Swamp Rat Experience hopes RENT will bring new people into Fort McMurray theatre

Rent is the largest production put on by Swamp Rat Experience, which launched about two years ago. It is hoped lessons from the production will help recruit newcomers to theatre.

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Fort McMurray-based theatre company Swamp Rat Experience is bringing the musical Rent to Keyano Theatre this weekend. Organizers believe the production will be well received. They also hope the process behind Rent will help future productions reach new audiences and encourage new people to join theatre.

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Rent is a musical that premiered in 1996 and is based in Manhattan’s East Village amidst the backdrop of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States. Price says Rent was chosen not just because of its plot, but because of its representation of 2SLGBTQ+ relationships and the diversity of the characters.

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The people behind the production hope it will be a catalyst for a more inclusive space within local theatre. Those talks started when people in local theatre talked about what barriers were stopping people from joining the local theatre scene.

“We were very successful in bringing in people who hadn’t really done a lot of theatre in the community before,” she said. “Theatre, by presenting different perspectives on life through stories told by characters, is a really good way to help people challenge their own assumptions and biases.”

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This is the largest production put on by Swamp Rat Experience, which launched about two years ago. There are 12 cast members, which Price says is a strong cast for an independent production company.

There is also a director, music director, choreographer, intimacy coordinator, stage manager and two assistant stage managers. There are volunteer crewmembers and directors for sets and lighting. The production is at Keyano Theatre, which also has its own technicians. The scale of the set and lighting also makes the production large.

“We were really looking for a project that would let us not just focus on putting together a good, polished performance on stage,” said Price. “We were really looking for something that would allow us to dig into the process of how we produce these things and make that process more inclusive.”

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Price is the music director for Rent. She recently left her job as a math and science teacher at Father Mercredi High School to become the assistant manager of the Suncor Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

She has been involved in local theatre for 30 years and insists everyone can sing. One of the first things she did with the cast was teach them to sing. The first song they performed was the opening song, Seasons of Love.

“I have no doubt it’s going to be a great show. The project is already a success because we achieved all those initial goals that we set for ourselves,” said Price. “The process was the focus. We feel like we’ve done that. We’re thrilled and we can’t wait for the community to see it now.”

RENT is at Keyano Theatre until Nov. 18. Tickets can be bought online at Keyano Theatre’s box office.

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