Every semester, the University Theatre department opens the eyes and thoughts of its audiences by taking on productions that allow students, faculty, and other audience members to see into the minds of writers, and experience the worlds and lives they have created. However, it is far less common that an audience is allowed to experience moments of the writer’s own life, since autobiographical screenplays are quite rare to begin with.
In spite of this fact, University Theatre will be performing “Tick.tick.BOOM!” the weekend of Feb. 12-15, a production commonly recognized as Jonathan Larson’s (the man most known for his musical “Rent”), screenplay of his anxiety towards an upcoming workshop of his play, Superbia.
Andrew Lowy, President of UT, proposed the idea of running the show at West Chester University last spring, and after it was approved, began preparations for the production and casting, which took place last semester. Lowy took an interest in the show due to its pure, emotional message and desire to help spread the story of Jonathan Larson.
Larson was a struggling artist, living a very simple and financially tight life in New York City. He worked full-time at the Moondance Diner and used all of his free time to compose songs and write plays.
Though he experienced a great deal of disappointment and rejection at this point of his life, he maintained a positive demeanor.
Larson absolutely idolized composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and was musically influenced by artists such as Billy Joel, Elton John, and the Who; two elements which he combined to make his works unique and intriguing.
“His whole goal was to combine the generation of classical musical theatre with the ‘MTV generation,” Lowy said.
In 1994, Larson’s now most commonly known work, “Rent,” started taking off, and was set to play off-Broadway in 1996, when he died suddenly the evening before opening night.
“There are two common misconceptions about Jonathon Larson,” said Lowy, “one is that he was gay, and the other is that he died from AIDS. Neither is true.”
Though “Rent” contains characters that collectively apply to every sexual category and a fair few who are known as having AIDS, the characters are representatives of friends and people he knew and lost in his life. “Tick.tick.BOOM!” however, is his own story.
“Tick…tick.BOOM!” is one of Larson’s more developed works that he attempted to have produced prior to his writing of “Rent.”
Originally titled “Boho Days”, the main character, “Jon”, is an aspiring musical composer who has started to self-doubt his career choice.
The play follows the events surrounding Jon’s life during the week leading up to a workshop on the character’s play, Superbia (which is actually another of Larson’s plays).
As the director of the production, Lowy oversees and develops the story from beginning to end. However, directors oftentimes add their own elements or tweak the ones originally there in order to contribute certain concepts or emotions.
“The play is to be done with three people. I’m doing it with seven characters, because I’m a crazy director,” Lowy said. “What I immediately saw was that I felt a sense of community was missing in the script.so I added this four-person ensemble.”
Another unique aspect of the show is that it is entirely student-run.
Besides the required faculty advisors that are typical per any organization or event on campus, there is no staff involvement in the production at all. Along with Lowy, Dan Pardo (musical director) and Jackie Read (stage manager) have been overseeing and developing the production since last September.
The production will preview on Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Though there will be no ticket cost, the show will be performed as a benefit to the Jonathon Larson Performing Arts Foundation, which was founded in 1997 by Larson’s family and friends. Donations will be accepted at the doors of Asplundh before the performance.
“Tick.tick.BOOM!” will be showing at the Emilie K. Asplundh Theatre Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m., 13-14 at 8:00 p.m., and 14-15 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door prior to the show or can be reserved at the box office (located at Anderson 118).
Tara Tanzos is a second year student majoring in English. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.