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Larson, Jonathan (1960-1996)    
page: 1  2  3  4  

Poignantly, several hours before his death, Larson participated in an interview for the New York Times. "I'm happy to say that other commissions are coming up," he revealed, "and think I may have a life as a composer."

In light of Larson's death, a four-month long investigation, led by the New York State Health Department was conducted. In the end, both hospitals where Larson had sought emergency treatment were fined several thousand dollars for the poor quality of care he received and for failing to diagnose the potentially treatable condition that killed him.

In 1997, Larson's parents founded the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation in his memory, which offers financial help to playwrights, composers, lyricists, and producing companies.

They have also worked tirelessly to increase awareness of an inherited connective-tissue disorder called Marfan syndrome, which they believe their son died from. The syndrome can produce a fatal tearing of the aorta, but can be treated if diagnosed in time.

In 2005, Rent was adapted into a movie directed by Chris Columbus, with a screenplay by Stephen Chbosky. Most of the original cast members of the show reprised their roles on film. The movie was met with mixed reviews, but was commercially successful, nonetheless.

In November 1996, Lynn Thomson, a dramaturg (the term refers to a vaguely defined position within a theater company for someone who consults with actors, authors, and helps edit texts), who had been hired by the New York Theatre Workshop to help Larson restructure his show, sued in Federal Court in Manhattan for recognition of her contributions to the show and for a percentage of the show's royalties.

In her suit, Thomson claimed that from May to October 1995 she and Larson essentially co-wrote a "new version" of Rent, and that she had written a significant portion of the lyrics and libretto of this "new version."

While neither Larson's estate, nor the New York Theatre Workshop, challenged Thomson's assertion that she had worked with Larson on the show--she had been paid $2,000 by the Workshop and received an additional $10,000 from one of the show's producers for her work--they emphatically denied that she in any way "co-wrote" Rent.

In fact, during the trial, Thomson failed to recall the lyrics to the songs she claimed to have written or the structures to the libretto she claimed to have created. She also could not explain why she seemingly failed to assert her ownership claims to the show while Larson was still alive.

The court ruled that while Thomson had contributed some copyrightable material to the musical, she could not claim authorship, or by extension, any author's royalties and gave the Jonathan Larson Estate full credit and right to Rent. That judgment was later upheld by an appeals court.

Larson also composed the score for J.P. Morgan Saves the Nation, an En Garde Arts site-specific musical, with a book by Jeffrey M. Jones, which was staged in the summer of 1995 on the steps of the Federal National Memorial on Wall Street.

He also wrote music for the children's television series Sesame Street, and co-wrote songs, with Bob Golden, for the children's short video Away We Go (1996). He was also working on a project called Loony Tune-Ups for Warner Brothers Animation at the time of his death.

Craig Kaczorowski

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arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Music and AIDS

A number of musical works in various genres have responded directly or indirectly to the AIDS crisis, generally focusing on expressions of grief, anger, or sympathy rather than on the personal and social consequences of the disease.

arts >> Overview:  Musical Theater and Film

The musical has been a significant aspect of American gay male culture, manifesting itself both in diva worship and, more recently, in the presentation of openly gay characters and shows written by gay writers primarily for gay audiences.

arts >> Overview:  Opera

Opera, an eclectic synthesis of voice, drama, music, costume, visual arts and spectacle, has played an integral role in queer culture since its development in seventeenth century Venice.

arts >> Overview:  Rock Music

Although rock music has been closely associated with freedom of expression and rebelliousness, it has not been particularly welcoming to gay and lesbian performers.

arts >> Blitzstein, Marc

American composer Marc Blitzstein, whose homosexuality probably inspired his sympathy for outsiders, attempted to write politically relevant music, and in doing so influenced other composers to blend classical and popular forms.

arts >> Finn, William

Playwright and composer William Finn, best known for his Tony Award-winning musical The Falsettos, speaks with understanding about confronting life in all its complexity with sadness and joy, dilemmas and hope intermingled.

arts >> Gordon, Ricky Ian

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon, often seen as an heir to the musical legacy of Stephen Sondheim, has been praised for the lyrical quality of his music and for bridging the worlds of theater and art song.

arts >> Harris, Neil Patrick

Child actor Neil Patrick Harris has made a successful transition to mature roles, showcasing his singing and dancing abilities along the way; he has also spoken out on behalf of glbtq causes.

arts >> LaChiusa, Michael John

Composer Michael John LaChiusa, identified as a heir to Stephen Sondheim's legacy in the American musical theater, creates works that demand intellectual involvement on the part of the audience.

arts >> Sondheim, Stephen

One of the most innovative talents of the musical theater in the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim has only indirectly reflected his homosexuality in his work.


Blumenthal, Ralph. "Judge Rejects Royalties Claim From Rent Author's Colleague." New York Times (July 24, 1997): B3.

Brantley, Ben. "Enter Singing: Young, Hopeful and Taking on the Big Time." New York Times (April 30, 1996): C13.

_______. "Soul-Searching at the Milestone Age of 30." New York Times (June 14, 2001): E1.

Gerard, Jeremy. "Rent." Variety (April 29, 1996): 146.

Gussow, Mel. "Jonathan Larson, 35, Composer Of Rock Opera and Musicals." New York Times (January 26, 1996): B9.

Isherwood, Charles. "525,600 Minutes to Preserve." New York Times (September 21, 2008): AR6.

O'Neal, Cynthia. "Life, the Musical." Out (December 2005): 54-58.

Rich, Frank. "East Village Story." New York Times (March 2, 1996): 1, 19.

Tommasini, Anthony. "The Seven-Year Odyssey That Led to Rent." New York Times (March 17, 1996): 2, 7.


    Citation Information
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Larson, Jonathan  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2012  
    Date Last Updated August 28, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2012 glbtq, Inc.  


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