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Berkeley Rep Meets Rock Theater With "American Idiot"

Green Day, you may or may not know, began in Berkeley when, at age 15, Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt connected at The 924 Gilman Street Project, an all-ages, non-profit performance co-op that is also known as the Alternative Music Foundation.

Just a couple miles away, Berkeley Rep is world-premiering American Idiot,” the punk rock opera spin-off of Green Day’s multi-platinum album; it was created by Green Day, in collaboration with Michael Mayer, who directed the alt. rock musical hit “Spring Awakening,” which was fueled by the music of Duncan Sheik.

Green Day’s “American Idiot,” the band’s 2004 concept album, is theater-ready. It’s full of characters and a narrative born of the band’s response to the bleak realities of post 9/11 America. The story follows the album’s working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East. There’s the anti-hero, Jesus of Suburbia, who Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has described as “a powerless everyman desensitized by a "steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin.” Characters, like St. Jimmy (a punk rock freedom fighter) and “Whatsername” are also part of the narrative.

Berkeley Rep is building a rep as a hot bed for rock theater. It launched Stew’s rock musical “Passing Strange” in 2007. And, this April, Berkeley Rep will stage the world premiere of “Girlfriend,” a new musical based on Matthew Sweet’s landmark early 90s album. Get ready to rock 'n' roll.