• Important Dates -->
  • 12/20-1/1: Winter Break
  • 1/2: Classes Resume
  • 1/5: Electives Fair
  • 1/15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • 1/19: End of Q2 / Semester 1
  • 1/22: Teacher Work Day
  • 1/25-1/27: RRPA's Winter Musical, 'Rent'
The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


“Rent: School Edition:” A Powerful Story of Resilience and Hope

Rock Ridge Performing Arts (RRPA) performed “RENT: School Edition” to raise awareness for overlooked social issues and open a platform for discussion. Though it was a feat to authentically and empathetically represent characters and their stories, students of the Musical Theater class did this with passion, determination, and love.
Aline Gonzalez
Senior Bradley Schraa (Roger) and sophomore Palmer Jolly (Mark) end the titular song, “RENT,” as all the characters tell the audience they are not going to pay “last year’s rent, this year’s rent, [and] next year’s rent.”

From Jan. 25-27, Rock Ridge Performing Arts’ (RRPA) Musical Theater (MT) class brought “RENT: School Edition” to the stage. As the stage lit up and the show began, light fell upon a meticulously designed and executed set consisting of a run-down warehouse with a two-story platform, broken glass windows, graffiti walls and 80’s rock-band posters, and Christmas lights hanging around an improvised tree. It is Christmas Eve, and aspiring filmmaker Mark, played by sophomore Palmer Jolly, is starting his documentary on the lives of the community living in Alphabet City in Lower Manhattan’s East Village. This community of struggling artists — some dealing with HIV/AIDS, others homeless or drug-addicts — are all struggling to make ends meet and live their life creatively, while dealing with love, loss, and heartbreak. As stated in the song “La vie Bohème,” the setting of the play alludes to Bohemian culture, a choice of lifestyle celebrated by artists in the 1980s who were living in isolated communities away from social and cultural norms. As such, the show consists of LGBTQ+ characters who choose to live fearlessly and be open about their sexual orientation and identity in a time where such individuals were often discriminated against by the rest of society.  

Different from other shows in RRPA’s season 10 catalog, such as “Little Mermaid Jr.,” “Treasure Island,” and “Frozen,” this show is a deep cut into social issues that are often viewed as “taboo” topics and are not talked about as openly. By shining light on these social issues like AIDS and homelessness, the show embraces the need for community support/awareness and provides a platform for open discussion. 

Due to the sensitivity of the topics discussed in the play, actors prepared thoroughly by doing their own careful research to authentically perform in their characters’ shoes and tell the story accurately. Senior Hayley Sutton played the role of Maureen Johnson in the show and saw it important to explore her character by doing research on Maureen’s backstory to genuinely represent who she is. “Since this show is so different from our other shows, we took a couple of weeks in the beginning of the process to center ourselves and learn more about our characters,” Sutton said. “Even after we learned the entire show in December, we went back and made slideshows to figure out our characters’ backstories and who we are, where we come from, and how we contribute to the story.”

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To further prepare, students also conducted research on the time period “RENT” plays in and issues that people faced during that time. Junior Hannah Tyson took on multiple roles in the play, such as the nurse dealing with patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and did research on the epidemic. “We did a lot of research about the AIDS epidemic: what was done about it, [as well as] the misinformation that was spread and how no one really cared because it mainly affected LGBTQ+ people,” Tyson said. “We did a lot of research so that we were respectfully portraying this period of time.” 

Trying to accurately portray a story with tough social issues is to take on the responsibility to pay respect to the homeless, HIV/AIDS positive people, and those living in discrimination for sexual identity, race, or gender. To further understand the importance of this responsibility and develop their characters, students in the MT class got to meet actor and teaching artist Z Infante, who played the character Angel in a production of “RENT” at the Oregon Theater Festival and the National Theater of Aruba. “What I hope to impart to students here is the necessity [for] community activation and the importance of an art like activism through a musical like RENT,” Infante said. “[Here], it is clear through the text that we need to stand up when we see what is wrong when we feel that all forces are against us. Through the workshops that we have done, I noticed that there is this excitement about the future as much as there is of recognizing the present as an opportunity.”

An important message of “RENT” was its call for community support and acceptance and the importance of fighting in the face of adversity. To make an impact in the broader community, RRPA partnered with local organizations like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to help raise money for people in need. RRPA also collaborated with Mobile Hope, a volunteer organization aiming to help and shelter homeless youth, to promote understanding and empathy about homelessness.

Overall, “RENT: School Edition,” was a difficult feat, following a complex story with big messages, but was well executed, through months of preparation and perfecting of details. “RENT” reminds us that it is important to stand up against what is wrong, and live life to the fullest, as there is “No day but today.”

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About the Contributors
Aline Gonzalez, Staff Writer
Aline is a junior at Rock Ridge High School and this is her second year on staff. Aline joined newspaper because she has a deep passion for journalism and plans to pursue a career in this field. Aline also has an interest in the law field and would also like to become a lawyer. Aline has many hobbies ranging from reading, drawing, painting, to playing video games with her friends and family. She likes to play football in her free time with her friends. Aline looks forward to making lots of new friends this year.
Leif Labianca, Staff Writer
Leif Labianca is in his senior year of high school, and is a first year staff writer on The Blaze. Throughout Labiance’s life, music has been a part of it. His earliest memory with music is him listening to and understanding the lyrics, rhythm, melody, and meaning of each song. One lyrical artist that comes to Labiance’s mind first when thinking about music is the American rapper Robert Bryson Hall II, “Logic.” While a frequent consumer of music, Labiance isn’t a critic of it; he enjoys all types of music not just for its rhythm or lyrics, but the message that is underneath the melody as well. Labiance hopes to explore more music during his time in The Blaze.
Melissa Waas, Video Editor
Melissa Waas is a junior who is the Video Editor for The Blaze. Waas has a place in her heart for making films with her two sisters, who also love to make craft and movie projects.  Originally from France, Waas moved in 8th grade, and she loves being part of the Rock Ridge community, where she is also involved in PEER and is one of the WINGS mentors.

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