What happened before the play started? What does each character want? What do they do to achieve their goals? What do they stand to gain/lose?


What ideas are wrestled with in the play? What questions does the play pose? Does it present an opinion on those questions, or leave it to the audience to decide?


Who are the people in the story? What is their relationship to one another? Why do they do what they do? How do their ages/status/etc affect them?

What do the characters say? How do they say it? When do they say it? Do they speak to one character differently than another? Why?


How do music and sound help to tell this story?


What visual elements support the play? This could include: puppets, scenery, costumes, dance, movement, and more.

Other Elements: Conflict/Resolution, Action, Improvisation, Non-verbal communication, Staging, Humor, Realism and other styles, Metaphor, Language, Tone, Pattern and repetition, Emotion, Point of view.

At its core, drama is about characters working toward goals and overcoming obstacles. Ask students to use their bodies and voices to create characters who are: very old, very young, very strong, very weak, very tired, very energetic, very cold, very warm. Have their characters interact with one another. Give them an objective to fulfil despite their environmental obstacles. Later, recap by asking how these obstacles affected their character and the pursuit of his/her objectives. 5

Teaching Theatre


Most plays utilize designers to create the visual world of the play through scenery, costumes, lighting, and more. These artists use


to communicate information about the world within the play and its characters. Have students discuss these elements BEFORE attending the performance and ask them to pay special attention to how these elements are used in the production’s design. Whether your students are observing a piece of visual art like a painting or a piece of performance art like a play, allow them first to notice the basic elements, then encourage them to look deeper into why these elements are used the way they are.

LINE can have length, width, texture,

direction and curve. There are 5 basic varieties: verticle, horizontal, diagonal, curved, and zig-zag.

SHAPEis two-dimensional and encloses space. It can be geometric (eg. squares and circles), man-made, or free-form.

FORMis three-dimensional. It encloses space and fills space. It, too, can be geometric (eg. cubes and cylinders), man-made, or free-form.

SPACEis defined and determined

by shapes and forms. Positive space is enclosed by shapes and forms, while negative space exists around them.

COLORhas three basic properties:

HUE is the name of the color (eg. red, blue, green), INTENSITY is the strength of the color (bright or dull), VALUE is the range of lightness to darkness.

TEXTURErefers to the “feel” of an object’s surface. It can be smooth, rough, soft, etc. Textures may be ACTUAL (able to be felt) or IMPLIED (suggested visually through the artist’s technique).



Timothy Bond

Jeffrey Woodward

Producing Artistic Director

Managing Director


By Jonathan Larson Directed and Choreographed by Anthony Salatino A co-production with Syracuse University’s Department of Drama

Jan. 18 - Feb. 13 Jonathan Larson’s Broadway phenomenon ignites the stage with passion and energy. One year—525,600 minutes— in the lives of seven young friends from Alphabet City brings love, loss, tragedy and triumph in a whirl of non-stop music. Larson built the show on the artists and addicts he knew in his neighborhood as they battled poverty, drugs, AIDS and the looming gentrification of their Vie Bohème. Urban and gritty, this Tony Award and Pulitzer Prizewinning musical brims with raw emotion and infectious enthusiasm. Based on Puccini’s La Boheme, Rent opened off-Broadway in January 1996 to wide critical acclaim. It quickly moved to its Broadway home, the Nederlander Theatre, where it ran for 12 years, becoming the eighth longest running Broadway musical in history. Rent won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for drama and was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning four, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The rock musical was adapted into a 2005 feature film directed by Chris Columbus starring most of the original cast, including SU Drama alumnus Taye Diggs ’93, Idina Menzel, and Adam Pascal. Rent’s composer, lyricist and scribe Jonathan Larson died suddenly of an aortic aneurism just before previews began off-Broadway, a testament to Larson’s message that there is “no day but today.” 7

Jonathan Larson




(February 4, 1960 - January 25, 1996)


