I have always struggled to understand the second act of Rent. The first act is so incredible. It moves me on a regular basis.
These are songs that haunt me. They have such potency. They are so filled with the optimism of what is to come. They don’t leave me wanting more. They are enough to satisfy the truth of shared experience. These are the songs that we sing out loud in cars all over the world.
Sure, the second act has Seasons of Love. And yet, everything seems to be trying to say goodbye from there on out. They are trying to tie up the energy found in the first act. They are trying to live up to its promise while trying to conclude all the while.
A friend once told me that the composer, Jonathan Larson, died before he could fully revise the second act. That was his way of saying that the second act needed something else. It does. It needs to be the follow up to the frenetic pace and pleasure of those characters. And while I enjoy it and I will watch the play on stage any time I can, coming back from an intermission should build something inside of me. All I end up wanting, though is to see those moments of passionate confusion on the actor’s faces. I want to live in the time before Angel dies. I want to see Roger before he leaves for Santa Fe and wises up. I want Mark to keep on rolling, always rolling his camera without irony and self-awareness.
Really, I want the follow up to be something better, something different. I want it to be something that reframes the entirety of the first act and lets me know things I need in order to see the complete picture. Instead, I get a pandoras box of stories that could easily just have stayed inside.
Even as I am harsh on my favorite musical, I know that I may be creating my first act right now. While I know that no one will call these questions as influential as Rent, I know that I may be doing my best writing and my best thinking right now. I may be seeing things more clearly and with more exacting language than I ever will. The possibility is out there that I will never again hold this kind of dedication to detail or focus to a goal as I have right now.
I may be trying to follow this up with a second act that has some of the same characteristics, some of the same passion. But, I may never get back here. I am working toward a future that isn’t entirely mine. So this may be my one chance to tell my singular stories. There are only so many anecdotes from high school. There is only so much soul searching.
This first act is honest and that is all I can promise. None of it is staged. My own little revolution of bohemia is authentic. I am sitting in a parking lot screaming at the moon too. And for all of the failings that may be coming, for all of the let downs and me too’s that I can feel starting to work their way into what comes next, I know that I am doing everything I can to be present. To be me.
And it is hard to make a sequel to yourself. So, I guess I will try and ride this space out as long as it will let me. I will hold on to every note and squeeze them for all they are worth. And maybe I too will move on before my second act has to be revised.