Audiences "Blown Away" by Production of Rent!

The "Firetrail Theatre" of Rent was truly brilliant!" Chair of Arts Department Babs Wheelden raved about Brooks School's winter musical Rent: High School Edition, performed in the Center for the Arts February 24 – 26.

"I was blown away by the sheer impact of seeing a 20-plus person ensemble on stage, in person, in harmony musically and as a representation of our community," she said. "They provided an incredible artistic experience for the audience, the cast and crew — and a platform for each cast member to grow as a performer, find deeper meaning in acting for stage, and ultimately shine."

Coupled with the traveling "Visualize Health Equity" exhibit, and a detailed dramaturgy that the Brooks theater group created for the production, the theater company also learned to more deeply understand, and present, the ideas of the musical, which chronicles a year in the life of struggling New York City artists and musicians as the AIDS epidemic raged in 1987.

The community art project "Visualize Health Equity" (shown above), arrived at Brooks first. The panel of pictures and illustrations from artists depicting what health equity looks like to them was placed in the Center for the Arts lower lobby, where it was on display for two weeks.

Part of The National Academy of Medicine's Culture of Health Program, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the exhibit aims to provide perspective on the state of health care in various communities throughout the United States.

"When we learned of the "Visualize Health Equity" exhibit and the possibility of bringing it to Brooks' campus it seemed serendipitous, knowing we were planning to produce Rent this year," said Wheelden. "Our students may be less familiar with the AIDS crisis at the core of Rent, but they are more aware than ever of community health issues, and this exhibition was an opportunity to learn more about the inequities related to health and wellness beyond Brooks."

By creating a dramaturgy for the show, Brooks cast and crew got to go a step further and put Rent's characters' struggle for health equity into context.

"They were committed to helping the community engage with... the production by [providing] an opportunity to learn more about the plot, themes, and characters," said Director of Theatre Meghan Hill. "Their hope was that [everyone] might choose to engage with the production outside of the theatre and embrace that theatre is more than what happens on or backstage."

But it must be said that what happened on stage during the show's run was inspired!

"Each member of the cast and crew showed tremendous growth from auditions to performances," said Hill proudly. "They showcased their ability to problem solve, collaborate, think of their feet, and commit to the process, all while flawlessly executing a challenging rock opera."

"While their performances were outstanding," she added, "I was most impressed with how they embraced and approached the process."

"They put trust in the staff, one another, and most importantly, in themselves," said Hill. "There's nothing quite like watching a performer discover that they are powerful and can have a lasting impact on everyone around them."

View an initial album of photos from the production on

Bravo, Brooksians!

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