Composer-lyricist-librettist of Rent, a rock opera inspired by La Bohème, Jonathan Larson was born in Mt. Vernon, New York, and raised in suburban White Plains, the second child of Allan and Nanette Larson. Both Jonathan’s parents loved music and theatre, and show tunes and folk music were always playing in their home. Jon and his sister Julie took piano lessons during elementary school. He could play by ear, and his teacher encouraged him to experiment with rhythm, harmony, and setting words. By high school, he was called the “Piano Man” after the enormously popular song of that title by Billy Joel; he also played tuba in the school marching band. Active in school and community theatre, Jonathan had major roles in several musicals. In 1978, Jonathan entered the acting conservatory at Adelphi University with a four-year fulltuition merit scholarship. He told an interviewer in 1993 that the program was “an undergrad version of the Yale Rep [the theatre where students of the Yale School of Drama work alongside veteran professionals]. And I was serious enough about theatre to know that this was what I wanted to do.” He earned his Equity card doing summer stock and received a BFA with honors in 1982. His favorite part of the Adelphi curriculum was the original political cabarets. With classmates, Larson wrote rock-flavored attacks on the New Christian Right, Reaganomics, and the mind-numbing effects of television. He also scored El Libro de Buenamor (1979) and The Steak Tartare Caper (1981), musicals with lyrics and libretti by faculty members. He had a knack for pastiche and for complex ensemble numbers that used themes in counterpoint. In class, Jonathan studied the theatre of Bertolt Brecht and Peter Brook. Among his musical influences were Jesus Christ Superstar, the Beatles, Prince, and the Police, but the writer he admired most was Stephen Sondheim, to whom he wrote during his last year in college. The distinguished composer-lyricist answered him and became an adviser to the young songwriter. After graduation, Jonathan moved to Manhattan, went on acting auditions, performed in a nightclub trio, and composed songs for a musical version of Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Books”. In 1982 he adapted George Orwell’s “1984” for the musical stage. Deeply affected by the novel, and unflappably confident, he completed book, music, and lyrics, recorded a demo tape, sent a script to director Harold Prince, and wrote to Orwell’s estate. The theatrical rights were unfortunately not available. “So all the work that I had done on that transmogrified into Superbia, which was my own dystopia.” In the earliest drafts of Superbia, a young man with a music box wants to wake up an emotionally numb futuristic society. In later drafts, the hero never gets a chance to make his point. This shift seems to echo Jonathan’s own experience with mounting a new musical. During the Superbia years, 1985-1991, Larson was chosen for ASCAP and Dramatist Guild development workshops. He lived on the edge of poverty, preferring to work as a waiter rather than divide his concentration with jingle- or copywriting. Organized and disciplined, he revised draft after draft of Superbia and submitted material to scores of regional theatres. In 1988 he won a $14,766 Richard Rodgers Development Grant, which funded a staged reading of Superbia at Playwrights Horizons. Jonathan’s belief in his work was just as large as his talent. He could say with a straight face (and often did), “I am the future of the American Musical”. But all of Jonathan’s talent, devotion, connections, and persistence could not secure a full-scale production of the show. 8

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©2003-2010 American Theater Wing, Inc. All rights reserved.




Jonathan Larson continued...


