From January 5-8, senior Jonah Goldberg and freshman Timothy Owens took part in the Junior Players’ (a Dallas children’s theater) performance of the musical Rent at Dallas City Performance Hall. In addition, junior Grace Cooper Jackson worked with technical theater for the performance. The musical was also directed by Upper School Drama and Theater teacher Valerie Hauss-Smith and choreographed by Middle and Upper School Dance and Drama teacher Kelly McCain.
Rent, which takes place in New York City, follows a group of struggling artists trying to deal with the predicament of paying last year’s rent. According to Jonah, the play deals with issues of staying true to yourself and appreciating what you have.
Timothy played Benny, a main character in the musical, while Jonah was a member of the ensemble in his role as The Man. Both put hundreds of hours into the performance, including six hours a day over Winter Break in preparation for the show. According to Jonah, who wants to pursue acting in college and beyond, this show offered an opportunity to work with some of the most passionate young actors in the Dallas area.
“The cast is absolutely phenomenal. It’s like grabbing the group of three or four people from every school who give a crap about theater and bringing them together to make a show. No one’s here for a credit, everyone cares,” Jonah said.
Timothy was not always slated to play his main character role, Benny. Originally chosen to be the understudy for the role Benny, circumstances arose that allowed for Timothy to become part of the main ensemble. However, despite the promotion, Timothy had no change in mindset.
“I gave the same level of dedication to the role as an understudy as I did when I actually got the role, [so the transition wasn’t too difficult],” Timothy said.
With little in common to the actual character, Timothy spent much of his time adjusting to the different mannerisms of Benny.
“It was more involved role in that it wasn’t a character that I relate to in a lot of ways. Having to become a different person was a stretch, but also really fun,” he said. “I had to do a lot with posture. I lowered my voice and walked with my shoulders back and chest out. I had to change a lot physically.”
Jonah had to do a lot of work to prepare for playing The Man, a drug dealer. In many roles he’s had, he’s been able to draw from some of his own experiences. While that was not the case for his part in Rent, he was able to utilize some of his own encounters with shady people, as well as his time playing a villain in other performances.
“I’ve played shady characters before. I’ve played old-school villains, I’ve played new-school villains, so I drew from shows I’ve done in the past. I did a rendition of the Outsiders where I played a similar character, so I pulled from that,” Jonah said.
According to Jonah, in many ways, performing at Dallas City Performance Hall felt no different from preforming at Greenhill’s Rose Hall in the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center. However, he said that there was an added aspect of professionalism at the downtown venue.
“All of our tech crew are professionals who get paid, it’s a professional set, professional band, and everything. The only thing that isn’t professional is the actors. It’s just a great experience for us. It’s a great real world theater experience,” Jonah said.
Grace got to experience working with professionals first hand. During the performances she operated a spotlight and helped with sound. While this was not her first experience working with professionals in a big theater, she said that the transition from Greenhill to larger settings has been surprisingly smooth.
“What I found surprising was how easily everything that [Performing Arts Building Manager Michael] Orman and [Middle and Upper School Technical Theater teacher Matthew] McKinney had taught me transferred to a professional environment. I think this speaks to how fabulous our theatre program is,” Grace said.
Timothy called the experience irreplaceable.
“It was something that so many people don’t have and so many people strive to have,” said Timothy. “The environment [was great. Having] directors that care, actors that care, musicians that care, and so many people that want to be there and put in that effort in a professional setting.”
Photo by DiAnn L’Roy Photography