Brechtian And Musical Theatre: A Greater Purpose Of Art

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A Greater Purpose
“The theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation,” says Stella Adler. Theater is unique and intriguing because it blends literary and visual arts to tell a story. Throughout the course, I have learned that understanding aesthetics and sociopolitical history is essential for appreciating and applying theater in the real world. Brechtian and musical theatre styles, such as applying musical theatre in RENT, are effective methods to convey crucial historical and social messages, utilizing theater as a platform outside of the arts and for a greater purpose of positive social change.
Brechtian theatre, also known as epic theatre, strives to keep the audience objective and prevents them from connecting
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RENT uses musical theatre to reflect New York City’s East Village in the late 1900s and the historical tensions of labor divisions, segregation, political differences, and social issues under the cheesy and catchy tunes, such as “Seasons of Love” and “La Vie Boheme.” In middle school, I was in a child-friendly version of the musical. Since it was a less provocative and controversial edition, I perceived the musical to be a production of starving artists finding community in New York as they pursue their dreams. After learning more about RENT, I discovered the depths and nuances that the musical entails. RENT follows a group of starving artists and their bohemian world of love triangles and struggles. The musical also tackles the issues of the HIV/AIDS epidemic (Schulman 14). Jonathan Larson was inspired to write RENT because he wanted to use a musical as a platform to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS and honor his close friends’ who he lost due to HIV/AIDS (Gioia). Theater, particularly musical theatre, is timeless. RENT takes place in the late 1900s, but its themes are still pertinent today. For example, in present day Downtown Los Angeles, gentrification is occurring with the city displacing people from their homes and creating complications of homelessness. The problems of people not being able to afford their rent are still relatable in various geographic locations around the world. As Stacy Wolf says, “a new revival of any given musical is always possible” (Wolf 55). RENT can be performed today as a method of advocating for reforms on homelessness, poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Musical theatre is a part of the commodity culture (Wolf 51). Since musical theatre is commercialized and popular, it appeals to a range of diverse demographics. The large audience musical theatre attracts makes it an efficient platform to expose the urgencies and realities for specific social phenomena and issues.

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