Jon addressed his disappointment in Tick, Tick . . . Boom! (1990), an autobiographical rock monologue influenced by the work of Eric Bogosian and Spalding Gray. In the course of twelve songs and stories, he told half-funny, half-bitter tales of bad readings and waiting tables. His character worried about turning thirty, whether to give up writing musicals, and if his current girlfriend was “the one”; he learned that his best friend from childhood was HIV-positive. “Tick” was deliberately easy to stage - “No sets, no costumes, no cast. Just me, a piano, and a band” - but Larson’s hopes for a larger production or a record deal went unfulfilled. He did occasional downtown performances of the piece through 1994. In 1989, the playwright Billy Aronson asked Jonathan to collaborate on an update of La Bohème: a show about would-be artists of the present day coping with poverty, disease, and heartache. Jonathan suggested the multilayered title Rent. They wrote three songs and amicably separated. In 1991, three more of Larson’s friends were diagnosed HIVpositive, and he returned alone to the project, with Aronson’s blessings. In contrast to many Broadway shows of the time, which valued spectacle over meaning and technology over personal interaction, Jonathan envisioned a great rock opera that would bring people together, address social issues, and make musical theatre relevant to his generation: “Hair for the ‘90s.” Some of the Rent characters were gay, others straight, most were long on style, short on cash, and battling AIDS, addiction, or loneliness. Jonathan’s score used pop music styles from heavy metal to gospel. He began the arduous dual development process again. While he did extensive research and tried out new material in friends’ living rooms, he also applied for grants and looked for producers. In 1992, he approached New York Theatre Workshop, a downtown theatre specializing in new and avant-garde work. They expressed great interest in Rent and gave Jonathan an artistic home and rigorous feedback as he worked out the plot. While developing Rent, Jonathan continued to create new works with other collaborators including Blocks (1993), a revue about teen issues, with lyrics by Broadway veteran Hal Hackady. With songwriter Bob Golden, he wrote the script and songs, directed, and produced a thirty-minute video for children called Away We Go (1994). J. P. Morgan Saves The Nation (1995) was a sardonic history lesson about capitalism. Playwright Jeffrey M. Jones wrote the piece specifically for outdoor performances in New York City’s financial district. Jonathan set Jones’ lyrics to Sousa-style marches, grunge rock, and everything in between. When he won a $45,000 Richard Rodgers grant for Rent in 1994, New York Theatre Workshop agreed to mount a “studio production”. Following this workshop the show still needed focus, and Fall 1995 was a time of intense work with the project’s director Michael Greif and the theatre’s Artistic Director, Jim Nicola; a time of passionate arguments about the show’s shape and production timeline. With a small advance from the producers in his pocket, Jonathan quit his waiter job in October to work full-time on the show. Finally, just before Christmas, the show was cast and rehearsals began. 9

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©2003-2010 American Theater Wing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jonathan Larson continued...





Twice during “tech week,” Jonathan went to hospital emergency rooms with severe chest pains but was released, diagnosed with food poisoning or the flu. Still feeling under the weather, he rested during the day and then attended the first and only full dress rehearsal for Rent on January 24, 1996. Anthony Tommasini, a music critic for the New York Times, attended, planning to mention Rent in an article about the centenary of La Bohème. Impressed by the score, Tommasini interviewed Larson at length that night and told him that the work was something special. A few hours later, alone in his apartment, Jonathan put on a kettle to make tea, and died from an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm. It is believed that he died as a result of Marfan Syndrome. (To learn more about this condition, contact the National Marfan Foundation at www.marfan.org) After two weeks of previews, Rent opened on February 13, 1996 to rave reviews, and the original downtown run quickly sold out. A flood of publicity fueled the transfer of the show to Broadway, where it opened on April 29, 1996. The show was an explosion of energy, with all the lead performers wearing small headset microphones as in a rock concert. Teenagers camped on the sidewalk outside the Nederlander Theatre for precious $20 tickets and testified in Internet chat rooms about how the show had changed their lives. Characters who happened to be homosexuals, people of color, infected, or homeless became familiar to audiences in a way that statistics or strangers never could. The 1996 Democratic Convention concluded with a performance of the Rent song “Seasons of Love.” Among other awards, the show and its author won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four Tonys. By the year 2000, Rent had been performed on five continents, spreading its message of tolerance and hope. The eighth-longest running Broadway show in history, the original Broadway production of Rent closed on September 7, 2008, which was filmed by Sony Pictures for a national cinecast and released on home video in 2009. Today, Rent continues to be produced at regional theaters around - adapted from an article written by Amy Asch for American National Biography - Jonathan Larson® is a registered trademark of Skeeziks, LLC the world. ©2003-2010 American Theater Wing, Inc. All rights reserved. http://americantheatrewing.org/larsongrants/about.php


Bohemian [boh-hee-mee-uhn]

A person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior. Generally living in a colony with others of the same thought.

Mark sings:


very era in history has had its bohemian counter culture. The word first crept into use during the latter part of the 19th Century as a description of artists, authors, painters and musicians who lived life on the fringes of society. Rather than conform to mainstream ideals, bohemians tended to suffer for the sake of their art. Much like the characters in Rent, bohemians did without many of the basic comforts of life in an effort to use their resources to further their artistic goals. Bohemians generally gathered in groups or communes largely to save money that could be used towards furthering their artistic endeavors. Consisting of free thinkers, bohemian societies held viewpoints that were radically different and were looked at by the wealthy as devoid of morals.

