The 20th Anniversary Tour of “Rent” by Jonathan Larson will be arriving on November 12, 2019 at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. The play has won a Pulitzer and a Tony. It is a reimagining of Puccini’s “La Bohéme.” It tells of the struggles of several young artists trying to hold onto their dreams and hopes while facing the harsh realities of life. Its themes of friendship and love, as well as the creativity of the artist, are inspirational. If you have never seen a live performance, try to catch this wonderful production. If you have seen “Rent” before you know that it is well worth seeing again.
I had the chance to interview Juan Luis Espinal who plays Benny in “Rent”
Bio: Juan is excited to be revisiting Benny after playing the role in Spanish in his home country, the Dominican Republic. He was a Helen Hayes Awards nominee (Usnavi, “In the Heights”). Quoting the actor, “This goes to my family; my boyfriend; to my amazing agents at Avalon Artist Group and to you for sharing you love with us!” Espinal has also performed in “Hairspray” (Fender) in the Dominican Republic, “Godspell” (Jesus) in the Dominican Republic, “Crystal Method” (Singer) in The West End Cabaret Lounge in New York City, “One Merry Little Night” (Gabriel) at The Lynn Redgrave Theater, NYC. He has studied both acting and ballet.
- Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Juan Luis Espinal, and I’m an immigrant. I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. I moved to NYC 7 years ago, and I have been based there since. I studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute of New York. My mom used to take me to the theater when I was little, and that’s how my passion for theater began. I’ve been blessed with the best of families, and I have always counted on their support and love. It’s hard when you leave your hometown, but I had a calling. Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been with the opportunities that have come my way. I mean, I’m on the “Rent” 20th Anniversary Tour…somebody pinch me!
- Do you prefer dance or acting?
Both! Every form of art has its own magic, and that’s why I love musical theater so much. I get to tell stories through acting, singing and dancing.
- Beside “Rent” what was your favorite other production and role that you have done?
Usnavi in “In the Heights.” I had the opportunity of portraying the role in the Spanish Premiere of the show at Gala Hispanic Theater in Washington D.C. which was directed and choreographed by the incredible Luis Salgado.
- Did you ever see “Rent” before you appeared in it?
I saw the movie when it came out, and then I saw thousands of videos on YouTube.
- Can you tell us a little about the character you play, Benny?
Oh Benny! I love that guy. He is a visionary, a dreamer, and he wants to do great things in life and wants his friends to join him on that journey. Sometimes, his way is not the best way. So, that’s why he is not very liked. Unlike his friends, he is not an artist. He is more of a producer so he is very interested in business. I feel that I’m confident like him, and I also know when to admit that I screwed up. That’s my favorite thing about him.
The 20th Anniversary Tour of “Rent” will be playing from Tuesday, November 12 through Sunday, November 17th at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. For information on other stops on the 20th Anniversary Tour of “Rent.”. For information on “Rent” and other shows coming your way at the National Theatre go to their website. Tickets may be purchased online.