Up For Rent
Tonight, Antonio Tillman wears heels for the first time.
Tillman plays Angel in the Firehouse Theatre’s production of Rent, which makes it’s Richmond debut this evening at 8 p.m.
“I haven’t done anything like this before,” Tillman says of his character. “So preparing for [the show] mentally and physically was challenging for me.”
After auditioning 150 local actors, Director Jase Smith promises this to be the most talented young cast Richmond audiences have seen.
GayRVA dropped in on rehearsals last week to speak with Smith.
GayRVA: Rent is so well-known. What has it been like bringing this show to Richmond?
Smith: If someone saw The Sound of Music at Barksdale, it’s going to be unique to Richmond because it’s Richmond actors and Richmond artists that are putting it on. It’s not the same thing you’re going to see if it was a Broadway revival of the show. The same goes for Rent.
What makes this special is the space. It’s very different from what anyone has ever seen Rent in. The Firehouse is a much more intimate space and we’re able to strip down Rent to the story, the acting, the singing, and the basic love story that it is.
What was casting like?
We’ve built up such a roster of talented young artists that come and do our musicals here that it was easy to pick and choose who could be each part. It was probably the easiest casting I’ve ever done. We had over 150 people audition, but everyone that you see here tonight was the first choice and exactly perfect for the part.
That’s a lot of auditions – how many do you usually see on average for other shows?
Last year with the Trailer Park Musical, we had about 50 people audition. Reefer Madness, we had 50 or 60 people.
I think that Rent has such a place in young people’s hearts. For a lot of people in the age group, it was the first Broadway show that really grabbed us because it’s rock ‘n roll. It revived Broadway with a whole new audience
It was on Broadway for 14 years. This is really the first year it’s been produced outside of New York or on a tour, so it’s that chance to do the show you grew up with. You can talk to a lot of the actors. It’s a dream of theirs.
As a gay man yourself, what does it mean to work on a production like Rent that has so many gay elements?
I think that all of my shows if they don’t already have some kind of gay element in them, I bring it out.
With the Trailer Park Musical, there was no gay element whatsoever and I made one of the three blond trailer park bimbos into a drag queen.
With the Firehouse as a mainstream theater, it’s important for me to bring in that element so it’s normal. It’s part of life. It’s everywhere.
I didn’t pick the show because it has a gay element or to push any agenda. The two main characters are straight and have AIDS. I think it’s an important message to show that it’s not just a gay disease.
I’ve worked at the Triangle Players doing the “gay” shows and I’ve worked here doing the mainstream shows. For me anywhere I’m going to do a show, I’m going to show that it’s a normal part of life.
How is Rent relevant to Richmond?
It’s about acceptance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in New York City or Richmond. Those are universal themes.
People want to be loved and they want to find acceptance within whatever community they’re in. I think getting to see the show with local talent and in their hometown, people will be able to relate.
Rent at the Firehouse Theater, 1609 W. Broad St., runs through August 1. For tickets and showtimes, visit http://firehousetheatre.org.
Quill Theatre’s production of “Assassins” examines the lives of people who committed the ultimate crime and assassinated an American President- or at least gave it their best shot. The musical, directed by Andrew Hamm, is set in a kaleidoscopic limbo, with people from different points in history interacting and conversing- and, yes, singing- with each other. [...]October 28, 2016
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