RENT…my favorite show of all time. This rock opera is not just a story told through a collection of songs, but rather a showcase of veritable anthems that define societal shifts at a pivotal moment in modern American history. It defined my generation, and in classic timeless epic fashion, continues to be relevant. The music brings me back to a time in my life when I was extremely uncertain about who I was, and now secure in all of my various identities almost 20 years later, I listen with great awe and nostalgia. I remember how these brilliant melodies with inspirational lyrics comforted me with a message of hope, personal growth, and victory in the face of tremendous adversity.
Here I am now living in Israel as an oleh chadash, and these words still ring true for me today as I deal with the adversity of being an immigrant in a new country. I took a blind leap of faith to pursue my ideals, honor my authentic self that had been concealed much of my life, and live in the place dearest to my heart.
As I rehearse for the upcoming Starcatcher’s production of RENT, I am ironically also looking for an apartment to rent in Tel Aviv, so one might say that at the moment my entire life is consumed by rent. In the past few weeks I have looked at dozens of apartments, which are priced shockingly much higher than just under one year ago. Escalating rental prices, constant gentrification of neighborhoods, greater divide between the have and have-nots, Tel Aviv is like NYC circa 1989 and I feel like I am living “La Vie Boheme”.
“I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” is perhaps my favorite song in the show, and as Tom Collins I feel so blessed to be able to perform it. I can finally relate to the relationship between Collins and Angel, as I have met my own Angel this past year. Even though their time was short together, the love they felt was so strong and they were unafraid to love. Fear is a central theme in the show; as humans we are paralyzed by fear and this fear holds us back from our greatness. The love between Collins and Angel was pure and fearless, not bought or rented, but freely given without condition.
As I reflect on the first 525,600 minutes of my new life in Israel, I think about all of the mazal and amazing blessings that have been bestowed to me, one of them being the opportunity to perform again for the first time in many years in this production of RENT. Each time we sing “Seasons of Love” at rehearsal I hold back a tear; I can’t help but recall all the wonderment and beauty that I have known here – friends that have become like family, unconditional love, beautiful Mediterranean sunsets, a thousand sweet kisses, midnight wanderings, and my vegan Shabbat dinners with “meatless balls” to name a few. As I think about what the next 525,600 minutes holds for me, I envision myself living in a beautiful (rented) apartment near the sea and feeling like a total success since I am now once again reminded to measure my life in love.