Seeing stars: Anthony Rapp

Seeing stars: Anthony Rapp

By Erin Semagin Damio

With screen and stage actor Anthony Rapp speaking at West Addition in the Curry Student Center last night and up-and-coming musician, Teddy Geiger performing at afterHOURS on Monday, Northeastern experienced two star-studded events.

Declaring “Boston rocks,” Anthony Rapp admitted to being a bit overwhelmed by the number of students who filled the West Addition of the Curry Student Center last night to see him speak.

Known for his portrayal of Mark Cohen in the original cast of the musical “Rent,” which he reprised for the 2005 movie version, he was brought to campus by the Northeastern University Allied Student Coalition (NUASC) as part of a nationwide tour for his new book, “Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical ‘Rent.'” Kevin Rivera, president of the NUASC, said this was the biggest crowd at an event held by the group in more than two years.

“This is the largest group [of students] since Judy Shepherd,” said Rivera, referring to the mother of Matthew Shepherd.

Rapp began his speech by inviting the crowd to move in closer, and described “Rent” as “the most important journey of my life,” adding that he’s been involved with the show for over one-third of his life.

He read an excerpt from his book, detailing the time he spent with the late Jonathan Larson, the creator of “Rent.”

Part of the reason that Rapp remained so strongly connected to the show was his belief in its message. He said the show, which focuses on a group of artists living in the East Village of New York City, some with AIDS, “opened people’s hearts and minds.”

“I heard so many anecdotes from people,” he said. “Maybe someone didn’t know anybody with AIDS, and the show made them feel like they did, so they’d start collecting donations to help AIDS patients. Or they’d feel more comfortable coming out to their family, or letting people know that they had AIDS or seeking help.”

As an openly gay actor, Rapp said he feels it’s very important to always think about the message he puts across.

“The number of people who said that it made a difference to them that I’m out is the reason that I’m out,” Rapp said. “There are people who devote their lives to taking away the rights of gays and lesbians, and I think that visibility is very important. I’m trying to encourage more people to come out, and show everyone who they are, because it’s harder to take away the rights of a human being. And this is a miracle state, because we can get married. And I think that these people working to take away our rights are going to lose, because of this generation.”

After answering questions from the audience, Rapp sang “Seasons of Love,” from “Rent,” and sat down to autograph items for about 200 people.

The Northeastern bookstore sold out of the 150 books they brought to the event.

“I was surprised he sang,” said Nikki Frankel, a freshman English major. “It takes a lot of courage to sing an ensemble song like ‘Seasons of Love’ solo. I was very impressed that he didn’t just focus on his book, but answered everyone’s questions completely and honestly.”

Rapp, who is juggling a hectic schedule, will appear at about 40 events from now until the end of May.

“I think the most important cause for me is to try to represent honesty,” Rapp said. “I’m not saying I’m perfect, but it’s about trying to be true to who you are.”

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