Confessions of a Rent-Head
A serious Rent-aholic brings the famous musical to the East Bay
How many times has Jasen Jeffrey seen Rent? “It’s in the triple digits,” he says. “I’ve seen the original Broadway cast, the touring casts, the first San Francisco cast… Yes, I’m a Rent-head.”
It’s hard to imagine someone better prepared—or more enthusiastic—to direct a rare East Bay production of the musical, which kicks off the 50th anniversary season of Walnut Creek–based Contra Costa Musical Theatre on August 20.
Rent, the Pulitzer Prize– and Tony Award–winning rock opera that ran for 12 years on Broadway, is loosely based on La Bohème. It portrays a group of young artists and musicians in New York’s East Village struggling to celebrate life in the face of poverty and HIV/AIDS.
“This is the show that made me realize what I wanted to do with my life,” says Jeffrey, a Walnut Creek resident and first-time Contra Costa Musical Theatre director. “To have it come full circle and be at the helm of the production is so gratifying.”
Contra Costa Musical Theatre production will stay true to the original script, and fellow Rent-heads in the audience should look for hidden Broadway props, which Jeffrey has on loan from friends. (Hint: Keep your eyes on characters Mark and Angel.) This production should also lure younger audiences, who may not be as familiar with Rent’s early ’90s subject matter but will connect with its universal themes.
“It’s about love and having a sense of belonging, about helping each other through thick and thin,” says Jeffrey. “It’s about living your life to the fullest—doing what you love and being surrounded by those you love.”
For information, visit ccmt.org.
Name: Jasen Jeffrey
Role: Director of Rent
Times he’s seen the musical: He stopped counting at 100.
Favorite rent quote: “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.”
Previous CCMT roles: Actor in Urinetown, Guys and Dolls, and Cinderella. Assistant stage manager for Evita. Stage manager for Oliver.