PASCO -- Cole Cook tried his hand at making theater a profession and loved it, although he categorized himself as a starving actor.
He lived in Seattle and spent a couple of years working in various productions up and down the Interstate 5 corridor between Seattle and Portland before moving back home earlier this year to work full time and save money to pursue a master's degree in theater.
But in the meantime he'll star in Columbia Basin College's summer showcase production of Rent, which opens July 16 in the CBC theater.
"Rentis a fabulous rock opera musical," Cook said. "I saw it on Broadway and in Seattle. It's the only musical that ever made me cry."
Cook is glad to be able to act without the pressure of having to make a living.
"It's very difficult for an actor to live in a big city, which is where all the professional theater companies are located," Cook said. "I was lucky and was able to get parts in several plays for a couple years in Portland and Seattle."
But without an acting union card the pay wasn't enough to support himself on theater alone. Still, he doesn't want to leave the acting craft behind.
"I was really awful when I was first starting years ago at CBC," Cook said. "But I love this life of entertainment, when you can forget about all the bad stuff happening in the world and pretend to be someone else for a while."
His character in Rent will be Angel, which is a sensitive, demanding role that requires good singing, dancing and acting, said CBC drama director Ginny Quinley.
"Cole didn't start out a natural as an actor," Quinley said. "But he worked diligently to hone his craft. Cole is proof that dedication and commitment can earn us our goals."
Rent is a Tony Award-winning musical loosely based on Puccini's opera La Boheme. It follows a year in the lives of eight friends living the disappearing Bohemian lifestyle in New York's East Village.
CBC's production also features actors Jessica Ballard, Stephanie Fanning, Bryan Foley, Rob Hanson, Robbie Heegel, Michele Solano and Ryan Theissen.
Quinley is co-directing with John Tuttle, and Justin Raffa is music director. Ronn Campbell is handling set design.
Cook's character, Angel, is a drag queen dying of AIDS yet he continues to hold his group of tight-knit friends together.
"I love this character because he lives each day as his last despite his condition and keeps his friends uplifted," Cook said. "The singing has been a challenge, and Justin Raffa has been tough, as well as a wonderful mentor."
Quinley said 10 years ago Cook was by no means a triple threat, which in theater-speak means an actor who can sing, dance and act. "But he sure is now," she said.
Rent won four Tony awards when it opened on Broadway in 1996. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama that year, along with the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award and an Obie Award.
Rent is much more than a historical piece on life in American during the 1980s and 1990s, Quinley said.
Critics describe it as a musical rush that's energizing, poignant, joyous and cathartic, and its music will stick with you for a lifetime, she added.
Because of strong language and sexual references, Rent is not a musical for children.
Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. July 16-17, 22-24, 27, 29-31, with a 2 p.m. matinee July 18.
Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for students and senior citizens.
Tickets are available at the door or the CBC bookstore.
* Dori O'Neal: 509-582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org