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September 2008
RENT: FILMED LIVE ON BROADWAY | An Interview with Renee Elise Goldsberry

An Interview with Renee Elise Goldsberry
by Wilson Morales

September 15, 2008

For the first time ever, audiences across the country who were unable to attend the
Broadway show will be able to see this once-in-a-lifetime event as The Hot Ticket presents the closing of “Rent” in select movie theaters with special limited engagement performances September 24th, 25th, 27th, and 28th.

Playing the role of Mimi is Renee Elise Goldsberry, who most fans will remember for years on the soap opera ‘One Life to Live’ as Evangeline Williamson before she left the show and her character was put in a coma. Others may recognize her from the indie film, ‘All About You’, which played at many festivals and won many accolades. Goldsberry was the one of the leads of the film and had written songs for it as well. She has an amazing voice and once you have seen her performance in the show, you can tell that why she was chosen to close out the Tony award winning show.

I happened to be at the finale of the show and most recently caught up with Goldsberry to talk about the excitement building up to it and afterwards.

What are you doing these days now that the show is over?

Renee Elise Goldsberry: My least favorite question. I am actually taking a break right now. I’ll be starting to audition pretty aggressively this week and next now that the film and television season have started back again.

What was the last performance like for you?

REG: The very last performance was amazing. It was also surprisingly stressful because there was the pressure to enjoy that the last moments of the show and pressure to do a good performance for all the people in the house who are there to enjoyit for the last time especially for Jonathan Larson’s parent, who were there; and his sister and the original cast members who flew back in for it. There was pressure to make sure the show was something they would enjoy in terms of what they remember it to be. They were actually filming as well. The pressure was to just do a great show.

Did you ever think that when you joined the show this year, that it would come to an end?

REG: Yes. I actually knew. I was asked to close the show. That was part of the package; the honor of being part of the closing cast. In general, did I ever think it would close? I don’t know. I don’t feel like it’s closed in a way. I do know it will be back. You can see it in the movie theater or you can see it on tour, which Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp will be doing together. The message of the show is too important. The demand of the show is too great to not be available somewhere. Part of me feels that it was the close of a chapter; a very important chapter.

I know that you have done other shows, but how has playing Mimi changed your life?

REG: Anytime you join any company, there’s something life changing about it because of the relationships you establish with a new group of people. It’s like joining a new family. The benefit of being part of a new family and exploring a new character gives you the opportunity to learn new things in that instance in that way Rent has changed me forever. Specifically the show because it gave me a chance to settle in deep, which is the urgency of living; to live with a sense of passion and the importance of loving. That’s something that you know on some level but it settles in deeper when you get the opportunity to sing that music every night.

How excited are you to see the cinecast of the show?

REG: I’m very excited. I’ve heard wonderful things about it from the few who have seen it like the director and the producers and they have very highstandards obviously. They were very ecstatic from the last time I saw them and I’m excited because I’ve been told from those I trust that it’s wonderful and it really does justice to the piece; and I believe them. You are your own worst critic and it’s scary to see yourself, but I’m looking forward to seeing it. It’s the greatest thing in the world when you get to do something in theater that you never to do, which is not only being part of a live moment, but also have it saved forever. That’s just something you don’t ever get. I’m so grateful to be a part of this production.

When they started shooting initially, were you distracted by the multiple cameras?

REG: Some things were different. The very first things they shot they were up on stage and walking in front of us. Normally when you are on stage you pretend that there’s this imaginary wall between you and the audience, and the only thing that gets through it is the energy of the audience. It’s a third wall that you just don’t break, so when the cameras are in front of you and around you, that is a bit weird. Also, when you are shooting for the camera, some things had to change such as the lighting, but it was easy in terms of the cameras to dig in and experience the show as oppose to focus on the camera and I think we did a good job at it.

Ever consider continuing your role as Mimi on tour?

REG: I haven’t. I have been on tour before with other things in my life and it’s a wonderful and there’s something special about coming into town with a show, and bringing a show into a brand new town is an exciting thing to be a part of. I won’t be going on tour. I will staying home and enjoying all the stuff that’s going on here in New York City and be with my husband whohas been so neglected for the last couple of months. Your work schedule is so different when you are in the theater. People can have 9-5 jobs, but in the theater world we work when everyone else is not working. So that is nights, weekends, and holidays and it makes it a little difficult to spend quality time at home. I’m looking forward to that.

With that said, and you being home in New York, would you consider going back to ‘One Life to Live’ and bringing the character you played, Evangeline Williamson, out of her coma?

REG: There’s always a possibility as long as my character is in a coma. There’s always the opportunity of going back and I love the character and I love the show and I miss my co-workers, but at the moment there are no plans to go back to the show.

How about appearing on another show?

REG: I haven’t heard about shows interested in bringing me on. I have such a love for that particular character and that world of Llanview; I really can’t see myself being someone else on another soap. I really think I would be on my favorite show, which is ‘One Life to Live’.

What’s a great reason to see ‘Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway’?

REG: The thing about ‘Rent’ is that it really crosses all lines, all ethnic lines, age, gender, everything. It’s 100% universal message.I remember when I saw it I said to myself, ‘This message is for us, right now’. It’s for young people and we finally have our own music on stage and telling a story with music and surprisingly since I’ve been part of the show, so many new young people claim it as I did 10 years ago. For whatever reason, it resonates with everyone. You have an opinion about ‘Rent’, whether you love it or whatever, it will grab you one way or another. I think people will come out to see it because not only is the actual music amazing, the stage production that Michael Greif directed and choreography on stage is specifically amazing; and that’s what has been preserved in this moment in a really special way. I know people will absolutely love it.


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