‘Rent’ star discusses memoir, Broadway

ATHENS, Ohio – Thursday, Anthony Rapp will bring his story to Ohio University as he discusses his book “Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent.”

Rapp is best known for originating the role of Mark Cohen in the Pulitzer-prize-winning rock opera “Rent” in 1996. He also starred as Mark in the 2005 film version of the production. The Post’s Anna Sudar spoke to Rapp about returning to Broadway, traveling to South Africa and his favorite musicals.

The Post[/i]: What inspired you to write “Without You”?

Anthony Rapp: It actually sort of happened accidentally. There’s a beautiful coffee table book that was published when “Rent” was still in the early stages. And during that process of putting the book together, the publisher and I had started talking, and he asked me if I’d consider writing a book. … My mom was still alive at the time, but quite near the end, and he had asked me if I would consider writing about it. There’s very little literature that’s about young people going through something like that. And so that was the first impulse — to try to tell that story. Then it became clear very quickly there was no way I could tell that story without also telling the story of “Rent.”

Post[/i]: Was it difficult at all after doing “Rent” on stage for so long to put it in a film format?

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Rapp: No, it wasn’t. It was surprisingly easy. When you’re doing it on film, you’re telling the same story in slightly different circumstances around it — well not slightly; extensively different circumstances — but other than that it’s still the same material, the same relationships, the same intention behind it. So there’s just a matter of us reconnecting with that, which is easy because it’s in our bones, it’s in our blood.

Post[/i]: Now, I read that you’re going back to Broadway with “Rent” and (fellow “Rent” star) Adam Pascal this summer. Is that true?

Rapp: Yes, for six weeks. It was a surprising thing that sort of came up. … But they asked me to be a part of it with him, and I was like, “I would love to do it with him.” It would be a little weird to do it by myself again. … The biggest chunk of my stuff is with Roger, so if I have a really great Roger to work with, that makes it very easy.

Post[/i]: I also heard that you are going to South Africa to direct a production of “Rent.” Can you talk little bit about that and your hopes for the show?

Rapp: Even back in the early days, I had hoped that there would be some day where I’d get the opportunity to direct it. … I feel like I have such a deep connection to it and understanding of it. So when I got the call about the possibility of directing in South Africa, it seemed like the perfect opportunity because of the nature of that country’s history and recent history. It seems like it’s an incredible opportunity for this show to make a very deep connection to people there. … “Rent” was always meant by Jonathan (Larson) to be a reflection back to the culture. And I feel like in that country, in South Africa, it can have a very powerful impact.

Post[/i]: Besides “Rent,” do you have any other favorite musicals or shows you really enjoy?

Rapp: Well I just saw “Spring Awakening” for the first time a few weeks ago, and it really blew my mind. People compare it to “Rent,” and if they are, I’m glad.