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Blank Conversations’ ‘American Idiot’ opens at Rio Grande Theatre


Blank Conversations Theatre Company (BCTC) will present “Green Day’s American Idiot,” the musical, at Rio Grande Theatre (RGT) in January 2023, BCTC said in a news release.

BCTC will produce the 2009 adaptation written by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer in six performances, Friday, Jan. 20-Saturday, Jan. 29.

The musical is based on the iconic 2004 punk album released by Green Day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, at the height of political tension and media coverage, BCTC said.

“The album was released during the conflict in Iraq and was considered Green Day’s rebirth and countercultural call out of the U.S. presidency, the politics of war, the role corporations play and the

accountability of the media. The album was nominated for various awards and a few years later Mayer collaborated with Armstrong to release the first run of the musical at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, before moving to Broadway at the St. James Theatre in New York in 2010,” BCTC said.

The show features three main characters, Johnny (Riley Merritt), Tunny (Tim Wilbur) and Will (Huge de Billie), who desire to leave the numbing and media-saturated life of Suburbia, the news release said. Johnny heads to the city, Tunny enlists in the Army and Will remains home with his pregnant girlfriend.

“Trying to break free from what the world has told them to be, the characters fall into dangerous paths in this unkind, post 9/11 world including addiction, war and loss,” BCTC said.

“I think it’s relevant in just how powerless all of us really are,” said director and BCTC co-founder Gus David Sanchez. “All of this is cyclical and carried solely by circumstances beyond our control. We’re made to believe that we have full control, but we don’t have control over the world that’s been

built for us. People my age are grown into a now post-9/11, post-2008, post-Iraq, post-Trump world. ‘American Idiot’ manages to say a lot about it,” he said.

Joining Merritt, Wilbur and de Billie in the cast are JJ Hanley, Mattie Ruminer, Yocelin Torres, Zane Chaffee, Chad Gonzales, Reagan Szulc, Joshua Jackson, Ben Ramsey, Peyton Womble, Karen Melendrez and Dawn Franco.

Alyssa Gose is the production’s music director, Jason Wyatt is the assistant director, Steven Cousler and Roxi Garcia are stage managers, Felicia Gonzales and Esther Rogge are choreographers, Topher Lininger is the producer and set designer, Angelica Lucio is the costume designer, Alia Belinte is the lighting designer and John Schwindinger is the projections designs.

“I had never acted in Blank Conversations shows before ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ earlier this fall,” said Merritt, a recent graduate of the New Mexico State University theatre department. “I not only wanted a chance to work with my friends and peers one last time before leaving, but I've also always had a firm attachment to the character of Johnny. He is someone who is fed up with the prescribed American, working-class propaganda, and he decides, no matter the consequences, to go out and seek something meaningful. As an artist in our current political and social environment, I get this same desire. I'm fed up, full of rage and love, and want to find meaning in a shallow world.”

After his performance in “American Idiot,” Merritt is planning to leave Las Cruces to pursue professional theatre opportunities, BCTC said.

“This show has a lot of significance for me,” said Hanley, who plays Whatshername, Johnny’s romantic interest. “It’s a show about so many difficult topics that a lot of people can relate to, including myself, like drug use. I am a recovering drug addict, and this show brings light to how easy it is to get into drugs, and how fast drug use can ruin friendships and relationships. It’s a message I believe is really important. Drug abuse is a disease and should be treated as such.”

“American Idiot” features mature and sensitive content and topics including drug use, war, politics, mental illness and sexual content, but there are representations of resilience, hope and escaping toxic behaviors, BCTC said.

“The thing I want people to take away from this show is a realization that they have the power to choose what they surround themselves with,” Gose said. “We ultimately become what we invest our time in, and all of our leads come to understand that they need to choose a less destructive approach to their lives.”

Founded in 2019, BCTC’s primary mission is to bring affordable, quality, theatre productions to the Las Cruces community and to diversify the productions and theatrical work of local theatre, Sanchez said.

Tickets for “American Idiot” are on sale now at www.riograndetheatre.org/.

For more information, visit www.blankconversations.org.