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Letters to Santa double as learning project

H-F High School junior Christian Mayo is spending part of his holiday break from school rehearsing for one of the lead roles in the musical “Rent” being presented Jan. 8 and 9 as part of the Illinois High School Theatre Festival.

Christian Mayo

This is the 41st production for the all-state program that gives outstanding high school students an opportunity to perform and serve as technicians. Mayo went through a series of auditions and a call back before learning he’d gotten the part of Angel, a gay street drummer described as being very caring, giving and kind.

“Rent” is the story of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s East Village at the time of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Broadway production won the Tony Award for best musical.

Although he was familiar with the music, Mayo said he spent time making certain he’d have a good portion of the script memorized before rehearsals started. Students have given up their breaks over Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and now Christmas to practice for the show being presented at Illinois State University.

“It’s been worth it. It’s like a party when we practice,” Mayo said, “and I’ve met students from all over Illinois.”

Mayo is excited to play Angel because the role allows him to develop the character through song and dance. He appears in drag and goes through a number of costume changes, and he’s learned to play drums because the role calls for a drum solo.

An accomplished musician, Mayo has played the cello for 13 years and performed with the H-F Orchestra for two years. He started in H-F’s theater program in the orchestra pit for one performance, but decided to move to the stage and has been in three H-F theater productions.

“A lot of schools don’t do as many shows a year as we do. H-F is definitely great preparation” for his theater interests, he says.

The son of Brian Mayo Sr. and Cindy Mayo of Flossmoor, the young actor is discovering a passion for the performance arts and will major in musical theater in college. He’s also into fashion design.

 

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