The Musical That Changed Me

Free 'Rent' In My Head every day


When I was in 8th grade, I lived in Hawaii. I lived in a place where I was the only white kid but was quickly accepted because the people of Waianae, Hawaii, are the most loving, giving, and kind people on the face of the earth. It has been many years since I've gone back to visit, but I hope to one day. In 8th grade, I was part of NPAC (AKA, Nanakuli Performing Arts Center). This was the first year I ever did drama – acting, signing, or anything like that on the stage. When you’re a young teenager, you don’t necessarily understand what you're doing on stage because you are genuinely just having fun and don’t get the full magnitude of performing, but I quickly fell in love with it. The musical for this first-ever year of drama was RENT, the musical. If you've never heard of RENT, it was written by the late Jonathan Larson in 1996 and made into a movie in 2005. The musical is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini's 1896 opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in Lower Manhattan's East Village in the thriving days of bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. RENT has the longtime great song “Seasons of Love,” also known as 525 thousand, 600 minutes. But there is a lesser-known song that I want to talk about first. You've probably never heard of it unless you've listened to the Broadway soundtrack. The song is called “Will I?” Will I lose my dignity? The song Will I is sung by Steve in the support group sung in between Another Day and Santa Fe. The song's first line is, “will I lose my dignity?” Dignity is defined as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” Have you ever wondered about losing your dignity, or if you have lost it? The song's context is within a support group for HIV/AIDS; keep that in mind. Often, people who are suffering don’t show it on the surface. We often don’t know what someone is going through, and we pass judgment on them for what reason? When we begin to understand that everyone has a struggle, we then start to have our eyes opened to the reality of others' pain—going back and listening to the song now, understanding the lyrics, being much older than I was. I have struggled with a physical disability and seen my little brother pass from an OD. We all have friends, family, and loved ones who have lost their dignity or felt like they have. I know I have felt many times like I have. Will someone care? Will anyone care if I am gone? Will anyone miss me? Do I matter? Did ___ not matter to ____? Does my life matter? We ask these common questions throughout our lives, and some ask them daily. I even ask these questions at work daily, does my work matter? Will someone care is the second line of “Will I.” The character Steve is asking if there is anyone who will care when he is gone when he eventually dies from this disease. Is there someone, anyone, who cares about him? In life, we often feel alone; we feel like no one cares about us. We feel like no one cares about our community(race, gender, religion); we think we are all alone. If I can tell you anything, I would tell you that “there is greatness in you, and you matter.” Will I wake tomorrow From this nightmare? If 2020 and the start of 2021 haven’t felt like one heck of a nightmare, I don’t know what else could. That’s precisely its extent; the worst nightmare I can imagine is living in a first-world country during a global pandemic with an essential job, luckily. However, not all are as lucky; some reading this may have a worse nightmare they are still waiting to wake up from. The third line of “Will I” is “Will I wake tomorrow From this nightmare?” the character Steve is asking the universe that he has felt has betrayed him to this point in his life if things will change. What did he do to deserve this disease? Why him, why me(Steve)? We often ask the universe and scream at the sky why me? Why my little brother? Why my family? Why did I lose my job? Why me? We often don't know, and we have to be willing to open up to another road, path, and life. We have to move on; as hard as it is, we do it. We pick ourselves up off the ground, put on our shoes, and keep walking our path. For that, I am proud of you. I am proud of you for all the times you feel down, for all the nightmares you woke up and kept going. Support When Steve finishes the third line of the song, he starts the line “Will I lose my dignity?” repeatedly, and others who are present stand up, join hands and form a unity. They form a unit of love, understanding, empathy, and sympathy. Mark(main character) stops recording as he is hit with the moment's intimacy. He(Mark) stops, looks up, and puts himself into the shoes of those in that auditorium. Mark doesn’t have HIV/AIDS, but he supports them and has empathy for how they feel. We all have the Marks and support groups in our lives. Sometimes we are Mark; other times, we are the support group, but to be either, we must have empathy, and we must be able to stop, listen and hear what the other person is saying. The misery may not ever end for you, for others, but others are here for you who want to help you, support you and help you regain your dignity, and wake you from your nightmare. A Pleasure Cruise I was recently listening to the soundtrack of Rent, and the following two songs are Santa Fe, which is sung by the main cast(Collins, Angel, Mark, Rodger). Each was in the support group, singing about life after New York after their nightmare was over. The song taught me that there is life; life isn’t over. People survive; people win; there is life after your nightmare. There is a bright, sunny, beautiful, simple life after you wake. A Thousand Sweet Kisses The song “Cover You” has aged exceptionally well, and the musical itself. The song is sung by Angel and Collins, who are madly in love. Angel(they, them) and Collins(he) show no matter who you are or what disease you have; there is someone who loves you unconditionally. No matter what nightmare you are in, there is someone, many people, who love you deeply. Care for you, like no other. Who wants to cover you in a thousand sweet kisses. People want to spend 525,600 minutes with you because they love you and care. Use your 525,600 minutes every year on what matters most to you. Spend it with people who love you and care about you. Spend it with your support group; spend it being a Mark. Spend it spreading good vibes. Spend it on life because you never know when someone else clock may expire. Your 525,600 minutes every year is unique, don’t waste it. This year alone, we have used about 75,000+ minutes. What are you doing with the rest?

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