RENT COMES TO LIFE
The original Life Cafe in the East Village became the center of pilgrimage for
large and small groups of the fans of RENT, RENTheads, as they’re known,
from all over the world. Why did they come? To see the place where Jonathan
Larson wrote RENT, to experience the actual place that was featured in the
musical and movie and to take a trip back in time to have an “original East
Jonathan Larson frequented the East Village and he liked hanging out at
Life Cafe, sipping coffee while watching, interviewing and writing RENT.
He observed the neighborhood people who regularly met at Life Cafe. They
came because, after all, there was never enough room in Lower East Side
apartments or enough heat, or hot water. And sometimes there was no water
The last scene of act one in RENT takes place in Life Cafe. For Kathy Life,
that scene is a direct replica of the motley group of the group of locals that
sat together on the antique bench who practically lived at Life Cafe, sipping
endless cups of coffee while playing chess and backgammon and sharing –
uninvited or not – their philosophies of life and everything in between. That
scene is a moving reminder of the characters that hung out at Life Cafe but
are no longer with us. Most of them are gone from the neighborhood. Some
of them have died of AIDS-related causes. Some of those people will always
have a vivid place in Kathy Life’s memory, Billy Sleaze in particular. He was
a larger-than-life-character, Life’s majordomo, who watched over Life and
made sure trouble from the street was kept at bay.
The story of RENT is one of the many stories in and around Life Café and the
East Village neighborhood.
From 1996 to 2008, this powerful musical wowed legions of fans on
Broadway. Based on Puccini’s famous opera, La Boheme, RENT won the 1996
Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1996 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best
Score and Best Book.
Thank you Jonathan Larson! Forever Jonathan.