When the punk rock band Green Day wrote the rock opera “American Idiot,” its message — that of rudderless millennials frustrated by society’s mixed signals and confusing boundaries — hit a nerve with a generation indifferent to the concerns of parents and uncertain about what the future holds.
The stage version of the opera debuted in 2009 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre before moving to the St. James Theatre on Broadway in 2010. The lyrics and the story were written by Michael Mayer and Green Day vocalist and guitarist Billy Joe Armstrong — the only band member to appear on stage in a lead role in the musical.
From Feb. 21-25, the musical was presented by the Department of Theatre and Dance of Georgia College and State University at the Russell Auditorium in Milledgeville.
The rock opera is a musical narrative of the lives of three friends who take different paths to relieve their dispiriting inertia in suburban Jingletown, USA. There’s Johnny, who is straining at the reins of parental authority and wants to flee to the big city; Tunny, who feels aimless and tags along with Johnny only to lose himself more in the faceless crowd; and Will, who is stymied by his guilt over a pregnant girlfriend and by the enormity of that responsibility.
Tunny, in a fit of patriotism, joins the Army, leaving Johnny to fight his drug-laced demons and ensuing damaged relationships alone. Will, sitting at home swilling beer, is an apathetic partner to his girlfriend and a negligent father to his new baby.
The play is a telling commentary on resistance to time-honored values and priorities. However, the exposure of fearful vulnerability is explored, dissected and, in the end, triumphs over sadness, loss and misdirected endeavors.
Johnny, played by sophomore Joshua Shepherd, takes on the persona of St. Jimmy, his drug addicted alter ego, in pursuit of love with a girl he spots in a window and refers to only as Whatsername (Allie Kangas). Jacob Johnson is cast as Tunny, the sympathetic figure who is injured and suffers an amputation in battle, but falls for his nurse, the Extraordinary Girl, who cares for him after his return home. Will, the premature father, played by Nich Stinson, is kicked to the curb by his fed-up girlfriend, who finds greener pastures after giving him the boot.
Despite the obvious demonstration against a social structure they cannot control and from which they feel disenfranchised, the three main characters, after their individual battles, return home more introspective and better prepared to face their challenges. The play closes with the ensemble singing Green Day’s “Time of Your Life,” one of the most popular high school graduation songs in history, a few of the lyrics summing up the message of the rock opera — “it’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right…”
Kudos to director, faculty member Amy Pinney, who brought a fast-paced, relevant script to life with a cast of characters that were proficient beyond their amateur status, and to Karen Berman, artistic director, who brings a wealth of theater experience to her position as theater chair at Georgia College and is a member of the College of Fellows of American Theatre.
OCMULGEE NATIONAL MONUMENT ENGAGES THE COMMUNITY
On Feb. 24, the Ocmulgee National Monument held a reception in the museum headquarters to honor members and volunteers who support the national park effort and to encourage guests to join the association. The group relies on volunteers to augment staff during special events, to help with curatorial efforts at the museum and to act as docents and tour-guides of the museum and grounds.
Jim David, park superintendent and host for the reception, has been a driving force in raising the profile of the park, in promoting its importance in Middle Georgia’s history and in securing surrounding areas threatened by intrusions from commercial development.
Susan Hanberry was enjoying a leisurely stroll through the permanent exhibits while Terri and Steve Teodecki were suggesting unusual items in the gift shop to guests less familiar with the museum, and were listing the advantages of volunteer participation. Jennifer and Tony Long, like so many familiar with the mounds, recalled the days of bringing their children to events on the grounds or for a day of fun in the wide open spaces.
Volunteers prepared the hors d’oeuvres and desserts for the event, a favorite of which was Ruth Sykes’ chocolate fudge, worthy of a blue ribbon. Justis Ward and Matthew Harris, seniors at Mercer University and members of the 317 band, provided the entertainment for the evening, playing their guitars and singing Southern spirituals and some hometown favorites like Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay.”
The Ocmulgee National Monument has earned its place on the must-see list for visitors to Macon — a destination city for travelers.