Anthony Rapp, Without You
I was nine years old when my mother and I ventured into Manhattan from our tiny suburban town in northeast New Jersey. We were headed into the magical city to see a Broadway show. This would mark the beginning of both my my love Broadway and New York City. Each and every time I’ve been to see a play, a tingle of exhilaration goes down my spine when the orchestra begins, when the lights go down… its all breathtaking.
Fast forward many years later, the movie came out and I could hardly contain my excitement. The music was incredible, the story line was touching. I dare you to hear the music and not start humming along. I came home and checked out each performer on the IMDB and besides Rosario Dawson, my favorite was Anthony Rapp.
A few weeks later, I received an email from a publicist asking if I wanted to read an advance copy of Anthony’s memoir. Of course I did! As soon as the book arrived, I eagerly began reading. I wanted to learn all about Broadway and performing and how the play came together -
Anthony goes into detail about all of it.
Jonathon Larson, who wrote Rent, died way too young. I'm grateful to know more about Jonathon through the book and his work lives on. Without You is the story of Anthony and Rent, but also about him and his family, in particular his mother. Get out the tissues- the book has many moments of sadness.
I feel so fortunate to be able to interview the amazingly talented Anthony.
How scary is it to lay your emotions out there for everyone to read? Are you nervous about how the book will be received?
The emotional content wasn't so scary for me to put out there, maybe because I'm an actor, and have put myself out there in that fashion for years. I was a little scared that no one would care to read about the particulars of my family's life, or of my relationship with my mother. I had a feeling there would be a fairly large number of people who would be interested in the Rent stuff in the book, but I wasn't so sure about the rest of the book.
Because so much of it is about my relationship with my mother. I also was afraid that people in the press wouldn't be very generous towards the book, because I'm an actor first, and actors' books tend to be met with a certain amount of skepticism, if not derision. Happily, the response from critics and writers has been quite positive.
How would you sum up the last few years of your life in a single word?
What do you think when you hear yourself described as a 'Gay Icon'?
Am I really described that way? (click here: apparently, you're on your way!) It seems strange to me, really. I think of gay icons as people like Barbra Streisand or Judy Garland. Campy figures that drag queens love to imitate.
I'm flattered, though, truly. The biggest reason I'm out is to provide an example to young people that it's possible to be out and proud and successful and happy. If that makes me an icon, I'm proud to be called one.
Can you compare filming the movie Rent as opposed to acting on Broadway? Was one experience better than the other?
Filming the movie was like going away to camp -- we were all very tightly knit, going to work all day every day, enjoying every moment of it. Performing in the show was exceedingly exciting and wild, but also draining and exhausting at times. There was so much going on, so much hype and attention. I wouldn't trade either experience for the other.
Something Ive always wanted to ask a Broadway performer- doesn't the routine of night after night after night of doing the same show for weeks, months even years, get boring after a while? How do you maintain energy for delivering the same lines, singing the same songs?
If you're really plugged into the material, into the moment, there's no threat of boredome. Especially when the material is as rich and rewarding as Rent. I am also so personally committed to everything that Rent is about, everything it's putting out into the world, that I had a huge wellspring of energy on which to draw every night.
How has your family responded to the book?
Funny you should ask. I just got a series of very upset emails last night from my mom's sister. She's quite angry at me, and apparently has been for years, in ways I never knew. I've learned that one of the dangers of writing a memoir is the fact that by its very nature it's subjective; I don't account for other people's motivations in my book; I only account for my own, and share my perspective on events.
My aunt upset with my at things I left out, upset at my perception of some events, upset that I included a moment of teasing of one of my aunts, a moment that my mother found amusing, which that aunt took very hard when she read it. I never expected her to read the book, or to be so upset by it, but I am sorry that she was wounded by the words on the page.
I am sad that my book has caused pain to some of the people in my family, but I do stand by the truth of what I wrote, and I certainly didn't set out attempting to wound anyone with my book.On the other hand, my brother and father have read the book and were very moved by it, and even though I included in the book some complicated interactions and moments between us, they had no problem with the way I depicted them. I hope that all of this can be resolved with the other members of my family, but I don't know that it will be.
What is your favorite music ?
Indie pop or alt rock or emo or whatever it's being called these days, and '80's New Wave. I love a good hook, smart lyrics, energy, heart, a little bit of edge and sass. Among my favorite bands and artists are Superchunk, Talking Heads, XTC, The Beatles, Death Cab for Cutie, early R.E.M., Radiohead, Peter Gabriel. Stuff like that.
Have you ever worn your hair in a mullet?
Do you watch television? How do you spend your down time?
My partner Rodney and I have been watching Lost and Project Runway and loving them, but other than that the only tv we watch is via dvd collections. We're very behind, but getting caught up slowly with 24, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Oz, Sex and the City, The Simpsons. You know, the usual ones.
In the book you mention trying to adopt a baby. What's the status?
In the very early information-gathering stages. It's certainly in our future.
Would you like to write another book, do more movies, maybe another play?
Yes, yes, and yes. I'm teasing out the idea I have for a novel, which I think will be a bit lighter than my first book. I need to spend time in a lighter world after living through the writing of Without You. Writing is tough and lonely enough without making it tougher and lonelier by writing about sad things all day long.