This weekend in Wish Theater, Masque and Gown will present ‘‘American Idiot,” a rock opera brimming with youthful angst and frustration. Based on the Green Day concept album of the same name, the show includes several of the band’s most beloved songs—including the title track “American Idiot,” as well as “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “21 Guns”—and weaves them into a story in which three central characters confront relationships, drug use and their own social and political disillusionment in a bleak, post-September 11 American landscape.
Under the direction of Jae-Yeon Yoo ’18, the group’s production preserves much of the musical’s 2000s-era imagery while placing it in the context of a Trump presidency, where song and dance are punctuated by audio clips of Trump’s lewd remarks and latest policies.
“I do think that Green Day was trying to send a political message about the Bush era when they developed this musical and the concept album. They’re very explicit in their critique of the Bush era in this musical,” Yoo said. “And I kind of hope to show how this sense of American disillusionment that they’re portraying is still relevant, if not even more acutely so today.”
Accessibility was a point of concern for the theater group, which hopes to move in a more open, progressive direction since last semester’s production of “Laramie Project.”
“From my experience, students often hold a stereotype that theater is something ‘highbrow’ and for a niche audience,” wrote Yoo in her director’s note. “But while this show does address heavy political themes, it presents them in a fun, sometimes ironic and extremely accessible manner.”
Artistic Director Mackenzie Schafer ’19 agreed that the show represents a new direction for Masque and Gown.
“We’ve committed this year to picking shows with a lot of roles for a variety of different types of people, so we have the opportunity to step away from where we had been in the past, where we were only really picking middle-class white family dramas. And so we are very committed now to providing a variety of roles for a diverse group of people,” she said.
One of those people is Katherine Pady ’21, who had never sung or acted in a musical before auditioning for “American Idiot.”
“I think I couldn’t have chosen a better production to have as a first time,” said Pady. “It’s definitely very high energy and a lot of fun to work on. I grew up listening to Green Day, so it’s kind of fun to also be able to perform it now and in such a different medium. And I’m working with some really talented people, who come from varying levels of experiences. But most of them have such a vested interest in Bowdoin’s theater scene. So, it’s so cool, I get to learn from them.”
As well as bringing more actors to the stage, Masque and Gown aims to challenge the Bowdoin community’s perception of musical theater. Performing in Wish, a black box theater, allows for the audience to be more immersed in the drama. Throughout the performance, actors move around the entire theater space, walking the aisles and climbing onto balconies. In addition, the political and cultural relevance of the material in the context of the last two decades promises to attract new audiences.
“It’s not a typical musical, and we’ve had people express interest in seeing the show that we would have normally not gotten from say, Sweeney Todd or the Sound of Music,” Yoo said. “So, I think it actually challenges the idea of what theater is here at Bowdoin, because we are used to seeing a certain kind of show a lot of the time. I can’t speak for the entire Bowdoin history of theater, but in my time here I haven’t seen anything like it.”
After hours of rehearsal, choreography and technical adjustments, the show is ready for performance, and actors and directors alike look fondly back on the work that they have accomplished.
“It’s been a great amalgamation of different interests and skill sets and opportunities to learn and also [an opportunity to] share knowledge among different people in our growing theater community,” said Schafer. “It’s a really fun show.”