Jonathan Larson was an American playwright who lived from February 4th, 1960 to January 25th, 1996. he wrote the musical RENT, for which he he won three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, all after his death.[1]

Early life Edit

Larson grew up in a Jewish household in New York. His parents were Allen and Nanette Larson. He grew up around music and theater from a young age, playing many musical instruments and sang in his school's choir. Larson took inspiration from the rock musicians he liked, such as the Beatles and Elton John, although he also followed composers for musical theater, most notably Stephen Sondheim.

After high school, Larson went to Adelphi University, where he was an acting major. He wrote several other plays and musicals before RENT, to varying degrees of success.[1]


It was not actually Larson that came up with the idea to make a musical adaption of La Bohème, but fellow playwright Billy Aronson. Aronson wanted someone to collaborate with and was put in touch with Larson through a mutual contact.

The two developed the concept together, with Larson coming up with the title and moving the setting of the play to downtown.[1] Much of it was inspired by Larson's personal experiences, most notably with his own apartment.

The autobiographical nature of his writings made Larson want to pursue the play solo, to which Aronson agreed, with the condition he wold have a portion of the profit if the play made it to Broadway.

It took roughly three years for RENT to reach its Off-Broadway premier, January 25th, 1996. Tragically, Larson died the morning before the musical premiered.

RENT went on to win several awards, with many posthumously going to Larson.

Death Edit

Jonathan Larson died at age thirty-five due to aortic dissection, thought to be because of undiagnosed Marfan syndrome. Although Larson sought medical aid twice, he was misdiagnosed the first time as having a viral infection and the second as having food poisoning.[2] His death resulted in two hospitals being fined after New York City health officials found them to have been ineffective in their care of Larson. Officials also concluded that Larson might have been saved if he had been given the proper diagnosis.

Trivia Edit

  • Nanette, Larson's mother's name, is also the name of the rabbi's daughter Mark Cohen claims to have learnt to tango with in Tango: Maureen.
  • Larson met Jesse L. Martin while working as a waiter after university. Martin was his waiting trainee, and would later play the role of Tom Collins.[1]

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Wikipedia
  2. New York Times
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