Lee Siegel fell in love with the musical Rent as a teenager after hearing the soundtrack and reading the Rent Bible. He always dreamed of playing Tom Collins, and as he grew older, he appreciated the show's complex themes of love, growth, and finding oneself in a rough city like New York. Lee loves observing people, but also enjoys jumping into the action of the city. Playing a part in Rent has been a fulfilling experience for him.
In this episode of Afropolitan Dialogues, we speak with actor Lee Siegel. Lee is part of the cast of the Stratford Festival's 2023 season production of RENT. He plays the role of Tom Collins in the much-loved musical with a storied history on Broadway and the silver screen. Officially opening on June 2, the show runs at Stratford's Festival Theatre until October 28.
Set in Manhattan's East Village in the 1990s and inspired by Puccini's opera La Bohème, this rock musical by Jonathan Larson follows a group of young East Village artists, performers and philosophers as they struggle through the hardships of poverty, societal discord and the AIDS epidemic in the search for life, love and art. With a song list that includes the iconic "Seasons of Love," Rent tells a story as relevant today as when it took Broadway by storm more than 25 years ago.
Rent confronts issues surrounding poverty, sexuality, race, police brutality, AIDS and drug addiction that are as relevant today as they were in the 1990s. This Stratford production is directed by Thom Allison and choreographed by Marc Kimelman.
Lee's acting credits include two Broadway productions, Jesus Christ Superstar and Paradise Square. He goes on to discuss his work on Paradise Square, a multiple Tony-nominated musical production which explored the interactions between Irish and Black Americans in Civil War-era New York City.
As part of this conversation, Lee discusses "passing" as a multiracial actor and the privilege it affords. We also delve into the critical question of who should be cast to play Black figures who have made pioneering strides in our race-conscious society.
Diversity in Theatre: "I do beg the communities, the theatre communities and the creative teams to look at a box of Crayola crayons and realize it's not one shade."
— Lee Siegel
Creating during the Pandemic: "I took a bunch of people that worked for me there and said, hey, let's start our own theatre company and create the works that we want to see in the world now."
— Lee Siegel
Stratford cast is a strong, friendly family": "The cast is gelled like a strong, friendly family, have each other's back. But it's been hard. The show's story and background are difficult. The topics are challenging. Of course, it deals with a pandemic of sorts, which we also just faced, and it deals with loss, and so going into that realm can be emotionally draining."
— Lee Siegel
APRIL 8 – OCTOBER 28 |
OPENS JUNE 2