The long intermission we faced as members or supporters of the Long Island theatre community was a blow for many companies. However, with its return, actors, musicians, directors and everyone involved with staging productions seem more inspired than ever. This rings true with the formation of Sunrise Theatre Company, founded by Brian Sweeney.
Sweeney said the foundation of Sunrise Theatre is community.
“I want to create a community theatre that never loses sight of the community part. You can put on the highest quality production, but if your company isn’t a place that people want to be, none of that matters.”
Additionally, he wants to create a sense of belonging for everyone involved in the production.
“From the actors to the pit musicians to the audience, everyone that is a part of Sunrise should feel like they belong there,” he said.
Why “American Idiot”?
The choice of “American Idiot” for their inaugural show was a conscious one. Tying in his vision for the company, Sweeney said the music – new arrangements of Green Day’s famous album – speaks to a specific age group (18 to 35) in the theatre community – whether they’re the creatives or in the audience.
“So few musicals that I feel truly resonate with them and reflect their life experience,” he said. “So to have a show like this that hits home for a lot of people is something worth celebrating. I also think that the show is relentlessly high-energy. Even in its softer moments, it generates this excitement and passion. And coming out of a dark time for the performing arts, that’s the kind of spark we need.”
Sweeney likened the show to “a mid-2000s nostalgia trip” – allowing you to become immersed in the world it creates while also maintaining heart.
He said Michael Janover’s direction makes you truly care about the characters and may even allow you to see yourself in them.
A Timely Message
Although it’s set specifically in the mid-2000s, Sweeney said he believes the musical remains relevant in 2021.
“There’s always this feeling that the grass is always greener, especially with younger people,” he said. “We think ‘if I can just get out of wherever I am, everything is gonna be so much better.’ And you don’t have to see the show to know that’s not necessarily true. American Idiot suggests that it’s not so much about where we end up, but how we get there, and what we learn on the way.”
He emphasized that regardless of political affiliations, being an American continues to come with its challenges in 2021.
“I think the show essentially says, ‘There are some things I can’t fix, but I can make my own choices, forge my own identity, and figure out a way to make it through the day,'” Sweeney said.
No Time to Waste
In terms of putting the show together, Sweeney said their team engaged in an intense rehearsal process. With only six weeks from rehearsal to closing, the tight time frame made it clear that all involved needed to “be in it” from the start.
“It forces you to maintain your focus, and to really immerse yourself in the world of the show,” he said. “And yet, despite the time crunch, I think the cast really developed a sense of camaraderie. They all put in 110% to make it happen, and created such a positive environment for each other.”
A Bright Future
When asked about the future of Sunrise, Sweeney said the company wants to tell as many stories as possible.
“Theatre is an art form that is meant for everyone, and when people come to see a Sunrise production, it should resonate with them,” he said.
Moving forward, Sweeney said he would like to feature lesser known works by up-and-coming writers – showcasing new material and amplifying new voices.
“Most of all, I want to make Sunrise a place where people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than just theatre.”
Where: BACCA Arts Center, 149 N Wellwood Ave, Lindenhurst, NY 11757
When: Saturday, November 27 at 8 p.m and 11 p.m
Click here to buy your tickets today!
Photo Credit: Kate Russo