Introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you before on local stages.
My name is Marcia Cunning. I am 18 years-old and going to VCU this fall to study theatre. I was recently in Little Butterfly Theatre Company’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as the storyteller and Paulette in the Metropolitan Performing Art Theatre production of Legally Blonde.
Who do you play in RENT and how do you relate to your character? Does this character have any of your personality or traits?
I am playing Joanne and I couldn’t be more excited! I would say that I relate to Joanne in a number of ways. She’s a bit of a control freak and perfectionist which I am definitely guilty of being. Joanne and I are both fiercely loyal to those we care about and expect the same back which is what causes a lot of conflict between Joanne and Maureen. I’d like to think that I am as dedicated and driven as Joanne is. Although I am not a person of color I recognize that Joanne is traditionally played by an African American actor. Being a female lawyer, who is a minority nonetheless, in the late 80s must have been incredibly difficult to accomplish. Joanne’s success is just a testament to her grit and resiliency. I’d say that Joanne and I share the same work ethic and ability to overcome obstacles.
What has been the biggest challenge learning to play this role?
RENT is such an iconic musical and a lot to live up to! Joanne has such famous numbers like “Take Me or Leave Me” and “The Tango Maureen.” I have been striving to make my portrayal of Joanne unique while still honoring Jonathan Larson’s vision. I have been inspired by so many performances of Rent making it challenging not to make the same choices as other performers.
Which character in RENT is most like you, and how?
I am most similar to Joanne with a twinge of Maureen thrown in. I’m similar to Joanne in the sense that I like to be in control of things and can be very strict with certain things in my life. I am similar to Maureen in the sense that I am very eccentric and passionate about my art. Maureen and I both live our lives to the fullest and express ourselves through art.
What have you learned about yourself-the actor and singer-during this experience?
My experience with MYT has been especially interesting because it is an entirely student run production. I have learned a great deal about myself but also the talents and abilities of my fellow performers and crew. We have all stepped up to the plate refusing the shy away from the challenge of putting on this monumental musical by ourselves. As an actor I have definitely gotten more experimental with character analysis. Our director, Chad Vann, is a good friend of mine which make it much easier to have in-depth discussion about Joanne and her motives. Being with MYT has made me much more inquisitive and adventurous.
What does RENT have to say to theatregoers of your generation, and how is it still relevant?
RENT has an extremely important message regarding AIDS and drug use, and although I value that commentary I do not connect with it as much as other messages throughout the show. Rent tells and amazing story of friendship and community. Time and time again these characters prove their loyalty and love for each other. They may not have a lot but at the end of the day they have each other. Rent will forever show theatregoers the importance and value of friendship.
What song that you do not sing is your favorite, and why?
I absolutely LOVE “Out Tonight.” Our band plays is fantastically and our Mimi (Kathy Oh) is astonishing. I love the freedom and excitement the song conveys. Kathy captures the essence of the song perfectly!
Have you appeared in other productions of RENT and if so-who did you play- and how is this production different and unique?
I have not.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing your performance in RENT?
One message that I am honored to convey is the theme of living each day to the fullest. Mimi says it time and time again there is “no day but today.” Everyone has struggles, fears, and day-to-day challenges that make it hard to recognize the true beauty of life. I want audience member to leave Rent feeling inspired to live each day as if it was their last.
The Metropolitan Youth Theatre presents a student directed, produced, and performed version of the Broadway musical RENT on July 31, 2015 at 7:30 pm, August 1st and 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm, and August 2nd at 2:00 pm – at 1st Stage – 1524 Spring Hill Road, in McLean, VA. Purchase your tickets at the door or online.