For the past seven years, Kimberley students, primarily from Selkirk but oftentimes with an assist from McKim students, have presented a musical theater performance. Past shows have included old standards such as Oklahoma!, Broadway musicals like Les Miserables and musical comedy such as Legally Blond.
After a successful production of Beauty and the Beast last year, music teacher Sven Heyde wanted to try something different this year. And he has chosen a play with a different sort of appeal, the musical Rent.
Rent tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village in th elate 1980s under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. It debuted in 1996 off Broadway. It moved on to Broadway and won a Tony for Best Musical during its 12 year run.
“It is definitely the most provocative show we’ve done,” said Heyde. “But it’s a hugely powerful musical and we do try to go in different directions each year. The show is all music, there may be six spoken lines in the entire performance, so it’s very challenging for the kids.”
Selkirk will present the school edition of rent; shorter, and rated PG-13 rather than R.
Heyde says his cast, which he describes as very strong, are all excited about the play. The cast of 20 is entirely Selkirk Students.
“AIDS is quite literally a character in this play. We talked about it together and saw how it still relates to certain prejudices today. For instance, Prime Minister Delegate Trudeau has promised to look into the law that gay men can’t donate blood. The kids were appalled to hear that something not based in science but prejudice still exists. I hope Rent will make us look at our own issues that continue to plague us.”
Heyde says there could be some blow back on the choice of plays, but he hopes not.
“I don’t know. It’s always interesting to see what people complain about. But I do think Rent is well enough known that people won’t be surprised to find mature content. I hope it challenges people a little to look at our own selves, at our own city and our own prejudices.”
“I think all art should cause people to think and be moved.”
This will be quite different from other productions in many ways. Instead of a full live orchestra, Rent requires a four person rock band, which is on stage with the actors. That means no conductor for the singers, which Heyde says will challenge them.
“I am playing drums for the band so I won’t be there out in front for the kids to look at, between them and the audience. In the past, if a verse or bar gets dropped, I would be there to help as a conductor.”
Heyde says that he will work on this during rehearsal time, creating mistakes so the singers learn how to deal with them and find a solution.
“Theatre is all about life skills in a variety of ways,” he said.
The cast has already embarked on a rigorous rehearsal schedule for the performance, which is scheduled for April 6 to 9, 2016 at McKim Theatre.
“We are spending lots of dedicated time together. Many, many hours.”