The Resilience of Jonathan Larson


Ean Lahiri

“So, you know, lately, I’ve been hearing this sound. Everywhere I go, like a tick, tick, tick”(tick, tick… BOOM!, 2021), Jonathan Larson opens his semi-autobiographical play displaying his creative mind-crushing him as he tries to make THE NEXT play.

Born in 1960, Larson grew up knowing what most wanted to believe: Larson knew he was the next big musical mind. He and all of his friends constantly collectively agreed he had a special knack for music despite not even being the most talented writer. While recently being turned into a hit movie, tick, tick..BOOM! depicts Larson’s real life struggle putting his talent into motion and actually creating the next big play. Despite passing away before it could make broadway, a musical he inevitably made, coined the name Rent, changed the musical industry forever.

All success derives from some sort of struggle; post-college Jon Larson was a broke waiter living in an apartment with other people who’d often shuffle and rotate in and out of living there. His desire to put smiles on his fellow depressed friends along with the equipment he needed for his passion constantly kept him from ever being financially afloat.

The Moondance Diner waiter’s main play he worked on was a futuristic sci-fi named Superbia totaling around a decade of time focused on it. Larson had supportive friends, but he consistently neglected everything around him while he zeroed in on his work. After his agent ignored him as a client and 3 of his close friends passed away, Larson struggled to add finishing touches to his play while his long-awaited workshop was just a few days away. Ultimately, the play was never produced full of promise and generation-changing potential, but deemed too complex to be a moneymaker.

Larson put his all into Superbia and as a result his girlfriend and other friends left him, he had to deal with the death of other friends, and he was in more financial problems than ever. Heartbroken and nearing a new career change, Larson’s childhood friend revealed he had tested positive for HIV which grew concerned since all 3 of their friends died of AIDS.

It was then a phone call from Larson’s idol, Stephen Sondheim, complimenting him on his failed futuristic piece that gave the aspiring playwright what he needed to finally be successful. This was when tik, tick… BOOM! Was written and began Larson’s path to greatness. The play notably inspired famous playwright Lin Manuel-Miranda as a kid leading him to be the world-renown musical name he is, but no one was prepared for the inspiration of statistically one of the most successful plays in broadway: Rent. Although he passed away before Rent became successful, its success and impact on the style of musical theatre forever highlight the resilience and perseverance of Jonathan Larson.