'Rent' relief

If you were among the first folks lining up last week to buy tickets for the national tour of Rent (opening a 10-week run at the Moore Theater September 1) you got a nice surprise—a free CD of songs from the production—and a shock: Tickets for the Broadway hit about starving artists on New York's Lower East Side start at $40 and top out at $67.50 on weekends (with Ticketmaster laying another $20-plus on if you order a pair through them).

Starving artists in Seattle who'd been planning to pick up tips from their fictional East Coast counterparts shouldn't abandon all hope, though. Realizing that irony can be pushed just so far, the producers of Rent are offering one heck of a deal: For people willing to take their chances lining up day of performance, seats in the Moore's first two rows will go for a measly $20 a pop.

Rent's producers tried the same thing in New York but had to change the system: People were arriving two and three days in advance to be sure of getting tickets, and many, once they did, went right back to the end of the line to wait again. Wait-your-turn was replaced by a lottery system to clear the sidewalks in front of Broadway's Nederlander Theater and help ticket-seekers with lives to compete with the compulsion-neurosis groupies.

Rent's Seattle presenters, the PACE Theatrical Group and Seattle Landmark Association, hope the lottery system won't be needed here. They should be so lucky. Thursday, April 2, an "open call" to audition for a slot in one of Rent's five current companies was scheduled to start at the Convention Center at 10am: By 7:30, 200 people were already lined up. Even pumpin' 'em through five at a time and limiting auditions to two tune-bites of 16 bars each, there were still over 100 hopefuls waiting.

Town Hall hunting

First Hill's Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, will be preserved for use as a 900-seat concert hall under a plan unveiled last week.

The purchase of the church is the culmination of a decade-long effort by former Seattle Weekly publisher David Brewster to establish a performance space for Seattle's mid-sized performance groups. (An earlier Brewster target, the sanctuary of Temple de Hirsch/Sinai on Capitol Hill, has since been demolished.)

A group of 16 investors purchased the massive Roman Revival church building at 8th and Seneca for $1.6 million. Next up is a campaign to raise $1 million in first-phase renovations for the 1922 structure. A 900-seat auditorium is to be built in the second-floor sanctuary to serve as a mid-size alternative to Meany Hall (1200 seats) and the 538-seat Benaroya Recital Hall (opening in September). Other rooms in the renovated facility (to be known as Town Hall and set to open in September 1999) will be used for meetings, speeches, and performances. A cafe will also be added on the building's lower level.

Up the Yangtse River

If you love the art of China and have $5,000 and the month of October to spare, better get on to the Seattle Art Museum right away: Half the 30 slots for SAM's 18-day art-culture-scenery junket to the Middle Kingdom are already spoken for. In addition to visits to the Forbidden City, the terra-cotta warrior army of Xian, the Shanghai Museum, and a Yangtse River cruise past the fabled Three Gorges, SAM director Mimi Gates says the museum's scored a coup in signing on exMetropolitan Museum Asian Art curator Freda Murck to guide the junket. Murck, currently residing in Beijing with her Chase Manhattan executive husband, "had no sooner agreed to lead our tour than she got a call to guide one for the Met and had to turn them down," Gates said last week, more or less successfully muting the glint of glee in her voice.

Color them at par

Fans of minimalist stagings will be disappointed to learn that Seattle Opera scene painters' salary dispute with management has been settled without a strike. The painters have been demanding hourly-wage parity ($15/hr and up) with their carpenter brethren and sisthren for years. By the end of the new contract, they'll have it.

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