A/N: AH! I updated! But--and I am sorry to disapoint--this is not a fic. It is a bit of a rant. I just saw tick, tick...BOOM! and Adam and Anthony's last show, so I was feeling very RENT-y and randomly very blue. I guess this is the result. Sorry, it really is just a rant. Blah.
The book is heavy in my hands, its binding faux-duct tape and its cover beautifully black. I flip through pages, faces that are nearly as familiar to me as my friends' and family's flashing in and out of view. I see shaded pictures of buildings and people, all of them warm and recognizable. The libretto is the most comforting, every photo like a hand to hold. And then, as I move through the book, I see a smaller photo and a long paragraph along the side of the page. The photo is of seven or eight kids sprawled along the sidewalk, all grinning and laughing. The background is familiar too; in fact, I've seen it with my own eyes.
These people are RENTheads from 1996, and I am here in 2007; such a small time difference from one perspective, yet such a large one from another. They are all there in the past, forever a part of that. I am left to gaze at photos and feel a deep, inexplicable guilt that I was not part of it too.
Born after 1990, I was a little child when RENT was first performed on and off Broadway. I had been to New York to visit my mother's cousin and my uncle, but they both lived in the Upper West Side, far away from the roots of Broadway. Now, when I think of it, I cannot believe that I was oblivious of something so huge. But as such a tiny kid, I guess it's understandable.
I have talked to people who were in The Line, who camped out in front of the Nederlander Theater for $20 tickets. I talked to a girl who said her new roommates were people she met in The Line. All of them speak of it with fondness and peaceful remembrance; all of them were touched by it. That feeling of community, drawn together by a collective love for the show that meant so much to so many…it is something to be jealous of. Something to want so much your heart almost breaks at the thought.
Now, as a girl who is living out her childhood past the end of the millennium, I feel a ridiculous guilt about this time difference. It is in no way my fault that I was not old enough to know about the Original Broadway Cast, or to see them, or to wait in The Line. There is nothing to regret in my own choices; nothing to grieve over. And yet I see their faces when they think of those days: of seeing the OBC so many times that they became close to them, of sleeping out on the street with friends and then traipsing in to once again see the show. I see how it was then…and I feel so sad.
The East Village has changed. "Trendy" is the best word to describe it; the East Village of RENT has dissolved and become something not so different—but different enough—from Jonathan's world. I have lived pas that world. I will never get to be a part of it, never get to experience the original magic of this show I love so much. Why then, I ask myself, do I bother loving a show that takes place in a time and place I do not know? Why do I love something that began so long ago, that ran out of magic before I could experience The Line and the OBC and the Tonys and all of what made it special? Why?
I have an answer. And every time I ask myself the previous questions, the answer smacks me in the face until I wake up and listen to it.
RENT has not run out of magic. RENT is magic itself; it is magic and joy and love and pain and grief and beautiful music. It is the show that holds the soul of its creator and of all the amazing people who first—and since—performed it. It is the show that, despite changing times and lives and cities, endures. People have said that RENT didn't speak for a generation, it spoke to a generation. What they don't mention is that RENT keeps on speaking, spreading its wisdom and beauty to all who open themselves to it. The generation that it was born into is growing up, but we are taking their place. And though our world is not theirs, that does not make us incapable of relating our own troubles and pains to those of RENT. Grief and love and hurt and joy are all the same to the core, and that is why people keep on loving RENT. The magic is not gone; it has grown, just as we all have.
So for all of us who never saw the OBC or waited in The Line; for all of us who have never seen that East Village where community was shared far and wide; for all of us who have ever been scared that we missed the beginnings…this is here to reassure you. Maybe all that is in the past. But having missed it doesn't make anyone less of a RENThead or less of a fan (nor does not having seen RENT over 50 times or whatever; seriously, NOT EVERYONE LIVES IN NEW YORK). We have a job to do: we must keep RENT and all it stands for, at the core, alive. If we can do that, I think we'll have done our parts.
And, to quote a certain someone…
"Forget regret, or life is yours to miss."