By Elizabeth Guzman
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d be able to say: “Sorry, I can’t hang out tomorrow. I’ll be welcoming John Gallagher Jr., Rebecca Naomi Jones, Michael Esper, Tony Vincent, and Anthony Rapp to the event I planned."
As the fellow in charge of Teen Council at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, I have been working to keep up momentum and excitement after American Idiot. While perusing theatrebayarea.org, I was excited to see that Rent would be playing in San Francisco starring Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, the original Mark and Roger respectively. Over the next few weeks, Rachel Fink, associate general manager and director of the School, Gendell Hernandez, our education associate, and I put together plans to take a group to see Rent as part of our Theatre Scene program. Although this was the first experience with the show for many of the teens, I discovered Rent 13 years ago and consider it to be one of my formative experiences personally and theatrically. So you can imagine my excitement when Rachel suggested inviting Anthony Rapp and members of the American Idiot cast to come to the School and have a special talkback with the teens about their experiences in these shows.
By 4pm on October 15, the crowd of teenagers was gathering outside the doors of the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre. Some came inside to giggle and whisper with their friends, while others hung around the door hoping to be the first to catch a glimpse of the actors. The adults were also extraordinarily excited, and I, for one, felt myself holding my breath as the interview began. I wanted to make sure that the event went well — that the actors were comfortable and that the teens felt inspired, learned something, and had fun. Perhaps, most importantly, I wanted to make sure the students’ pizza and actors’ food arrived on time and was correct. However, as soon as Valerie Dohrer and Darcy Davis (our wonderful teen interviewers) asked the first question and Anthony answered, I relaxed and listened to what the actors had to say. The insight, laughter, and theatrical passion that each actor shared with the group elicited smiles, laughter, and knowing nods from teens, fellows, and staff alike. Even comments relating auditioning to being a dog on an electrocuted floor could not take away from the evening (thank you, Michael Esper!).
After the event, I stood back from the crowd to survey the responses. The reverberating energy stayed with the teens whether they were going home, staying for class, or heading over to see American Idiot. Many teens spoke about how inspired they were hearing how each actor got to this point in his/her life — all very different journeys. The resounding message that the teens got from the event seemed to be that if you work hard because you love it, because it’s your passion, because you can’t imagine doing anything else (not because you want to be a star), anything is theatrically possible. I found myself utterly inspired and moved by both the interview and the responses from the teens.
Both John and Anthony made us at the School glow (and giggle and whisper with our friends) by commenting about the visit on Twitter. Anthony tweeted, “Inspiring time with John Gallagher, Jr. & other American Idiot folks talking to students at Berkeley Rep. Fuel for tonight's show.” John’s tweet said, “Totally inspired by the amazing Anthony Rapp, the kids at BRT school and my own brilliant castmates.”
Top photo: Rent star Anthony Rapp (center) is joined by members of the American Idiot cast (from left) Michael Esper, Rebecca Naomi Jones, John Gallagher, Jr., and Tony Vincent.
Above photo: The celebrity panelists are queried by teen interviewers Valerie Dohrer and Darcy Davis.
Photos by: Emika Abe
I wish they would bring the American Idiot musical to other states so people like me in the Houston area can have a chance to see it!
That's me! That's me! It was all just too cool!!!
The album achieved popularity worldwide, charting in 26 countries and reaching number one in nineteen of them, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Since its release, American Idiot has sold over 14 million copies worldwide and 5,982,000 copies in the US alone.
Interesting to read that both John and Anthony made us at the School glow (and giggle and whisper with our friends) by commenting about the visit on Twitter.
It sounds like a great play. I missed seeing plays. Do you have a link to a preview or website of their play? Thanks!
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