Interview by Christine Thompson
AMFM Magazine: Tell me why anyone should go to RENT.
James Schoppe: I think what makes RENT so great is that it is so relevant and it’s such a timeless kind of story. It tells the events of New York City in the late 80’s, early 90’s during the AIDS epidemic. It’s about a group of artists living a Bohemian lifestyle in the ast village and they’re struggling to survive. It’s a different look into something that people across America don’t always see. I think what makes it really cool is that it is a musical that is about really important issues in New York City, like same-sex relations and the homeless. That’s an issue not just in New York City, It’s an issue all over the country. RENT deals with life, love, grief, loss… everyone can come to RENT.
These are real people on stage, with real stories that everyone can connect with – falling in love, losing someone they love, but what makes it so important it that it doesn’t hide anything. Everything is out there. You know that you’re in for a rock opera the moment the show starts. I think it really opens people’s eyes. You come out with “oh, I just saw some different life (styles) than I’m used to.”
AMFM Magazine: What is your role in RENT?
James Schoppe: I was on the tour last year for the 18th and 19th season, and I was a male “Swing.” In the theater world that just means I’m an offstage character, I’m understudying five different men in the show every night. If any of them “call out” because they can’t perform the show, I have to go in and prepare to do one of the five different tracks that I am understudying. This year I was bumped up to an ensemble track, so I’m in the show every night. The show has a pretty small cast (I would say there’s only about 15 of us on stage every night) so there are really some intimate moments for character development – you really can see these characters come to life on stage. I am also an understudy for one of the principal characters, ” Angel.”
AMFM Magazine: So when we see you in Houston, what do we need to watch for?
FIRST TWO ROWS OF ORCHESTRA SEATS FOR THE RENT 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR AVAILABLE FOR $25 (Day Of Performance Only)
RENT 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR AVAILABLE FOR $25 DAY OF PERFORMANCE ONLY AT THE HOBBY CENTER BOX OFFICE
Memorial Hermann Broadway at the Hobby Center announced today that a limited number of seats in the first two rows of the orchestra section will be available for $25 for every performance of RENT, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical. The $25 tickets are available for in-person purchases at the Hobby Center Box Office, located at 800 Bagby, Houston, TX 77002, on the day of each performance only, two hours prior to the show. The $25 tickets are available for cash only purchase and are limited to two tickets per person.
The tradition of these tickets began in 1996 in New York when the show moved to Broadway after a sold-out run in a small downtown theatre. The producers of the show are committed to continuing the tradition of offering these orchestra seats in each city the show will play.
RENT performs at the Hobby Center, August 6-11, 2019, Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.| Friday at 8 p.m.| Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.| Sunday at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
For general ticket information call (800) 982-2787; visit www.TheHobbyCenter.org or www.BroadwayAtTheHobbyCenter.com; in person at The Hobby Center Box Office (800 Bagby, Houston, TX 77002) and all Ticketmaster outlets. Performance schedule, prices and cast are subject to change without notice.
PLEASE NOTE: RENT is a story that addresses adult themes, controversial issues including profanity and sexual situations. Parental guidance is suggested. It is not recommended for children under 13.
Visit RentOnTour.net for more information.
James Schoppe: I have some featured dance moments in the show, solos. We play a lot of different homeless people, and in the East village we play different members of the Bohemian artists group. You’ll see me be a variety of characters – I’m a police officer at one point, but I’m also a homeless squeegeeman too. I have a squeegee mop that I’m running up and down with, trying to ‘get some money on Christmas eve’ kind of vibe. There’s always so many different things that I get to do in the ensemble, which is fun.
AMFM Magazine: Oh, that does sound fun. So you never know exactly as an understudy what they’re going to be calling you to do.
James Schoppe: I’m still an understudy for one of the principals for this year. So if someone playing the character Angel “calls out” then I am one of the people they may consider putting in. Also this year, I’ve gotten to take on the duties of Dance Captain.
AMFM Magazine: Can you tell me more about that?
James Schoppe: It’s our job as dance captain to make sure the choreographer comes in and sets the choreography on the stage and gets everyone where they need to be. We’re traveling so much, we move to different theaters so frequently, and sometimes the theaters are a little smaller. Sometimes the capacity of the theater can’t hold the size of our stage or different pieces, so it’s my job when we move into different theaters to make sure that I can set the show in that space. Also, if the understudies do go on, it’s my job to make sure that they’re as comfortable with the material as possible…that they feel confident going on stage and performing. It has happened before that something (goes wrong) in the middle of intermission and someone else has to go on, and I’ve got to be there to make sure that everyone’s ready and confident.
AMFM Magazine: What happens if you’re the Dance Captain and you’re called to do the part of Angel? What would happen then? You can’t do everything, can you?
James Schoppe: I know, right? They’ve been looking into figuring out if need an assistant because I’m also in a show. It’s been really cool that I’ve gotten to do that. .We’re in rehearsals in New York right now and the creative choreography team thinks it’s always so good to have someone who was attached to the show last year that gets the vibe and is teaching it to the new cast. It’s been really fun already this week joining the new cast and I’m getting them excited with “guys, we’re about to share this story.” Houston’s our first stop!
AMFM Magazine: Well, that’s awesome. In the end, after people walk out of the theater for this particular Broadway show, what is it that you want them to walk away feeling – or what is it that you’d like to impart?
James Schoppe: I think so much of the show really just emphasizes love. It’s just so full of love and it’s about bringing everyone together. What the show does so well is that it lets people see that we’re all the same and we all have the same journey. We all have the same goals. We are all human.
AMFM Magazine: Yes, I understand, it’s the opposite of what’s going on right now in the media. We’ve got such media in-fighting and there’s so many terrible stories out there that we need a lot more love these days.
James Schoppe: Yes. That’s definitely what you walk away with from the show. And I mean, it’s just so cool that we get to travel and that we get to share this. You know, I joked with the last cast that you never know what the audiences are going to do. We were just in LA and when we closed that LA Audience was hooting and hollering. It’s different when we go into smaller towns and when we go to other places. But what the show is so cool about doing is that everyone who sees it, I know that they walk away feeling something different. I hope that it really touches everyone and it makes them see that we’re all here, and love is really something that we can all share together.