Hays High School presents the musical Rent: School Edition

Hays High Drama press release

This week, Hays High School presents the musical Rent: School Edition. HHS typically produces their musical in the fall, but in an effort to navigate the pandemic, decided to push the production to the tail end of the school year.

The show was cast the week before spring break, and students have been in rehearsal for the last seven weeks. The musical will open to the public on Thursday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at 12th Street Auditorium (323 W. 12th) in Hays. Subsequent performances are Friday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m, and Sunday, May 16 at 2:00 p.m. all at 12th Street Auditorium. Tickets are $10 and available at www.ticketsource.us/hays-high-school and at the door.

Rent revolutionized the Broadway landscape when it opened in the mid 1990s. Based on Puccini’s famous opera, La Boheme, Rent follows a similar plot and character structure.

Boheme is based in late 19th Century Paris during a tuberculosis outbreak where the cast of starving artists find love, joy, and heartbreak. Rent is set in New York City’s East Village in the early 1990s at the height of the AIDS crisis.

These grungy squatters are indie film makers, songwriters, performance artists, and philosophers who suffer disease, find love, struggle with addiction, fight for artistic pursuits, and above all: support each other. Through this comes a beautiful and tragic story that reminds audiences to live life to the fullest. More than a year into a brutal and devastating pandemic, this show’s centering on disease is quite impactful. The show’s mantra is “No Day But Today.”

Hays High’s production brings a fresh-yet-authentic take to the show. Director Alex Underwood says, “The show is a period piece at this point. It’s 25 years old, which is so far removed from teenagers living in rural Kansas in 2021. Many of the students’ parents were in high school and college when Rent was set and it has been fun engaging with them about that time in their lives. I also think this show provides important opportunities for students to explore the history of the AIDS epidemic and cultural trends of the time.”

Underwood said that students spent time watching clips of Nirvana concerts, talking with a local recovering addict, and an LGBTQ+ elder who survived the AIDS crisis. “How powerful for students to get to dive into a work as rich and historical as this?”

He also mentioned how meaningful it has been to produce this show with the strong group of outgoing seniors.

“I think the seniors are thankful to perform a musical in their very last week of high school, especially when doing a show at all this year was in question.”

he graduating seniors have unusually incredible talent with several students pursuing careers in the performing and creative arts while others are chasing their own dreams in mathematics and journalism. Collectively, the eight seniors have been accepted to the University of Michigan, Princeton University, Harvard University, University of Southern California, Mahidol University in Thailand, Duke University, Oklahoma City University, and schools in Kansas like Wichita State, Kansas State, and Ft. Hays State.

Underwood says “I like to think of them as their own crew of film-maker, performance artist, drag queen, philosophers. They are a simply remarkable group and it has been so rewarding to get to work with them these past three years. I am thankful every day.”

The show is rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, and language. It may not be suitable for all audiences.