RE(nt) – Cap (Opening Night)

Posted: February 1, 2010 in Road to RENT

January 30, 2010 (Part 1)

I should be asleep but I can’t disobey this crippling yearning to release the pressure thumping against my skull. The unsettling overload of information crowding my mental comfort. Even as my body begs me to sleep, different parts desiring much needed rest, my mind threatens to discipline me with vague images and a memory transfer to the unconscious. I can’t disobey.

I won’t defy.

It was the morning of January 30th, and I peeled out of bed wondering why my body continues to wage war against my comfort. It is as if the three Tylenol Pm’s that I took were merely multi-vitamins to help my nails grow longer. I scratched my face rubbing my eyes.

I signed on my Facebook and my eyes fell upon a verbal gourmet of flavors, presented by my mother:

Helen Doll James-Swift You know I don’t sign on facebook often Jeremy but I must make an exception today. You are my son who I love dearly yet last night’s performance overwhelmed me tremendously. You are a very talented and gifted young man. I have never seen that side of your talent and I am truly blessed that God chose me to bring you into the world. To God I am thankful.

My heart fell.

I took a hold of my chest to replace it, to jolt it back into position.

My mind zoomed in on opening night.

January 29

I peer through a slit in the black curtain behind the band. As I search the crowd I spot my aunt in an orange coat. My stomach pats my rib cage and sends a chill into my heart. My lips react, parting, exposing my teeth. I look for my sisters and then my mother. They are all there and finally I see members of my church family spilling into the auditorium.

They are led by an usher confusedly trying to locate their seats. They parade around the front, cross the entire auditorium and finally take refuge in the back, about four rows in. I call my sister making sure my mother is okay:

“Tell her not to be mad, I told you guys to come early.”

She replies:

“She’s not mad. We just couldn’t find our seats.”

My lips twist up as I try to understand how general seating calls for confusion. I toss the thought into the atmosphere and run away from it.

I retreat backstage and swim in my thoughts:

My mother is here. I get to finally perform for my mother. Yeah.

As the time nears to take our positions, I run through my routine and hope my sister has relayed my instructions, perfectly, to my family:

”Now, make sure that when you hear the New York, New York theme music that you look to the back door at your right. That is where I am coming from. Most people totally miss my entrance until I get on stage, but you guys can’t. I want you to see me.”

The stage manager calls for places and I run to the lobby and prepare myself to invade this new world of mine.

I see the heavenly voice’s mother. I embrace her and engage in light conversation. She directs me over to her husband. I extend my hand; however, before I can reach him my music starts. Immediately I am pulled into my role and I retreat to the door, hunched over, my hands aching against the door handles, my mind looping:

“I gotta do this for my mother.”

The final words scream through the speakers summoning my arrival:


I burst in.

I throw my eyes towards my family:

They followed the instructions perfectly!

I tear away and then I dance as if the whole world is depending on me to save them with every twist of my hips. I hit the stage, the sound of my stomps ignite me. I turn upside down, I see another familiar face, I smile and flip over.

The stage feels like a cloud as gentle puffs toss me in the air, my soles being tickled with each lift. I can’t see her, but I can feel my mother smiling, breathing life and energy into me.

I ham it up for her.

I add extra moves and slither towards the edge of the stage taunting a frightened face or astonished. I find my steel platform and add an extra stripper roll to the end. I disappear off the stage, panting and gasping for air, yet my veins are pumping with passion:

My mother saw me!

I smile through the sweat drenched, chest heaving pain. My lungs fill and empty, struggling against the rib cage that hinders its expansion.

Throughout the performance, I am elated as I know I have sixteen eyes absorbing my every move. It is as if they are the only ones in the theatre and I the only one on stage. I can feel their affection singling me out, hoisting me into the limelight of their hearts, and when La Vie Boheme tears onto the stage, I make sure to pay them a visit.

I quickly dance through the beginnings of the crowd scene and beeline to my family.

I jump on a chair, singing my song of protest and then I catch a glimpse of my mother’s face. It is as if the wind has been knocked out of her and with each passing second she struggles to catch her breath. My sisters are laughing, one uncontrollably giggling, pumping their hands in the air.