Rent is set in a part of New York City called the East Village. Making up the East Village is the neighborhood of Alphabet City consisting of Avenues A, B, C and D which through the middle of the 1900s established itself as a bohemian society that would influence culture throughout the United States.



To days of inspiration, Playing hookey, making something Out of nothing, the need To express to communicate, To going against the grain, Going insane, Going mad To loving tension, no pension To more than one dimension, To starving for attention, Hating convention, hating pretension, Not to mention of course, Hating dear old mom and dad To riding your bike Midday past the three piece suits To fruits, to no absolutes To Absolut, to choice To the Village Voice To any passing fad To being an us for once, Instead of a them Š2008, Camp Broadway, LLC view the entire StageNOTES™ visit: http://www.campbroadway.com/stagenotes/ Rent_StageNotes.pdf


East Village



Bohemian communities have existed throughout the world. These communities have helped to foster culture and ultimately define societies. In the United States, New York’s East Village was one such area. By the end of the 19th Century, the East Village was populated by an immigrant working class. The characters of Rent echo this idea. Mark and Roger are typical bohemians. Mark is a young filmmaker who searches for visual images to practice his craft. He watches the world around him, content to film its progress. Roger is a composer and lyricist striving to create the perfect song before he dies of AIDS. Neither have steady jobs nor do they care to. Financial stability is unimportant to them. The only thing of any consequence is furthering their artistic endeavors. These characteristics were typical of the bohemians living in the East Village. St Mark’s Place, a street known for its bohemian shops became the center of culture in the East Village. Bohemians roamed the sidewalks performing songs and reciting poetry to anyone who would listen. Experimental theatre gained prominence during the time with theatre groups performing in any space available. Small productions were being performed in church basements and vacant buildings, anywhere that a crowd could gather to participate. Generally these productions relied on donations from those in attendance to survive. A shift in culture began in the 1950s when members of the Beat Generation otherwise known as Beatniks began to enter the area. The migration continued and soon the citizens of the East Village began to count poets, philosophers, singers and actors among their numbers. The inhabitants of the Village adopted a wide variety of causes including women’s liberation, gay pride and anti-war protests. Viewpoints were often reflected in the artist’s work.

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©2008, Camp Broadway, LLC view the entire StageNOTES™ visit: http://www.campbroadway.com/stagenotes/ Rent_StageNotes.pdf



East Village continued...

The Beat Generation consisted of a group writers, poets and artists. Lead by author Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation rejected the established academic attitude towards poetry emphasizing that verse should be brought to the masses through public readings. Beatniks embraced non-conformity and unconstrained creativity. They wrote against mainstream American ideals and used their verse to offer solutions to the country’s problems as they saw them. The East Village reached its creative zenith in the decades of the 70’s and 80’s. The East Village felt like a safe haven to artists considered non-traditional. Uptown art galleries featured “corporate art” and wanted nothing to do with the bohemians that existed downtown. Makeshift galleries began to spring up throughout the East Village often occupying spaces like storefronts or apartments. Art bars began to emerge mixing fashion, music, performance, video and painting. With the increasing media spotlight on the East Village, the general public romanticized about the idea of living in a landscape filled with dilapidation. Perceptions of the area that were once negative began to change. The borgouise middle class that was the antithesis of everything the bohemians believed in began to move in. Known as gentrification, real estate developers were quick to adopt an artistically driven phase of redevelopment but the East Village would ultimately lose some of its charm and force the displacement of the lower income people who had already been residing there. The streets are still lined with cafés and shops and although the creative souls who helped to form the neighborhood are no longer able to afford to live in it, the vibe and energy they helped to establish still exist to this The final days of a Village art squat. Metropole Midi © 2010 ©2008, Camp Broadway, LLC day. 13











Educational Theatre Association Kennedy Center Viola Spolin



For classroom excercises and additional information see the Rent edition of Camp Broadway’s StageNOTES™: A Field Guide for Teachers


American Theatre Wing Larson Grant





Profile for Syracuse Stage


Rent- Study Guide


Rent- Study Guide

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