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LGBT+ Composer And Playwright Jonathan Larson

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For my second art analysis, I proposed the LGBT+ themed musical Rent, by the composer and playwright, Jonathan Larson, whose particular work centers around two of themes he has had an interest in exploring, those being homophobia and drug addiction, had he not died on January 25, 1996; during the the first preview of what some consider to be his magnum opus, it is very possible he would’ve later delved into the issues that LGBT+ community currently faces such as the continuation of homophobia even in parts of the world where they have gained a level of acceptance; and the emergence of transphobia and the underlying issues the T of LGBT+ face such as social ostracization and rejection, harassment, assault, and vulnerability to suicide. The 2008 production of Larson’s work that is loosely based on La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, is a musical with the length of 2 hours and 30 minutes centering around the story of artists struggling to survive and live their lives in Alphabet City, among their problems is their poverty that they are stricken by, in addition to living in a society that has yet to recover from the homophobic conotations of HIV/AIDS, that were exacerbated by the inaction of both Presidents Reagan and H.W.

Bush in the wake of the epidemic of said disease in the 1980s, but a society that is a year away from President Clinton’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and two years away from his Defense of Marriage Act, both of which would go on to rub salt in the wounds of the fragile LGBT+ community of the time. The impoverished setting that the characters such as former drug addict, HIV-positive, musician, Roger Davis portrayed by an insecure, tall, and blonde, Will Chase; the HIV-positive, sadomasochist club dancer and drug addict, Mimi Márquez portrayed by a flirtatious Renée Goldsberry; the AIDS stricken, anarchist professor, Tom Collins portrayed by a glasses-wearing, tall, head shaved, Michael McElroy; the AIDS stricken, street percussionist in drag, Angel Schunard portrayed by a girly, energitic, and sympathetic, Justin Johnston; and the ostensibly lesbian, and flirtatious performance artist, Maureen Johnson portrayed by a scandalous brunette, Eden Espinosa;

Are placed in is reflective of society’s perception of gender and sexual minorities, because like the impoverished and homeless, people like this are seen as outcasts, exiled out of their former communities, with nowhere else to go but to live in place that are often the result of the failures or neglect from those that are put in charge to run the institutions that allow for these places to exist, via the process of liberal democracy. Larson utilizes Mark Cohen, portrayed by a shaved and glasses-wearing, Adam Kantor; a documentary filmmaker, friends of Roger Davis and Tom Collins, and former partner of Maureen Johnson as the narrator of the story which begins with the two’s inability and then refusal to pay rent imposed by the landlord, Benjamin Coffin portrayed by the tall, head-shaved, Rodney Hicks, reprising his role of the former roommate of Cohen, Collins, Davis, and Johnson in this 2008 production of the musical.

The usage of Mark Cohen as the narrator in the musical is just as vital in presenting the background stories of the musical’s characters as he is in describing the setting of the bohemian Alphabet City, cold and gloomy setting, with its lack of light only serving as an attempt to hide the blight of the bohemian neighborhood and its frigid temperature, with the only access to light and heat being that which is emitted from a lit candle and the garbage can, whose contents have been set ablaze. Larson utilizes HIV/AIDS as a theme in his work to. The description of Alphabet City as a dark, cold, and blithe-ridden neighborhood that is used to define the neighborhood as a horrendous and depriving place anyone can live in, could also be used to refer to the attitudes that society towards these outcasts. A description which also central to the main idea, Rent represents the struggle of these groups of people in a society that has gone out of its way to marginalize them, even if some of them have a disease that cannot be cured but is treatable during their lifetimes that despite their affliction are capable of living out up to the average.

Life expectancy, they are nonetheless marginalized and let to suffer with the threat of homelessness and the impossibility of overcoming it, making them vulnerable to participate in criminal activities or consume the products of criminal activities such as illicit drugs, and fall into the grips of drug abuse. Many of the characters experience the depravity that comes with poverty and are only left with the choice to unite in solidarity, such as Tom and Angel forming a relationship that originated with the trope of love at first sight, but soon catalyzed into a serious relationship when the two learned of each other of a similarity the share, their possession of AIDS; but sometimes like in the case of the relationship of Roger and Mimi, while the two are both HIV-positive, their current usage of drugs are diametrically opposed, with Roger being a former drug addict and Mimi currently being one, which strikes a chord with the former drug addict, but are nonetheless able to overcome that difference and prevent the relationship from falling apart. Jonathan Larson’s Rent could be characterized as his magnum opus

Works Cited

  1. Larson, Jonathan David, director. Rent. The Hot Ticket – Sony Pictures Releasing, 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhG3JTchKDA.
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