Reneé Rapp, actress and singer
By Anna Medaris Miller
When Broadway went dark in March 2020, Reneé Rapp, the star of Tina Fey’s acclaimed musical “Mean Girls”, lit up.
“I remember for the first time my shoulders weren’t too tight and I didn’t have a headache for three days,” said Rapp, who used to have a headache. of stress every day.
Rapp, who turned 21 in January, had never had the kind of breaks built into the life trajectory of a typical young adult.
Broadway grabbed the vocal sensation shortly after high school, where she won the Jimmys’ Best Actress award, the highest recognition for high school musical theater across the United States.
So when her run as Regina George, the “plastic” top of “Mean Girls,” abruptly ended five months later, she said she felt “a strange sense of relief.”
“It was the first time that I was forced to do nothing,” Rapp said. “Mentally it changed who I am. It also made me rethink my career and my values in my career.”
The day after her show closed, like everyone else, Rapp hit the road and finally landed in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where she remained for most of 2020.
She didn’t stay still for long. She began teaching musical theater to aspiring performers, often her age, on Zoom.
“It was really cool and really stressful,” Rapp said, as she felt like a “100% unqualified teacher”. She has spent a lot of time on Zoom, relishing the rare opportunity to connect with people she had never met in her life and talk about why they love this art form.
Soon Rapp’s routine was turned upside down again. After a series of auditions over the summer, Rapp was cast in Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble’s Next Up
series, “The sex life of female students”. She moved to Los Angeles in December for her television debut.
Mentally, it changed who I am. It also made me rethink my career and my values in my career.
“Every day that I go to work I have Mad Impostor Syndrome, like I’m waiting for someone to kick me out,” Rapp said.
But the learning experience motivates her. She said she “was getting very obsessive” about how the television production works. She is also motivated by the subject that the show destigmatizes. “It’s a slap in the face,” she said, “and it’s something I want to be a part of.”
Much has changed in the year without a theater, and reopens should reflect the toll many Americans have had with issues such as race and diversity, Rapp said.
“Broadway and the theater in general have a lot of work to do,” said Rapp, referring specifically to “the safety of BIPOC actors, marginalized actors, trans actors, disabled actors”.
It is young people like her who will lead this work.
“We’re going to be the people who are going to sit at the tables and say, ‘No, actually, that’s not OK. This person has to be in that role. This person doesn’t feel seen. Here’s how we do it. This is how we do it. This is where the accountability comes in, ”she said.
She sees herself performing one day, whether it be music, screenplays or theatrical works.
“It makes a huge difference when young people invest in artists and not in institutions,” said Rapp, adding that it’s important to support art that will uplift others and “shake up”.
This mindset – that individual artists and their stories should be valued and celebrated – is a reversal of how Rapp grew up. “You grow up in the theater with people who tell you that you are replaceable and that you are just a number,” she says. “And unlearning that and disengaging from that is extremely difficult, but so useful.”