Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Theatre Pre-Performance Ritual for RENT

Main Piece

“[This ritual] is very common: the whole team tapping a sign before a game. In RENT, we have a plaque hand-carved by Jonathan Larson’s uncle that he carved when he died that his sister gave us. She came in and talked to our cast, and her and his college roommates gave us this plaque for the duration of our show. And it’s this big hand-carved plaque that says “Thank you, Jonathan Larson” on it. It’s hung up backstage, and after our group circle, we all have to go up to it one by one [before every performance] and like, place our hands on it and thank him before we go onstage to perform…Really simple, but we all do it and constantly remind each other of it and it’s really important to our cast.

Some of us like, if we’re feeling especially emotional, will literally sit in front of it and cry. I’m so serious, I’ve done that, ’cause Jonathan Larson is really important to me.”


Informant Interpretation: Informant related ritual to common sports team rituals of tapping a specific sign for luck or protection before a game. They also mentioned that the pre-RENT performance tapping of the sign was a means of “community building” and enabled cast members to “ground themselves” and “remind themselves about why they’re doing this piece of art.”

Personal Interpretation: This is clearly an important tradition to the informant and their cast, furthered by the subject matter of RENT (queer people living in NYC during the HIV/AIDS crisis) and fact that its creator, Jonathan Larson, died one day before the musical’s original opening in 1996. The sign is a physicalized reminder of the humanity and weight the show carries, and gives the cast members a material way to remember the real people it’s grounded in before going onstage. To me, it sounds like tapping this sign is a ritualized remembrance of the responsibility to tell and represent an important, nuanced story to the audience, and for the cast to honor the people around them–cast, crew, relatives, friends, and more–as well as the source of the art they’re bringing into the light.


Informant is a 21 year old college student studying theatre at USC. The performance of RENT mentioned happened this semester, with rehearsals running January-April and performances in April. It was put on by the USC School of Dramatic Arts–informant performed in the ensemble for all performances. Informant is mixed race (white and Pacific Islander), and identifies as queer and fem-presenting.


AP is a 20-year-old student from Austin, Texas. She is very internet savvy and speaks extensively in cultural and internet references. 


AP-A word I use all of the time in different contexts is ‘slay’. I started saying it when it became a trend on TikTok and I use it to this day even though the trend has kinda died. I use it in every context because, well, everything is just so slay like, how could I not call it slay? Everything is slay to me. Every time I say slay I mean it in like an endearing almost cheering on kind of way, like oh girl you go slay that, or this is gonna slay. It’s just something that’s good or exciting or just has a light-hearted carefree vibe. 

ANALYSIS: The definition of the word slay means to strike and kill, but has evolved to hold a brand new meaning to modern youth and Queer culture. The popularity of the word slay in the modern context comes primarily from LGBTQ culture and speaking habits. At some point, people began using slay to signify excellence. Instead of saying an artist ‘killed’ their performance, they ‘slayed’ their performance. Terms like ‘slay’ and ‘yass’ stem from the ball subculture, and have been used there for decades. But these terms have been coined as ‘internet words’, and are used by many people outside of the LGBTQ community with no knowledge of their origin. There are mixed feelings about the increased use of Queer terms outside of the community. It signifies an improvement in LGBTQ acceptance culturally, with more people being open and interested in Queer language. It shows that LGBTQ culture no longer has to hide and has its place in the culture mainstream. However, the Queer community is often ignored as being the originators of these terms, instead with people crediting Tiktok or Twitter. The terms have become appropriated, and are barely even connected back to Queer culture anymore. Slay is a perfect example of the interesting phenomenon that we are facing, an exterior acceptance of Queer culture while erasing the culture’s proper history.