Aaron Stone, Project Manager, Vocal Director, "Angel" in 'Rent' Production to Benefit Hope Center

How did Rent come to Knoxville?

The director, Tracy Wolfgram Walker, got the rights last summer when they finally released them. Tracy and I met at the Roane State show of Pippin—I played Pippin, she was my grandmother. Initially it was going to be a backyard or garage production, and she asked me to play the role of Angel. Of course I said yes. When we got the people on board from the Hope Center, which assists people with HIV and AIDS in Knoxville, it became more than that.

Do you have a background in musicals?

I'm originally from Athens, Tenn., grew up on a farm. I went to Maryville College and got my B.A. in music, then to Boston Conservatory for my Master of Music in Musical Theater. Since then, I've worked all over the country, mostly the East Coast. I ended up back in Knoxville in 2004 when my grandmother got seriously ill, spent the first two years working at Guitar Center, then teaching music at Vine Middle Magnet, then Farragut Middle until 2009.

You've got many roles in the production, but you've said the hardest part was playing Angel. Why?

I'm a flamboyant person, but men dressing as women, that's an insecure place for me. I had to realize that Angel and some of the other issues in the show—being gay, being bisexual—are really just gimmicks. They're issues that these particular people in the show deal with, but the focus is not that. The real story is about love.

Might people confuse you and your character?

They probably won't. Angel is the one in the musical everybody loves. At practice, I'm not so lovable. Angel teaches, "Let's forget about all of this crap and live in love." And that is what I do want personally: I think we should all just love each other no matter who we are.

Rent plays Aug. 6-7 and 12-14 at the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the Pellissippi State Community College. For more information: footlightsproductions.net.