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Rent Party
Friday November 18, 2005
Life Café
343 10th Street (at Avenue B)

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photographed by Mary Blanco

(Opposite photo: Isabelle Dawson and Rosario Dawson)


Outside Wall of Life Cafe

On Friday November 18, 2005, the East Village’s Life Café hosted yet another Rent homecoming party. But this time it was for Rent, the film. Just in case you have been stationed with the Peace Corps in sub-equatorial Africa for the last ten years, Rent is the long-running Broadway play, written by Jonathan Larsen, that won the 1996 Pulitzer Price for Drama and four 1996 Tony awards, including the Tony for Best Musical. Loosely based on the opera La Boheme, Rent is set in the East Village of the early nineties - an East Village filled with squats, racked by rent wars and terrorized by a rampant Aids epidemic. Rent also has the sad distinction of losing its playwright, Jonathan Larsen, to an untimely death. Larsen died of an undiagnosed heart ailment just before his show opened on Broadway. Life Café was a favorite haunt of Larsen’s; he set one of the Rent scenes at Life and thus began the tradition of Life Café being the site of many Rent cast parties.

Anthony Rapp

It is remarkable how many of the original 1996 Broadway Rent cast members were cast in the 2005 film. Of the eight major roles, only two were cast from outside the original Broadway cast: Rosario Dawson as Mimi and Tracy Thoms as Joanne. There was obviously a lot of chemistry in the original Broadway cast. In fact, two of the original cast members who returned to be in the movie, Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs, are now married. The rumor is that Taye first became enamored of his future wife when he watched her moon him in the show. And yes, this scene is reprised in the film.

Jesse L. Martin

Now what’s a party without some Mamas? In this case there were two Mamas: Mama Rent (Kathy Life, the owner of Life) and Mama Isabelle Dawson (the mother of the movie’s new Mimi, the gorgeous Rosario Dawson). Both Mamas were very much in evidence, Kathy inside (working the party) and Isabelle outside (working the red carpet).

Jason Foster

Mama Isabelle Dawson and her daughter Rosario are actually life-long East Village residents, living in a tenement and frequenting neighborhood haunts such as Life Café. The story goes that Rosario was discovered by Kids director, Larry Clark, when she was standing with a group of friends in front of her East Village apartment house. Clark cast Rosario in Kids and then it was off to the race for fame for both Rosario and her very own “Mama Rose.”

Wilson Jermaine Heredia

Rent, the film, opens nationwide on November 23, 2005. It was directed by Chris Columbus (of Sixteen Candles and Home Alone fame). Rent stars: Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Kids); Anthony Rapp (Broadway cast of Rent); Jesse L. Martin (Broadway cast of Rent and TV’s Law and Order); Anthony Rapp (Broadway cast of Rent; Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Broadway cast of Rent); Tracy Thoms (Fox TV series Wonderfalls) ; Adam Pascal (Broadway cast of Rent); Taye Diggs (Broadway cast of Rent and How Stella Got Her Groove Back); and Idina Menzel (Broadway cast of Rent and Wicked). See: www.sonypictures.com/movies/rent/ for more information.


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