When ‘Rent’ Returns, Its Director Says It Will Be “In Your Face” About HIV Awareness

The cast of 9 Works Theatrical’s RENT. Courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical

It has been almost three decades since Jonathan Larson’s ‘Rent’ first opened in New York. Times may have changed, but the musical’s message still rings true today.

April 10th, 4 PM. The cast of 9 Works Theatrical’s Rent prepares for their last short media preview at The Mirror Theater Studio in Makati. From there on out, the cast would give a glimpse into what audiences can expect from their upcoming show run from April 19 to the first weekend of June 2024.

As the cast sang “Seasons of Love,” the legacy of Jonathan Larson rang in every note of the song. Larson, a struggling artist in the 90s, had created Rent not only as a reflection of his life but the lives of queer people, misfits, and minorities, and it became the first of many musicals to open conversations about “taboo” topics at the time. The show deals with poverty, loss, drug addiction, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s, all while promoting the celebration of hope and love in the middle of the chaos.

A preview and roundtable discussion was held last April 10. Courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical

During the roundtable discussion, the cast sat down and swapped stories of the show’s impact on them. “This was the reason why I chose musical theater as a profession,” shares Markki Stroem, who will switch between playing Benny Coffin and Tom Collins during the show’s run. Reb Atadero, who will play Mark Cohen, fondly shares that Rent was the musical he was “indoctrinated with” when he began as a theater actor.

For others, the story is even more personal. Jasmine Fitzgerald, who plays Maureen Johnson, opened up about recently experiencing trauma from losing a loved one. On the same night that she auditioned for Rent, Fitzgerald witnessed her grandfather pass away. She shares how the show helped her cope with the loss: “It’s healing, it’s support, it’s love, and it’s acceptance, and that’s what this show is about. That’s how Rent has impacted me personally. Not as an artist; more than that, as a person.”

The story of RENT revolves around queer people, misfits, and minorities. Courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical

Adrian Lindayag, who was cast as Angel Dumott Schunard, had recently opened up in an interview about testing positive for HIV in 2017. Long before his diagnosis, Lindayag had discovered Rent on a cable channel as a 13-year-old kid. “For a queer person to be celebrated that way, and not just a queer person but a person with HIV, to be celebrated that way and to be loved that way by Collin, sobrang powerful,” he says.

The show’s production could not have come at a better time. In the country, more than 120,000 HIV cases were recorded from January to September last year according to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines. More than spreading awareness through their performances, the production aims to help educate audiences about HIV through their institutional partners, The Red Whistle, Love Yourself, and Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated (PAFPI). At the venue, educational materials, assistance, and HIV testing will be available through each organization’s booths.

Director Robbie Guevara says that the production will be “in your face” when it comes to presenting HIV awareness. Courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical

With such an impact on its audience through the years, director Robbie Guevara shares that the production will push forward the themes of the musical in a more direct manner. At the time that Rent was written, it opened up the discussion about HIV/AIDS, but Guevara feels that with today’s modern thinking, the show can push the discussion further.

“The way AIDS in particular is tackled in this show—homosexuality and all that—it’s just a backdrop of the material. They actually mention AIDS just once,” he says. “But this time around, we really want to push it forward. In your face, and not only the reality of living with AIDS, but also the causes.”

Rent runs from April 19, 2024 until the first weekend of June 2024 at the CPR Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati. Tickets are available at

More From Vogue

Share now on:
FacebookXEmailCopy Link