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The Story of RENT
The story begins on Christmas Eve 9pm. Mark Cohen, a young filmmaker, is filming his flat mate Roger Davis tuning his fender guitar which he hasn't played for year. Roger has just come out from half a year of withdrawl, and has lost his girlfriend April - "his girlfriends April left a note saying 'we've got AIDS' before slitting her wrists in the bathroom". Roger is attempting to write one great song before he dies. The filming is interrupted by Mark's mother calling and leaving a message on the answering machine. Mark and Roger's ex-roommate Tom Collins calls; only to be cut off when he is beaten up. Their other ex-roommate Benny Coffin, who has married into a rich family and now owns the lot Mark and Roger live in, calls asking for the past years rent they owe him. He wants to turn the building into a cyber-arts studio, and turn all the tennants and homeless people out. He leaves promising them to come - and if there's no rent, then they will be evicted. The power blows - Mark and Roger sing about how they can't afford the rent, and how "everything is rent"; they eventually decide they won't pay it. Meanwhile, Collins recovers from the beating and having his coat stolen with the help of Angel, an HIV+ cross-dresser. They decide to go to a "Life Support" meeting for people with HIV+, but stop off at Mark and Roger's apartment first.
Mark has had a phone call from his ex-girlfriend Maureen, who is now dating Joanne, saying her equipment wont work. Mark decides to go and help. Roger won't go out with Collins and Angel because he hasn't been out since April died.
While everyone is away, Roger sings about his dream to write one great song before he dies; he is interrupted by a knocking at the door. It is Mimi Marquez - she has no electricity, and wants her candle lit. Roger obliges, while she flirts with him, trying to get him to take her out. Because she is HIV+ and addicted to heroin, Roger doesn't, although it is clear they are attracted. Mark meets Joanne where Maureen is performing tonight, and offers to help fix the equpiment. They discover they both have something in common - their love for Maureen, despite what she puts them through. Meanwhile, Mimi returns to the apartment and again tries to persuade Roger to take her out. He is outraged at her "barging in on me and my guitar" and sends her away, telling her if she came back another day he might take her out. She tells him there may not be another day - she lives each day as her last. He immediately feels guilty, and meets Mark for Maureen's performance - protesting about the loss of the apartment block. He makes up with Mimi, and they go to the after-performance celebration dinner at the local restaurant. Here, Benny is meeting one of the investors, his father-in-law, and the rest of the cast try to ruin it with their song "La Vie Boheme", about living in bohemia. Roger and Mimi decide to give the relationship a go, after discovering they have so much in common, including both being HIV+.

END OF ACT ONE