How Do You Measure A Year?
RENT makes its way to The Saenger Theatre
I’m not sure how I would measure this last year, or 2020 for that matter. It’s been a rough ride for almost two years and we’re only just now seeing light at the end of the tunnel of the coronavirus pandemic. As more and more people are getting vaccinated and taking care of themselves and their families before traveling and participating in gatherings, restrictions and mandates have been lifted and the city is beginning to come alive again.
One sign is the reopening of The Saenger Theatre. Anyone that knows me knows that the Saenger is one of my happy places. There is nothing like a good night at the Saenger with other theater-lovers seeing a work of art (or, let’s be honest, sometimes a flop) hit that gorgeous stage.
This year, I’m thankful for the RENT 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour taking over the theatre for five shows Nov. 26-28.
For 25 years, Jonathan Larson’s RENT has been a safe place for those struggling with illness, addiction, prejudice and misunderstanding. It tells us we can either live in fear or live free in love without any regret. “He had the world at his feet” is one of my favorite lines from the song “One Song Glory,” because even though there are sad and unfortunate undertones to the plot, all of the characters eventually choose to live and not cower to what life is throwing at them.
When I got the opportunity to interview a cast member from the touring group, I was overjoyed. My excitement doubled when I learned that I would interview a New Orleans native. Jeremy Abram is a swing actor for RENT, as well as the understudy for Tom Collins and Benny. Abram was born in New Orleans, grew up in Slidell and attended New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). This homecoming is sweet in many ways, as the cast arrived before the Thanksgiving holiday.
I sat down with Abram last week and found out more about him, the show and what he’s excited to show his castmates when they all arrive in New Orleans.
You’re a swing actor in the cast, as well as the understudy for Collins and Benny, is that right?
I am a swing, so I cover Collins and Benny, but I also cover all four of the men in the ensemble. And I have six roles that I’m responsible for. Being a swing is interesting because you have to be ready to go at any time. You have to know the show frontwards and backwards. It’s fun because you never really get bored.
Can you explain, for those not in the industry, what exactly a swing is?
Swing is just a term for one actor who understudies multiple roles. They “swing” into that role when the actor that normally does the role is out of the show that night for whatever reason. I like all the roles I’m responsible for. They’re all very different and I like them for different reasons.
What’s your favorite part about being in RENT?
I think with this particular production, we have a very special bond within our cast. We are all from different backgrounds, different ages, you know. I was probably 15 or 16 years old, when some of the cast members were born, but we all we all have a mutual respect, for our craft and each other personally. And, you know, you don’t always have that in a show, but we definitely have that here. We are with each other a lot – we traveled together, we stay at the same hotel, we work together – so, it’s important that we have that mutual respect and that bond for each other on stage, and particularly off stage, because it shows.
For your castmates that have never been to New Orleans, do you have anything special planned for them?
A couple of things. We’re staying by one of my favorite restaurants, which is Domenica. I definitely want to go there. I love the St. Louis Cathedral. I think it’s beautiful. I was in the cathedral years ago for a wedding, and I definitely want to take the kids there. We’re definitely going to get some beignets, obviously. And we will be there on Thanksgiving, so, I’ll probably venture to Slidell and see my family. And you know, if anyone who wants to join, they’re welcome. Come join and eat some fantastic food that my family is going to be making. Yeah, so that’s what we have planned for now. And we’ll have a few days off, too, so, I’m sure that we’ll get into some other fun while we’re there.