The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

    Behind the scenes with American Idiot assistant director and cast members

    The El Camino College Theatre Department performs Green Day’s “American Idiot” at the Campus Theatre on Saturday 3/17/18, for ninety action-packed minutes without intermission. Amber Vanbuskirk as “Whatsername” commands this scene. Photo credit: Jack Kan

    The Union sat down with castmembers of El Camino’s production of American Idiot, which premiered Friday, March 16 in the Campus Theatre.

    Assistant director Rita Chavdarian and cast members Claire Griswold in the role of Heather, Amber Vanbuskirk in the role of Whatshername and Britney Acosta in the role of The Extraordinary Girl relate to the empowerment of women roles in this contemporary Rock-Opera.

    What should we expect from American Idiot?

    AMBER: Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.

    BRITNEY: Loud music. In a nice way. It sounds good loud. Angst.

    CLAIRE: Very timely sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. It really speaks to the current political situation.

    RITA: It’s a musical but also a live rock show that’s telling a story. I think that’s going to connect with a lot of students that we have here.

    RITA: I think it tells the story of our generation.

    CLAIRE: We all grew up with this album.

    AMBER: I remember “Boulevard of Broken Dream,” everybody had their hoods on. When we were 13, iPod Nanos, earbuds in and walking down the street and now [we] walk down the stage.

    CLAIRE: I hope that a lot of people in the audience will have the same reaction. Experiencing it in a different way. and [say], “I remember this.”

    RITA: It’s a musical but also a live rock show that’s telling a story. I think that’s going to connect with a lot of students that we have here.

    BRITNEY: When we first started Rehearsals, I wasn’t super familiar with the “American Idiot” album. I was like “This looks all really convenient, they must have made some lyric changes,” but that’s just how it was written.

    AMBER: Yeah, I think [the song] “When It’s Time” was the only one rewritten for the show.

    How is working with the music in this production different from any other productions?

    CLAIRE: I’ve done a lot of “Classical Musical Theatre” and [this show] demands a different kind of honesty and sound.

    AMBER: I grew up doing musical from like 10-18, taught a little then i joined a rock-band and toured the world for a couple of years. I think it’s cool to be able to flex both muscles.

    BRITNEY: You don’t want to copy [the album] and be, “Well I’m doing a Green Day show so I’m going to look like a rock-star,” you know? It’s still a musical and you want to be true to that. [At the same time] you don’t want to be too musical theatre and be like “Za Vibrato” because that’s not what people are expecting you know. It’s a hard balance of both..

    RITA: So, if someone is into musical theatre come see the show, if you’re really into rock music, come see the show.

    BRITNEY: It’s more Punk-Rock than “Rent.”

    RITA: There’s no fourth wall in this play [and] the audience is going to be just as “lit” as the stage. It’s wide open. This is a very exposed play, in many ways.

    BRITNEY: There’s not many shows that [eliminate the fourth wall]. Some shows try stuff to be quirky and new [but] are not authentic. This is the perfect show to do that. And Bill has built it all beautifully.

    RITA: It’s really a fun show to [be] an Assist Direct with Bill because since there is no fourth wall, there [is] going to be a lot of interaction with the audience. For someone to come see the show, it’s not, “I’m going to sit back and watch it,” [but] you’re apart of the show.

    RITA: We’re very excited for the costumes because our costume Director Kim is amazing. I’ve seen some of the costumes, it’s unlike anything we’ve done here.

    CLAIRE: The [costumes] that I’m wearing, I would never wear in real life.

    RITA: “She has blue hair.”

    CLAIRE: [Kim] has such a clear vision, all of [the Directors] have a clear unified vision of the show. I’ve never [gone] to a tech week were I’m like, “This will be fine.” I’m totally not worried about next week because we know where we’re going.

    AMBER: And having [Rita] around has been really nice because its been an extra pair of eyes. You’re watching everything. You pick everything. Her notes are so specific. I’ll do something and I’m like, “Nobody’s watching” and Rita will go, “That was really good.”

    RITA: I’m always watching. We have an amazing cast and it’s been great working with talented actors. Watching them grow from day one. There [has] been sweat, hard work, blood, and tears. And this is not an easy show for actors. Some people may think “Oh it’s ‘American Idiot’ like its not a real musical because it Punk-Rock music.” These actors are working just as hard as anything else and seeing you guys grow, I just can not wait [for opening night].

    AMBER: Shout-out to our boys. They’re doing very well. All of them.

    BRITNEY: They are on stage like 77 percent of the time.

    CLAIRE: Kyle is on stage like 98 percent of the time; he’s always on stage.

    RITA: We have some kickass women in the show. There’s no woman who’s not kick-ass in this musical. And that’s not a common thing. You guys are all like Fireballs [with] such great roles.

    CLAIRE: That’s why I auditioned. [When] Kyle sent me “Last Night On Earth” and “21 Guns” I was like “Oh..that’s some cool shit for women in this show so”

    AMBER: I came in singing for “St. Jimmy.” I didn’t know “Whatsherface” at all. I knew nothing about her and then they had me sing her for call backs. And now she’s become one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played. Like she’s very close to my heart.

    RITA :I am so proud of the women of this show. I compared them to a Fireball because the energy [they] bring is something that not represented all the time. Women, a lot of the time are given soft spoken [roles]. I’m so happy to see you women taking the stage, going full force with these roles. [In the movie] “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” they say “ The men are the head but the women are the neck and the neck controls where the head turns.” And definitely with these women, they’re the pathways to these men.

    How does it feel to take such a powerful role?

    CLAIRE: I’ve [never had] to be this strong on stage. I’ve never been encouraged to be that strong. I shove the shit out of kyle. And everytime I’m like, “I never get to harness that energy.” It’s kind of awesome.

    AMBER: For Whatsername in “21 Guns” there’s a vulnerability that I get to tap into. I turn around and be like “Hey, F U” in the next song. There is strength and vulnerability in being honest and asking someone to love you as well. All of these women [are] like “Love me. Oh, your not going to. I’m not going to wait around but I’m going to offer it to you.” And I think there’s strength in that too.

    RITA: Women in the audience are going to relate to your [characters just] as much as the men are going to relate to the guys. Even me watching as the assist. director, I’m relating to these characters too. It’s like, “I’ve been there and I’ve wanted to say that. I never got to say it.” And you guys are speaking the voice to a lot of women and it’s very empowering.

    BRITNEY: We’re very diverse in the sense that we’re not all following the same path. I’ve never in my life played a seductive character. I have a song where my only purpose is to seduce him and then immediately followed by a song of me being compassionate and caring like, “Oh, I’m here for you, I’m not what you wanted but I’m here for you.” There is always something you can get.

    CLAIRE: I really love this show that [the] ladies refuse to be abused. Like “Uh huh, if you don’t treat me right, I’m out.” It’s really refreshing.

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