When Colorado Springs native Dante Martinez was 4 years old, he played Davy Crockett in a preschool production and fell in love with theater and the arts. Now 40, Martinez is taking on more complex roles: He's traded Crockett's coonskin cap for Roger Davis' guitar in RENT.
He's performing as part of Fire&Ice Theatrical Troupe, a local community theater company he leads as executive director and COO. The group will present the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical from Sept. 17 through 19.
Formed in August 2008, Fire&Ice is now part of a larger organization, Applause Productions Ltd., which Martinez founded in April 2009 with theater vet Joél Diehl.
"Applause was formed to be the umbrella over all the other types of entertainment we were looking to get into," says Martinez, who is also RENT's director. "But part of the mission of our company encompasses the need to help our community."
Half of RENT's concession profits will go to the Southern Colorado AIDS Project, and a quarter of ticket sales will be donated to Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church, the performance venue. Anyone who brings a canned food item to the door will receive $2 off the price of their ticket, and the food will be donated to Westside Cares.
RENT is a huge project for a young community theater group — the show, which follows Davis and friends through New York City bohemia in the dawn of the AIDS age, runs for more than two hours and requires a large cast. It even calls for live music, which will come in this production via a five-piece band, the members of which auditioned to play.
"We'll be performing the show in its entirety," says Martinez, "because there isn't a single part that should be taken away."
In the past, Fire&Ice has performed lighter shows, medleys of Disney songs and other Broadway favorites, but it's also staged dramatic work, like March's No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. The idea behind performing such a popular show this time, Diehl says, is the hope that Fire&Ice can donate more to charity while providing a program that is contemporary and socially relevant.
Says Martinez, "RENT provides a powerful message to everyone."