Green Day’s “American Idiot” will debut on the Loretto-Hilton stage this week as the season opener of Webster University’s Sargent Conservatory of Theater Arts.
The Tony-nominated musical follows a group of young Americans struggling to find meaning in the aftermath of 9/11, set to Green Day music from the band’s “American Idiot” album and more. The show runs October 7-9 at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts.
Webster Professor Lara Teeter, who directs the Sargent Conservatory’s Musical Theater Program, is the production’s director and choreographer. Teeter has been with Webster since 2007. He is a Tony-nominated actor for his performance in the 1982 Broadway revival of “On Your Toes.” In addition to his work on Broadway on stage and behind the scenes, he has also conducted acting workshops, performed and directed various productions across the country.
Lonnie Walton of the Webster Journal recently conducted an exclusive interview with Teeter about the production, as well as the extent of student talent he sees at the conservatory.
Webster Journal (WJ): What can you tell us about the Sargent Conservatory’s “American Idiot” production?
Lara Teeter (LT): “American Idiot” is a singing musical based on a concept album of the same name by punk-rock band Green Day. This “rock opera” is told from the perspective of a lower-middle-class American teenage anti-hero, Johnny, the self-proclaimed “Jesus of the suburbs.” Johnny and his friends, Will and Tunny, and other suburban punks regularly meet in the parking lot of the local 7-Eleven to escape the drowning “American Dream” in a war-starved capitalist world eaten away by commerce and marked by broken conflicts. homes, teenage pregnancy, militaristic heroes and drug addiction.
WJ: What attracted you to this musical?
LT: I was brought up listening to rock ‘n’ rock – Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who – and although I had a career in musical theater as a singer and dancer who became director/choreographer and teacher, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz are what I like to listen to and dance the most. I wasn’t too sure about my interest in this musical when I first read/listened to it, but once I started researching Green Day and punk rock, I realized how connected I was to this music, and more specifically to the message behind this musical.
WJ: Was there any particular difficulty in bringing this full-scale Broadway musical to the Loretto-Hilton Stage?
LT: Every musical is a challenge on the LHC stage because it’s a push and the Broadway musical is built around a perfect setting called the proscenium. Musicals are like watching a painting that lives in a frame. It is a sung and danced version of a painting/story. Bringing a musical to life in a push that manifests itself in the audience carries a different model on how to design the production in terms of sets, lights, projections, orchestra, sound, direction and choreography. “American Idiot” is essentially a rock opera that we have placed under the “big top” of the circus. We took the initiative and hopefully used it to our advantage in telling this story.
WJ: With your experience as an educator and the ability to nurture young talent, how do you know if someone has what it takes to succeed on stage?
LT: Excellent question! Sometimes it happens when they first get to audition for the conservatory. Sometimes this happens at some point during the student’s four years and eight semesters here at Webster University. A colleague once said that seeing our conservatory training come to life is like watching apples fall from a tree: not all apples fall at the same time! They fall when they are ready to do so and not a moment before. And, interestingly, most of the time the apple doesn’t even fall while the student is at the conservatory, but after he’s gone and experienced the daily routine and discipline in this business that we call “spectacle”. Often the professors see it before the students see it in themselves because…well, that’s our job.
WJ: In general, what do you look for in a student auditioning for the conservatory?
LT: It’s very, very competitive. Obviously, you first have to see a certain level of skill in playing and singing. The next thing we look for is their level and depth of curiosity about the material they have chosen to do for us in their audition. This is all half of the audition. For the second half, the interview, we’re looking to see what else students might be interested in besides theatre. Contrary to popular belief, we are not looking for a student who only lives, eats and breathes theatre. We are looking for people involved in other curiosities, community service, reading, science, etc. These days most of the students who come to audition for us are activists in one way or another and we love to hear about them!
WJ: What advice would you give to an aspiring performing artist looking for their “big break?” »
LT: Stop looking for it, but rather work hard to develop your discipline and your craft and keep this dream, this “big break” as a positive reminder on your fridge. I compare training for four years at the conservatory to training for the Olympics. When a student enters conservatory-style training, they are choosing to become an elite athlete. What they eat and drink, what they spend their time on social media, how they sleep, how they learn – it all has to do with developing a champion mindset that is ready to do everything you need to get this medal.
WJ: You’ve won awards, performed at Carnegie Hall and performed on Broadway… what do you consider your proudest accomplishment?
LT: Easy. These four things in this order: marrying my wife, Kristen; the birth of my four children; being the celebrant/officiant at the wedding of two former students, Allison and John Kinney; and Broadway.
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