UH PAC to Present ‘RENT’

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RENT poster. Courtesy photo

The University of Hawai‘i, Hilo Performing Arts Center will present RENT, a rock opera with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, opening April 5, 2019.

The play depicts a year in the lives of a group of young artists struggling to survive in New York during the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s, based on Puccini’s opera La Boheme.

RENT is told through the eyes of Mark, an aspiring filmmaker who shares an apartment with Roger, an HIV-positive musician struggling to write one great song before he dies.


The story is set in motion when their former roommate, who married rich and now owns the decrepit building in which they live, declares that they owe him rent for the past year. While they struggle to get by day to day, the dreams, losses and love stories of these young bohemians are woven together. Roger falls in love with Mimi, who struggles with addiction.

Their friend Collins, who teaches computer-age philosophy, meets Angel, a lovable street-percussionist drag queen. And Mark’s ex-girlfriend, Maureen, has fallen in love with a young lawyer named Joanne.

AIDS touches all of these characters in one way or another, regardless of profession, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other way that people are typically divided and labeled.


Although death is a constant specter in the story, Director Justina Taft Mattos describes the musical as a paean to love. In this play we see people from widely diverse backgrounds and orientations coming together to embrace and support one another as they faced an illness that was, at the time, basically a death sentence.

The situation is similar, in some ways, to the fear and uncertainty faced by people who contracted Hansen’s Disease in Hawaiʻi in the 1800s. There was a huge social stigma surrounding it. People were afraid and weren’t sure how it was transmitted, so the prescribed solution was to isolate those who contracted it even though loved ones fought against that separation. Similarly, in RENT, the characters choose love over fear.

The cast features a range of veterans and newcomers to the stage. The central group of friends is played by Christian Kapono Pā (Mark), Joshua Timmons (Roger), Kimo Apaka (Collins), Moses Aaron Lee (Angel), Heather Sexton (Mimi), Danielle Kwami (Maureen) and Autumn Miyares-Thompson (Joanne), with Norman Arancon portraying the landlord, Benny. Supporting cast members, playing a wide variety of characters, from parents to junkies include: Belinda Castillo-Hall, Kenith Simmons, Ruth Robison, Nikki Gour, Noam Akiba-Hajim, Ricky Alvarez, Mimi Tincher, Adrianna Zablan, Dayva Escobar, Landon Ballesteros and Dustin Kneidl.


Choreographers Celeste Staton and Kea Kapahua have put together a talented ensemble of dancers including Kailany Rhyss, Blaise Kāʻeo Cachola, Zoi Nakamura, Sharyse Molina, Miranda Jeffcoat, Stella Jamier, Sara Hayashi, Kanon Hata, Irie Taguchi and Dustin Kneidl.

Due to the subject matter, RENT may not be suitable for all audiences. The show opens on April 5, 2019, and runs at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays & Saturdays April 5, 6, 12 and 13, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Sundays, April 7 and 14.

Tickets are reserved seating and for pre-sale priced at $20 General, $15 Discount and $10 for UH Hilo/HawCC students (with a valid student ID), children (up to age 17). At the door, tickets will be $25 General, $20 Discount and $15 UH Hilo/HawCC students (with a valid student ID) and children (up to age 17).

Tickets are available by calling the UH Hilo Box Office at (808) 932-7490 or by ordering online.

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