"Breathtaking," "exquisite" and "nostalgic" – these are some of the words audience members used to describe Saturday night's performance of "Rent."
The show ran Thursday through Sunday and was a promotion for Sex Week, a week dedicated to informed conversation about sex, sexuality and relationships.
Numerous people waited outside the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre Saturday night, hoping for the chance to get a seat. Those inside were greeted with posters decorating the entire lobby and theater as part of an elaborate set. Lights were dimmed on the small stage, which featured a grungy 90s version of Manhattan's Lower East Side. The audience was silent by the start of the opening number.
"Rent" tells the story of a group of artists trying to make a name for themselves while struggling with the hardships of life under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
McKinley Merritt, junior in educational interpretation, starred as Joanne Jefferson, an Ivy League-educated lawyer and lesbian. Merritt believes "Rent" has been an important learning process for her.
"The experience has been a roller coaster because it's such an emotional show," she said. "I have learned a lot about the AIDS community and what it meant to Jonathan Larson, who wrote the show.
"I have always loved the show, but I never understood that aspect."
The audience laughed at Mark Cohen's awkward dance moves, gushed when Roger and Mimi shared their first kiss and cried when the characters struggled. The show expressed a wide range of emotions the audience could relate to.
By the time the actors closed with "Finale B," the consensus of the audience was clear: "Rent" was a success.
Undecided sophomore Jessica Heaton said the show was enjoyable to watch and performed well by the actors.
"My favorite song was 'La Vie Bohéme,'" Heaton said. "It's all so funny, and everyone is just having fun."
There are many lessons to be learned from the show, and Heaton said it teaches the importance of fulfillment in life.
"It teaches you to really just live your life; it's hard to put into words," Heaton said. "The show teaches you to live life to the fullest because it shows you just how short it can be."
Directors Angela Graham and Brian Gligor said the overall experience has been extremely rewarding and unique.
"It has been epic and magical," Gligor said. "People showed up to tell the story and be part of this community. It has been one of the most heartfelt experiences in my life."
Although the performance was used to promote Sex Week 2014, the directors do not feel as though the show is used to glorify sex. Gligor said the show is about love and honesty, and that he felt it shows another side to human sexuality, one that honestly portrays human nature.
"It also explains a time when having sex actually became a danger," Gligor added.
Sex Week will run March 2-7 and will feature programs on a wide variety of issues, including sexual assault and sexual health, just as "Rent" expressed the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
"I'll miss all of the friends I've made," Merritt said. "We have created a community of artists of our own, which is what we were trying to create in the show."