The Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation is supporting the stage version of Green Day's American Idiot; and, for the second consecutive year, Berkeley Rep earned the Edgerton Foundation's coveted New American Play Award, this time to support the debut of Naomi Iizuka's new play, Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West.
The Edgerton Foundation presents its New American Play Award "to select theatres that have demonstrated a strong and consistent track record of producing new work," according to Berkeley Rep. This will be the third Edgerton for a project helmed by its associate artistic director, Obie Award winner Les Waters. In 2008, the Foundation honored his production of Stephen Greenblatt and Charles Mee's Cardenio at American Repertory Theatre, and this year it recognized his collaboration with Sarah Ruhl on In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) in Berkeley. The latter is moving to Broadway.
The award "aims to strengthen the first production of a new script and thereby increase the likelihood that it will enjoy continued life and become a mainstay of the American repertoire."
Waters' upcoming Broadway production of In the Next Room "demonstrates the effectiveness of the program," according to Berkeley Rep.
In the last four years, the Edgerton Foundation has disbursed more than $1.7 million to noted theatres across the nation. In addition to the New Play Award, it supports the environment, global security, and important institutions in Los Angeles. The Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, established in 2003, intends to help the Bay Area arts community become — in her words — "four stars, worth the detour." The Foundation supports both the fine arts, including the exhibition of painting and sculpture, and the performing arts, including opera, symphony, and dance, in the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, as well as in Marin County. The Foundation is most interested in supporting arts organizations that are presenting challenging and cutting-edge works.
American Idiot, the first show in Berkeley Rep's 2009-10 season fits that mandate. The rock group Green Day won two Grammy Awards — Best Rock Album and Record of the Year — for the multi-platinum album of that name, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. "Now those searing songs seize the stage with the director behind Spring Awakening, the groundbreaking musical that earned eight Tony Awards including Best Director and Best Musical," according to Berkeley Rep. "American Idiot follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East, as they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration — an exhilarating journey borne along by Green Day's electrifying songs. This high-octane show blends an onstage band and an ensemble of 19 young performers…"
Green Day is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool. They came of age in the underground punk scene in Berkeley.
Mayer earned the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for Spring Awakening. He has directed 11 shows on Broadway, three on London's West End, two films and many other projects.
American Idiot debuts at Berkeley Rep, the theatre that launched Passing Strange, and it will feature every track from the album, as well as several new tunes from Green Day's new release, "21st Century Breakdown." It begins previews in Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre on Sept. 4 for a limited run ending Oct. 11.
March 2010 is also devoted to a new play in the Roda Theatre: Naomi Iizuka "explores the intersection of art and authenticity in a haunting play commissioned by Berkeley Rep," Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West.
According to the Rep, "Well before the digital age, the camera selected, filtered, and obscured the truth — even as it promised to provide an authentic look at distant lands. In this world premiere, wealthy Americans invade Yokohama in the 1880s with a weird new technology. Their cameras capture images of geishas, monks, and shrines and send them to the future in a flash — where we continue to seek meaning through lenses of exoticism and xenophobia."
Berkeley Rep presented the world premiere of Iizuka's 36 Views before it played Off-Broadway.
Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West takes its title from the first treatise on photography translated into Japanese. It will be staged by Les Waters and will play Feb. 26-April 11.
"At Berkeley Rep, we're continuing our commitment to develop daring new work despite the temptation to play it safe in difficult economic times," stated Tony Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. "I'm pleased to see these efforts recognized by noted foundations that share our goal of bringing ambitious and adventurous scripts to the stage. Naomi's new play is further evidence that our commissioning program is succeeding, and American Idiot is clearly an exciting and significant project. We are grateful for the grants that will help us present these shows in our upcoming season."