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Friday, March 31, 2017

Rent’s Angel Spreads Her Wings Over Baltimore

Written by  Frankie Kujawa

Jonathan Larson once wrote, “In these dangerous times, where it seems that the world is ripping apart at the seams, we all can learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and [we] should reach out to each other and bond as a community, rather than hide from the terrors of life at the end of the millennium.”

Two decades after changing the American landscape of theatre, Larson’s Rent continues to speak defiantly and loudly to audiences around the globe. Running from Friday, March 31st to Sunday, April 2nd at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre, Rent is the unforgettable story of seven artists who, over the course of a year, struggle to follow their dreams without selling out. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with David Merino, who plays Angel in the upcoming production.

“Angel is the most loving and accepting person on the stage. No matter who it is, or who Angel runs into, the person is treated with respect and she accepts them for who they are no matter the mood,” Merino explained. “She’s just the most giving and living person. She has this little ultimatum in her life. It’s like a ticking time bomb, and she wants to use every second to spread love to her community. I admire that so much from Angel, and I try to do that in my own life, as well.”

Merino, whose professional acting debut is in this national touring role of Angel, strives each day to infuse his performance with as much talent and dedication the role deserves. “For me, Angel has been a dream role forever. I’ve played her before on a smaller scale, both in school and with friends. This is the first time I’m doing it professionally, and there’s a huge responsibility behind Angel.”

The Los Angeles-native started doing theater in fifth grade and continued to pursue acting in a performing arts high school. It was while at the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts that the then college junior was cast in the role of Angel for the school production. “People saw my ‘Angel’ and gave me an audition appointment for this [national tour]. I did five callbacks and waited for three weeks until I found out that I was cast, and it has been the most exciting time of my life.”

While on leave of absence from school, Merino now focuses all his time and energy on Angel. “She represents so much during that time-period. She represents all the innocent people, who died from AIDS, at that time. Beautiful souls who had to face what her fate was. She had to face those stories and continue to be a beacon of light on the stage. She is light at the end of the tunnel, though her tunnel ended sooner.” Merino admitted he felt a weighted sense of responsibility in this role. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to do the best show I possibly can, no matter if I’m tired or not feeling well. [Angel] deserves it. The people who see [the show] deserve the best Angel I can give, and I try my hardest every time.”

Since it’s 1996 opening, Rent has continued to shine light into the shadows of living with HIV and AIDS in society. “Though we have made many medical advancements in America, it’s still such a global problem,” Merino continued. “At the time Rent was written it was such a domestic problem that we, as a society, didn’t even focus on it being a global issue. We still need to address this issue today in both politics and policy-making. There needs to be some type of global revolution. It’s so sad to know that millions are dying, and I can’t begin to explain how sad that is for both this cast and company.”

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