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525,600 minutes is all you get in a year. Make sure you spend about 165 of those minutes seeing the Broadway phenomenon Rent this week at TPAC. The touring production is in town this week celebrating 20 years of inspiring audiences the world over. HCA/Tri-Star Health is partnering again with TPAC for the 2016 Broadway series to bring this work to Nashville.
This week I had the chance to have a conversation with the actor portraying one of the most memorable characters from the show: Angel. Known for her antics and beating on drums, she is arguably the most beloved member of the company because of her innocence and zest for life.
David Merino is making his professional debut in the role of Angel. Although just recently turning 21 himself, he understands the gravity of this role. A student of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he has put his schooling on hold to be a part of the tour. We spoke by phone while he was relaxing in his hotel room in Durham, North Carolina.
We began talking about his education at NYU.
Going to NYU was a crazy decision, in that it’s slightly odd. There’s really no campus, it’s all over the city. So you have to live in the city. You’re less of a college student and more of a New Yorker taking classes there. So being immersed in that world as a freshman in college was somewhat overwhelming, but it also taught me the most about existing and living your life. A lot about being an adult, even though I was just a teenager. It was a great lesson and a great experience for sure. And NYU is a great school. Everyone was amazing, the community was amazing. I’m studying at Tisch, the arts college. I study musical theater there. The program is amazing, my classes, the people, everything was just great. I’m technically a senior still. I’ve had to take the year off to do this tour. I’ll be finishing after the tour is over.
Dropping everything for this role was easy for Merino, because he loves this play so much.
This is my dream role. I just turned 21 two weeks ago and this is my professional debut. I’m very young and very new to all of this.
We gushed for a few minutes at the fact of how perfect this was, to be so young and to have a role like this as a professional debut. After we collected ourselves from “fan-girling” about how amazing the role itself is, we digressed into his history in the role as Angel and his thoughts on the drag community.
I love drag culture. It’s something I adore and invest a lot of my time in. I think drag queens and the whole queer community is so admirable to me. I personally don’t have a lot of experience (as a drag queen), but I have played Angel twice before. Once, I did it with a bunch of friends in Los Angeles, which is where I’m originally from. They put on the show and asked me to play Angel at a very small seventy seat theater. Super low budget, but it was a lot of fun. And also, this past year as a junior at NYU, we did a full stage production. From that, I got an audition appointment for the anniversary tour. And then five callbacks later and three weeks of waiting and not hearing anything, I got the call. So, I have just a little bit of a history with Angel. I have always loved Angel, it’s always been a dream role. So even though I have a little bit of history with Angel, everything else (in the drag world) I’m pretty new to it.
We then shifted to a discussion on the AIDS crisis of the eighties and nineties and how different it is today.
I was born in 1995. This show opened on Broadway in 1996, just a couple months after I was born. So I completely missed knowing about. It wasn’t something my parents would talk to me about. But once I was able to have conversations about it, performing this role for the third time, every time I learned something new. I immersed myself into doing a lot of research and watching documentaries, even from this production. Everyone in the company watched a documentary about the AIDS epidemic and the effects of it. In this particular one, it was people talking about their experiences of what it was like being in New York at this time. So although I’m familiar with it, I wasn’t personally affected by it at the time of course, but it has been a lot to jump into. But it’s been a huge lesson. One thing that affected me most was when we had someone come in and talk to us about the roles. They said that Angel represents everyone that was innocent and didn’t deserve to die so young. They just made a couple of mistakes living their lives the best way they could as a young, starving artist. So getting that kind of responsibility made me really get into shape for this role. I have a responsibility of representing a lot of amazing people that just lost their lives. So it’s been an amazing experience, and such a beautiful one. I usually start crying at every single performance when, spoiler alert, I’m supposed to die. It’s just so intense, but at the same time, it’s also very beautiful for me to take this responsibility.
Act one is just so much fun. It’s just a completely different show for me in act two. In act one, I’m dancing and spinning and kicking and singing and it’s just so much fun. Then in act two, it’s just a complete turnaround that affects every single person.
We then shifted thoughts towards the gay community. Merino identifies as a gay man. We talked about how it felt to be the torch-bearer in this play for the part of the community that is now identified, usually as queer. He struggled with the question a bit, trying to piece his words together because it is such a great responsibility.
I feel like it all becomes apparent when I meet people after the show. When they come up to me and share how meaningful the role is, or how I portrayed it, which is a huge honor to get a compliment like that. Being so young and so new, to get complimented on my Angel is very crazy for me. But to be a torch-bearer, oh my goodness, OH! This is such a hard question. I guess I really just haven’t put that label on myself for the whole gay community. I will say that I’ve had a lot of people come up to me, even yesterday, someone came up to me at the stage door in tears saying ‘Angel means the world to me. I’m trans, and Angel’s character helped me come out and helped me realize who I can be and who I’m allowed to be, just as a human being.’
So having that responsibility is one I will take any day. If I can help someone or inspire someone, put a smile on their face or justify someone’s coming out, I will take that responsibility because I would love to be that for someone. I’m not someone who would be the Grand Marshall of a pride parade, but I will do anything to inspire people. And if I can help justify anyone’s sexuality, just by existing on stage, I am sold and I will gladly take that responsibility.
If you’d like to see this production of Rent, you have a very special way to do it. On Friday night’s performance, your Nashville steering committee of the Human Rights Campaign has partnered with TPAC to have a pre-show cocktail reception. Hors d'oeuvres are being served and TPAC’s cash bar will be open for attendees. You can receive a discount (Friday night only) by using discount code HRCRENT at this link and can RSVP for the show here to be included in the count for the cocktail party. It is confirmed that someone from the cast will be there to speak to the crowd before the show, so you definitely will not want to miss it.
If you can’t join HRC for Friday night’s show, Rent is running Tuesday–Sunday at TPAC’s Jackson Hall. Tickets are available at TPAC’s box office, by phone, or at this link here.
Photo: David Merino (center) is joined by Jasime Easler and Kaleb Wells, photographed by Emilio Madrid-Kuser
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.