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WSTA presents: “American Idiot”: Parking lot play was the epitome of punk rock

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WSTA presents: “American Idiot”:  Parking lot play was the epitome of punk rock

On Saturday, July 24, in the parking lot of 650 W. 6th St., Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s rocked the crowd with an immersive and intense production of “American Idiot,” inspired by Green Day’s epic protest album of the same name. 

 “‘American Idiot,’ set in the early 2000s with the backdrop of a looming war, takes a frank and candid look at the lives of three friends, one of which enlists in the service,” wrote Jamie Lawson, executive director of WSTA, in an email. “With echoes of the musical ‘Hair,’ the show wrestles with the freedoms that wars have earned us, while also examining the tangible cost of those freedoms.”

Thirty minutes before the play, the audience members gathered in the parking lot of WSTA’s new location and sat in lawn chairs underneath tents and the building’s awning as it lightly drizzled. Looking around, the set included the asphalt stage surrounded by the audience in folding chairs, and taped haphazardly to the walls of the awning were concert flyers and Green Day lyrics.

Right off the bat, WSTA set the mood to make you feel like you were immersed in an authentic punk rock concert or the adjacent alleyway. Largely composed of an ensemble cast, the play followed the storylines of three friends: Johnny, Tunny, and Will. 

According to the press release, “when the three disgruntled men flee the constraints of their hometown for the thrills of city life, their paths are quickly estranged when Tunny enters the armed forces, Will is called back home to attend familial responsibilities, and Johnny’s attention becomes divided by a seductive love interest and a hazardous new friendship.”

The actors who portrayed the three main characters were riveting from start to finish and all three showed incredible depth in their roles— especially Johnny, the play’s narrator, who went on a journey of self-discovery battling through drug addiction. The Most Valued Player of the production, in my humble opinion, was St. Jimmy — Johnny’s “patron saint of denial with an angel face and a taste for suicide.” 

The person who played St. Jimmy absolutely slayed the performance of their self-titled song, and knocked me off my feet with the self-introspective anthem “Know Your Enemy.” As a drag performer, I loved feeling their chaotic energy flow effortlessly through that role and I appreciated their commitment to the character. My only regret was I didn’t ask for a picture with them after the show. 

WSTA, as usual, did not disappoint and did something I wish more community theatres would do: Inject queer stories and voices into productions. In the song, “Homecoming” I was ecstatic to see that Will’s ex was now in a relationship with her “Rock-N-Roll Girlfriend.” 

As an unapologetic, almost 15-year Green Day stan, the play was everything I hoped it would be and more. I loved sitting there, bopping and lip-syncing along to every song. But more than that, the play made me feel some type of way about its heavier contents. When Johnny sang the song, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” I was instantly transported back to the Bush-era — being a 1st grader disrupted in school after hearing about the Sept. 11th attack. Those feelings of child-like fear and uncertainty flooded back in but were instantly overpowered by feelings of disgust and rage as my years of education and knowledge about the situation put the tragedy into context. 

WSTA’s first show inside their new venue is Something Rotten premiering on Aug. 20, 2021. For more information, visit the WSTA website and social media channels.

Katie Murawski is the former editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.

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