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In the Wake of Parkland, ‘Rent’ Sends a Powerful Call To Action: “No Day But Today”

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After seven nights of filling Atlanta’s Fox Theatre with music and an aura that remains timeless throughout generations, seven nights of bringing people of all colors, ages, and all walks of life together, and seven nights of highlighting the importance of youth presence in a time of political and social turmoil, the curtain closed on the 20th anniversary National Tour of “Rent.”

As the “Rent” cast tour bus hobbles out of Atlanta, it leaves the ATL not only yearning for more Broadway musicals but also with a very important message: “There is no day but today.”

In the show, Mimi Marquez (portrayed by Destiny Diamond), a 19-year-old heroin addict, reproaches her romantic interest Roger Davis (played by Logan Farine), an ex-heroin addict getting over the loss of his girlfriend, with this phrase during the song “Another Day.” Mimi interrupts Roger’s pensive strumming of his guitar asking him to go out with her, but he is so consumed by the sorrows of his past and concerned for the future of the HIV virus brewing in him, that he does not want anything to do with Mimi.

Mimi’s message to Roger emphasizes how crucial it is to live in the present, no matter how gut-wrenching the past or foreboding the future. For Roger, this means to stop blaming himself for contracting the virus or worrying how many days he has left, but living in the present and enjoying life as it came without caring how much of it remained. Although addressing Roger, Mimi touches all of us with this message. As she sang it to Roger, I realized this phrase applies to everyone. My thoughts automatically rested on the recent Parkland school shooting. There is no day but today. We need to stop cursing the past gun restrictions and laws that could have prevented this tragic incident and stop promising ourselves that we will act sometime in the future. We need to act today. We need to speak out against the sale of automatic rifles today. We need to make our schools safe again today.

This newfound burst of passion I experienced while watching the show made me wonder what makes this musical so immortal. In 1996, when the show had just opened, the theatre conducted ‘Rent Lotteries’ at the box office where they let the winner buy $20 tickets instead of the more expensive ones in order to attract the young artists and young generation to see the show that was made specifically for them. No longer was Broadway the hub of Rodgers and Hammerstein fanatics, but it had blossomed into a place where the youth felt respected, acknowledged, and free to speak out.

This game-changing musical set the stage for others, including Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” and his blockbuster follow up “Hamilton,” all of which broke the regular norms of Broadway and brought in audiences from all corners of the world. Lin Manuel Miranda was one of the young artists who came to see the show when he was 17 and later said to The New York Times, “’Rent’ rocked my perception of what musical theater could be. It was the first musical I had ever seen with a cast as diverse as the subway riders I saw on the way to school. It was the first musical I had ever seen that took place in the present day and sounded like the present day. The characters were worried about the things I worried about.”

“Rent” has been and will remain a critical piece for many generations to come. As the band hit the very last note, I could feel a rush of energy and awe in myself and all those present at the Fox Theatre as the 20th anniversary cast of “Rent” left us knowing that we matter, youth matters, and “there’s no day but today” to change our country for the better.

VOX got to attend this performance thanks to the nonprofit Most Valuable Kids – Atlanta, which partners with local venues and nonprofits to provide experiences for Atlanta-area youth.

Rebecca Jeltuhin, 18, is a senior at Milton High School and a huge musical theatre geek.

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