I feel higher than a comet, soaring through their excitement.

It was a feeling that lasted for the entirety of ACT II.

I ran to the lobby to see them. I gave hugs as generously as the air we breathe. And then, lastly, I find my mother.

She grabs me, staring deep into my eyes. Before she embraces me, a look of concentrated concern flushes over her face. I wait for the scolding of my gyrations, or my over indulgence in our clothed orgy. I wait, a nervous smile sketched on my face. She speaks:

“You know, I have to tell you…”

My eyes grow wider, she continues:

“You’re good. You are really good!”

I fall into laughter as I embrace her, knowing it is the ultimate compliment. My mind traces back to the many unconscious bellowing of songs as I traipse through the house thinking ears cannot detect my voice. I hear my mother yelling:

“Boy, will you HUSH!”

I remember the nights I sat at the piano, trying to figure out what the white and black keys depict. I smile.

I taste the frustration in my mom’s voice as she, numerous times, calls for my silence as I, unknowingly, sing and hum through songs, while she is on the phone, trying to read or simply reaching for peace.

And then I ignite as I recall her waving to me as we sang Season’s of Love, as she lights up taking notice to the song Out Tonight and as she heavily recognizes the words and actions to Light My Candle – A song I had sang and performed for her more times than she could care for. I also chuckle as she rehearses my sister upstaging me in my theatre debut.

I brought her, my sister, on stage after doing a cast member of favor of grabbing his wife. I expected to do our swing dance routine. However, my sister broke out into her own song and dance, blending perfectly into the cast.

I stood on one side of her, while beanie torn pants danced to her left. It was as if she had peered in on the rehearsals knowing exactly what to do.

No, I did not rehearse it for or with her.

Nevertheless, she looked absolutely divine.

Watching her stand on her own evoking a performance surpassing my understanding threw me in awe. I was happy I got the chance to introduce her to the stage.

As if the night was not already impacted with bliss, I spotted the woman who connected me with the avenue I have grown to love.

My English friend came towards me with a package in her hand. Taking more notice to her face, I embraced her as if I hadn’t seen her in years. I disregarded the fact that I took glances at her during the performance as I watched the pride radiate from her face.

She stared upon on me as if I were a star she had strategically placed into the sky, standing back and admiring her work.

She shoved the package towards me. Before I could connect with my feelings, the overwhelming emotion of receiving a gift outside of a holiday, she spoke:

“You know I had to get you a book!”

I figured nothing less.

I tore the package, disregarding the card placed on top, and red the cover:


My feet left the ground.

I had heard the many references to the origins of RENT, the person who wrote it and the stories that surrounded his life and untimely death. Between my schedule, the newness of the theatre world and the constant learning journey I am embarking upon, getting the true understanding and facts of the rock-musical has always escaped me.

Even to this day, I am not sure that I fully understand the severity of this piece.

However, as I looked upon the book, I knew that I would finally gain the knowledge and understanding that I so longed for. I grabbed her tighter than before. She moved on, illuminating me further:

“This is where you belong. You light up when you are on stage. You found it!”

Her “it” was loaded and I agreed with every inkling of its broad scope.

It was it!

I was ripped away from her, my excitement redirected.

Sitting close by was my life preserver. Seeing her daily is joy and that night she caused my delight to grow:

“Hey Jeremy, I want you to meet my family.”

My thoughts scrambled:

What, why? You want me to meet your family? Me? Why me? Wow! This is beyond an honor!

My face hurt from the smile that would not fade from it. I tried to rescind it, to pull it back into a comfortable position, but with each turn of my head it cemented itself permanent.

I took in the names and bathed warmly in their smile. I could feel watery emotions creep up on me as I stood, amazed, that she dared, cared to introduce me to the ones close to her heart.

I thought, maybe, I had a place there too.

From there, torments of my past took on new faces and embraced me. I welcomed their facelift. I could feel, sense, touch the slow changes.

I faded into the passion of the night being whisked off to a cast party hosted by the tall photographer. On my way, I anticipated what this new venue might bring:

What do they do at cast parties?


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