Fans try for break on 'Rent' Die-hards camp on street for reduced-price tickets

November 02, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

As the musical "Rent" ended a five-week run in Baltimore, a group of die-hard fans was breaking up a pavement encampment where they waited hours -- and nights -- for the chance to buy reduced-price, $20 tickets.

The fans, who described themselves as "Rentheads," fly, drive, walk and wait to see the show that concluded its Baltimore engagement yesterday at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre.

"It's been like this for five weeks and I can't wait until they leave," said Elaine Barco, a ticket seller in the Mechanic box office, as devotees of the musical sat outside on Saturday afternoon.

For each day's performances, 32 front orchestra seats went on sale at the reduced price two hours before curtain time. The waiting line formed just outside the box office door near the corner of Baltimore and Hanover streets -- and on weekends, some camped out overnight to get the seats.

Lynde Hopper, 18, a student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, huddled in a blanket alongside the Mechanic's concrete walls to see her 73rd performance of "Rent." Her plane fare to Baltimore cost $256.

Three sleeping bags away sat Susan Bossler, 20, a Towson University student from Crofton. As she sat on the pavement and munched a Peanut Chew, she figured she'd spent $160.25 on "Rent" so far -- $70.25 on a full-price ticket, a pair of $20 seats, $15 for parking, plus a $35 compact disc.

But not everyone in line was a student -- or even a fan.

"I came last week, sat upstairs and thought the show was lousy," said Baltimorean Richard DiSeta, who waited in line to buy a seat for his 16-year-old daughter, Ciara. "What I want is something like 'Show Boat' or 'Ragtime.' "

While at their schools and homes, Rentheads use computers to line up hotel accommodations in the city where the show is playing, gossip online about the cast, and exchange stories with other "Rent" friends.

"There's a whole online community a big connection on e-mail. We've got five people sharing a hotel room," said Melissa Anella, 18, a Georgetown University student.

Their enthusiasm is not dampened by the trials and adversities of urban life in the theater district.

"Last week some friends of ours were sleeping here [on Hopkins Plaza] and they had their bags stolen," said Catharine Fetzer, a ++ Notre Dame of Ohio student who drove seven hours to Baltimore.

Terra Vetter, 19, a University of Pittsburgh student, came to Baltimore to see her 14th and 15th performances.

She's seen it in New York, where the demand for reduced-price tickets is so great that the management of the Nederlander Theatre holds a lottery.

"The drawing is very impersonal; I don't like it. It's much more fun to sit outside the theater with your friends," Vetter said.

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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