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Rent's Luther Creek

By Nancy Hsiung

I'm enjoying the hell out of myself right now," laughed Luther Creek. Creek plays Mark Cohen, the principle role in the Boston production of Rent. Bostonians are by now more than familiar with the late Jonathon Larson's Rent, a show about young artists in Alphabet City in New York trying to make an honest living and find love in this "isolating age." Creek described what drew him to the show: "It seems to reach out to so many people who feel they're being spoken to, who seem to feel quite isolated from [many cultural aspects], musicals in particular."

Being a part of Rent has taught Creek about life and love. "I've learned quite a bit, and I've also remembered a lot that I hadn't easily kept in clear focus before," he explained. In particular, he has learned from the themes in Rent: "Forget, regret, or life is yours to miss. Give in to love, or live in fear." These ideas, said Creek, "are so clear but easily clouded by daily life And they're important things to keep in perspective."

Creek's favorite pieces from Rent include "Halloween," his character's solo in the second act where he ponders life and his character's loneliness. Creek also especially enjoys performing the duet "What You Own," sung with co-star Sean Keller, who plays Roger (the role Creek was originally called in to audition for). Anyone disenchanted by life would agree that it is a special piece, since the song depicts the disinterest and lack of emotion in present-day America. As the duet sings, "You're living in America/Leave your conscience at the tone."

"Recently, a lot of what has attracted me to a character is some place that I happen to be in my life at that moment," Creek said. His bio includes performing in The Who's Tommy and the 25th anniversary tour of Hair, in which he played the leading role of Claude. Among sharing other similarities, the characters he played have all challenged society to preserve their own individuality. "[There are] such incredible similarities between Rent and Hair, Mark and Claude," Creek said. "Claude is very identifiable to the audience - he's almost more a member of the audience than he is a member of the onstage tribe, and the same thing is true of Mark to a great degree."

As Creek was growing up, his parents moved 14 different times to towns throughout the Midwest and Southwest. He attended high school in Indiana, which he found "incredibly boring The menial tasks that [teachers] asked us to perform frustrated me to no end," he said. He found his place in community theater, where he was treated "as a human being, instead of the awful way they treated me in school." His interest in theater increased and then he decided to pursue it as a career. In addition to providing him with respect, performing in musicals is thrilling for Creek because "the emotion sometimes reaches such an extreme level and you start singing instead of speaking. It's certainly exciting to have the opportunity to do that."

Creek now lives in Boston but goes back to New York on his days off. "It feeds me so much as a performer and as a human being There's such an incredible energy about it. And among other things, it certainly keeps you thinking and on your toes, because otherwise, everything seems to literally pass you by."

Now that Rent is a success and Creek doesn't have to worry about paying the bills, he has begun to think about future projects. "I'm really still taking it one day at a time," he said. For now, Creek is in the preliminary stages of forming a band and is working on writing songs. "I don't like what I write very much, though, and I can't decide if I'm just overly critical or if [the songs are] bad," he admitted, laughing. Aside from being the band's singer and lyricist, he may also be its keyboardist or guitarist; he just recently started taking lessons.

The producers couldn't have known what a match they made when they cast Luther Creek in Rent. Few would be more suitable for performing in a show whose main theme is "No day but today," for Creek certainly lives for the moment and misses no opportunities. He is now trying to expand his horizons, looking to "try something else completely new."