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UNC Pauper Players hit the stage with "Rent" this weekend

The UNC Pauper Players practice their upcoming show, “Rent”, in Carrboro, N.C. on Monday, Jan. 20, 2023. The UNC Pauper Players will be performing Feb. 3-5, 2023 at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

After months of four-hour rehearsals and dance practices, the UNC Pauper Players will premiere its performance of “Rent” this weekend at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

The Pauper Players is a student-led organization on campus that puts on musical theater productions for the Chapel Hill community, including Rocky Horror Picture Show each fall. 

The Pauper Players' preparation for "Rent" began in late October and the performance will feature more than a dozen cast members, energetic acting and a live band.

The production also provides a space for students to branch out, sophomore Aidan Nance said. This production has been her re-entry into theater and she said it has been a fun experience with great people.

“Doing Pauper Players has been the best confirmation of that ‘getting out there,’ and it’s a great way to meet people,” Nance said.

Jonathan Larson’s 1996 musical "Rent" is about the journey of a group of friends in Manhattan as they navigate struggles with money, drugs, politics and AIDS. 

Though the musical is loved by many, it has an even more special meaning to some cast members. 

“I do think that being part of the queer community, ("Rent") has such a huge influence or impact on the culture of the community as a whole,” UNC senior Spencer Cruz said. “So that was something I was really excited for, but just generally, I was ready to get back on stage.”

Cruz plays the character Angel in the musical, which is a gender non-conforming role. They said it has been uplifting to know that they have a place onstage where they can find their people within a production.

For many, the community aspect of the group is a significant part of the cast dynamic.

“These people are everything to me,” sophomore Leah Jarrell said.

This is her second show with the Pauper Players, and she plays Joanne, one of the main characters in the musical.

“Obviously, this is my passion, and I really love performing in any capacity, especially musical theater,” she said. “Getting to do that in a student-run group and have it be this good is so cool.”

With rehearsals five days a week, the cast spends a lot of time together. Jarrell said being in the show has given her something to do every night that makes her smile. 

Nance said the group is like a family of students doing something they love.

Throughout the past few months, the cast and crew have spent hours rehearsing the script and making notes along the way on how to enhance lighting, positioning, timing and sound effects.

Despite the time commitment and hard work, Cruz said they still love the atmosphere and how the group is one team that is always looking out for each other.

“Everyone is really great to work with and we all just want to see the show the best it can be," they said. 

As the group begins its final days of rehearsal, Jarrell said everyone is getting ready to showcase their hard work and talent to the audience.

“Everyone’s really digging their heels into what we’re trying to do,” she said. “And it’s really coming together, which makes me excited.”

The audience can expect an emotional and touching show when the production opens at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, Cruz said.

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Tickets are $8 for students and $12 for non-students; they can be purchased online or in the Pit this week.