I recently went to the play Rent because it was performed at the Brooks Center at Clemson University. It. Was. Amazing. My friend, Bradley Zellars, played Angel in the play. I had to write a feature for my feature writing journalism class, and I chose to write it about Bradley. Below is a picture of Bradley dressed as Angel, and the story that I wrote about him based on our interview and my viewing of the show…
A Tree Turns to Angel
Last weekend at Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina, a tree turned into an Angel.
Bradley Zellars, a senior performing arts major at Clemson University was shy when he started school as a young boy. He didn’t like hanging out in big groups and he would have a panic attack if he was asked to read aloud. Zellars had so much to say, but couldn’t get a word out.
So he tried out for a play in the fourth grade as an outlet for his thoughts. His first role as an actor? A tree. “I had to stand there the whole time with my arms stretched completely out!” said Zellars. “It was a small part, but it’s gotten to me where I am today.’”
As Zellars continued to grow into an actor, he realized the magic that actors were given the chance to experience. “I thought it was magical how actors could become someone or anyone completely different from themselves.”
During his first trip to New York City in high school, he saw the play Rent on Broadway. “As soon as the character Angel appeared on stage, I immediately said to myself, ‘I am going to play him one day.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
The Clemson Players decided last semester to put on Rent during the first part of this Spring semester. Zellars tried out for the part and was named Angel, one of the major leading roles. Angel is a drag queen who wants everyone to live like “there is no day but today”. He is homosexual, lives with AIDS, and dies during the last scene in the play.
The cast and band members were asked to learn their lines and music over Christmas break and started rehearsing right as the Spring semester started.
In addition to studying for difficult senior-level classes, Zellars also had to practice his lines hours after he finished classes. Along with seven hours of school, Zellars would also practice at the Brooks Center for another five hours at night. “It was important to stay healthy during this time by getting enough rest, eating properly and dressing weather appropriate,” he said. “By conserving my energy, staying healthy, and managing my time differently, I was able to keep up with my school work while rehearsing for Rent.”
To prepare for the role of Angel, Zellars had to work out and do breathing exercises to help increase his lung capacity. Because he had to dance and sing simultaneously while wearing high heels, Zellars admitted he had to, “work on really being able to take control of his body.”
And what about those high heels that Angel wore in the play? “I don’t see how girls do it,” said Zellars. “I had to submerge my feet in a bucket of ice after every show because my feet would be swollen and throbbing by the end of the performance.”
Zellars looks up to Angel because Zellars describes Angel as strong, courageous, and compassionate- characteristics that Zellars also strives to possess. “Angel ends up being a real testament to love and life,” he said. “Angel breaks your heart. Angel inspires. And that’s why I loved playing him.”
Zellar’s favorite scene of Rent was the last scene when Angel walks into “the light”. He emerges in a red kimono dress and high heels and lets “the light” take him with him arms stretched completely out. Just like a tree.