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Die-hard fans from near and far wait in line at Tampa's arts center to get $20 tickets for

Published September 7, 2006

TAMPA - David Singletary remembers the time in middle school when a play director told him he'd never make it in musical theater as a black actor.

"I really thought I shouldn't do this," said Singletary, 23, of Tampa.

Then for the first time, he saw the musical Rent - a story set in New York's East Village, about a community of young artists as diverse as the problems they faced in life.

Inspired by the show's emotional themes of struggling to survive and celebrating friendships, Singletary went on to see Rent live 30 times. On Wednesday, he waited in line with nearly a dozen friends for limited $20 tickets during opening night at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

The show's producers reserve 26 seats in the front two rows of the orchestra at every performance and sell those tickets for $20 each, two hours before show time. Singletary and friend Wilson Sommer once stood in line 26 hours to see the show in Naples. They met in 1999 while waiting in line to see the show in Tampa.

"You always find something different when you see it," said Sommer, 24, of Brooksville.

They were among 12 or so fans waiting Wednesday for a shot at those coveted seats. The remaining tickets sell for $25.50 to $58.50.

The group spread out along the walkway leading toward the box office window. They brought Gatorade, folding chairs and board games to sustain them and pass the time.

Sommer has become such a pro at these all-night vigils that he called ahead to make sure security guards knew he was coming. He showed up at 10 p.m. Tuesday night with friends in tow, an air mattress, pillows and plenty of snacks.

"I also put on the list to bring a social attitude," Sommer said. "I think that's important."

Patrick McCloskey, 22, of Tampa has seen 18 other Broadway musicals. Wednesday was his first time for a live performance of Rent, although he has seen the movie version.

"The complexity of the relationships, we can all relate to it," he said.

Debby Waymire, 19, of Orlando saw the show once before, although she said she was sick and couldn't enjoy it. She already has tickets for Sunday's show but drove to Tampa Wednesday afternoon hoping for better seats.

"I can't explain really what Rent means to me," she said. "It's just amazing."

Elisha Rocke, 21, of Inverness had no problem saying what it was about Rent that kept her coming back.

"Not too many shows you have drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll and drag queens," she said.

As for Singletary, his perseverance paid off. He received a degree in musical theater from the University of Tampa. And soon he's going on tour with Philadelphia's American Family Theater company in a production of Aladdin. He's been cast to play the genie.

Kevin Graham can be reached at or 813 226-3433.

[Last modified September 7, 2006, 01:19:46]

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