There is arguably one guy in Vancouver who is a bigger RENT fan that I am, and that person is Ryan Mooney. Artistic Director of Fighting Chance Productions, next month, they mount a production of tick…tick…BOOM! at The Jericho Arts Centre.
I interviewed him about the play, the life-changing phenomenon of RENT, and all that publicity around The Laramie Project.
TAOTB: Tick.. Tick.. Boom! Has it been produced in Vancouver, before?
RM: TTB has never been produced in Vancouver before. In fact I’d wager a bet that it’s never been produced in BC before. We’ve been very fortunate to “premiere” a few shows in the past few years in BC. One of our biggest hits, Musical of Musicals… the Musical was the BC premiere, as was Autobahn.
TAOTB: Why are you producing this play?
RM: I love the music. The show was put together after the immense success of Rent, after Jon died, which means that it wasn’t entirely finished. I think that what the producers did was excellent, given what they had to work with. TTB was originally a one man monologue that Jon did on stage by himself with a band. They took that and created a three person show that functions very well on it’s own. The music, as I said, is also stellar. It’s a story about a guy closing in on his 30th birthday and wondering what the fuck (can I swear? I think it’s more powerful) he’s doing with his life. He wants to write music and have a successful show on Broadway. He wants to make a career out of doing what he loves – and that’s something that I can relate to.
TAOTB: What is Larsen’s essential message?
RM: I’m not sure if there’s an essential message in TTB. There’s not even a specific resolve at the end of the show. What I think people will get from it though is the idea of – you can do what you want, and you can be happy at it… it just might not be possible for you to own a BMW. There’s sacrifices you have to make in life, crossroads you come to – and there’s no right or wrong decision – just the one you have to make.
TAOTB: This show was written more than 10 years ago… why is it relevant to today?
RM: For the same reason that Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which was written over 30 years ago is still relevant. There’s always going to be people turning 30 wondering what they’re doing with their lives and where they’re going in their lives. Their friends are getting married, having kids and they’re still trying to scratch out a living doing what they love. That’s timeless.
TAOTB: Fighting Chance is a relatively new theatre company in Vancouver, but you’ve gotten a lot of media attention. What has this journey been like for you?
RM: Intense. We went from the Musical of Musicals which was a huge hit at the Fringe (sold out 10 shows, got “Pick of the Fringe” sold out another 3) to The Laramie Project, which was supposed to be a bit more of a relaxing experience… then we got the call about Phelps coming to protest… and then it all blew up. We sold out all 12 shows of Laramie. My mom came to see the show and people offered her double what she paid for her ticket. It was insane. But after that we remounted both shows – to much lower attendance. The shows hadn’t really changed – the quality of work was still there, but it was January – I learned a lot from that, what to do next time… perhaps not to have two of our shows running at the same time. We had our first “AGM” in February just at my apartment and had a great group of people come out. It went from me doing a lot of the work myself (because we were so small I could) to having this great artistic advisory committee and board. It’s a very exciting time.
TAOTB: Tell me about your Jonathan Larsen/RENT obsession.
RM: I have a funny feeling this is going to be a story that I’ll be re-telling for months to come.
When I was in grade 12 Rent came to town at the Vogue. It was the first time it had been here. I had listened to the CD – but it wasn’t too much a part of my life at that point. We decided we wanted to do the rush line up. We headed into downtown Granville Street at about 1 int he morning (we had heard that people lined up early.) and so here we are – 5 kids on Granville Street on a Friday night at one in the morning. And, of course, nobody had lined up yet – so we wandered for a bit, and under Robson Street where they used to do Ice Skating. We hung out there until about 7 in the morning when people actually start lining up. It was an incredible experience. Rent left my life for a few years until it toured here again to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I saw it twice there and just fell in love with that cast. Friend and I traveled to San Francisco to see it again (5 times in 3 days), where I met a guy named Kevin Spencer who ended up playing Roger in another tour. So we went to Bellingham to see him twice (in one day). The last time I saw it was in NYC at the Nederlander. It was such a special experience, and the last time I had seen it. I chose not to see it at the Centre. If there’s on thing I’ve learned Rent works best in intimate theatres.
TAOTB: What’s next for Fighting Chance?
RM: Funny you should ask – we just got the rights to be the Canadian Regional Theatre Premiere of Rent. It’s huge for us – and we announced it two days ago and have already received upwards of 50 headshots and resumes. There are people messaging me on Facebook asking if we need people for the band. This show touches people in such a way that people who normally wouldn’t be interested in musical theatre, all of a sudden are. It’s very very exciting to be a part of it. And to be bringing it to Vancouver in (I hope) a way that people haven’t seen it before.
Also, after TTB, we are doing a three week run of two of Neil Labute’s plays that have never been done here. some girl(s) and The Distance from Here at the Havana Theatre. Both Vancouver premieres again and both I am stoked about. It’ll be the first time someone else has directed for Fighting Chance and I’m thrilled that Matthew Clarke, who was a part of our first show Autobahn and also The Laramie Project will be making his directorial debut with The Distance from Here.
Tick… Tick… BOOM! runs April 7-22 at the Jericho Arts Centre, and RENT runs August 1-16, at a location yet to be determined.