UIC theatre grad an Extraordinary Girl in ‘American Idiot’
Smoke, punk rock and bright lights hit you as you enter the Den Theatre. Extraordinary Girl, in her black tutu and silver corset, descends the steps onto the stage. The energy she exudes mirrors that of the actress who plays her, Becca Brown.
Brown, a 2014 UIC theatre graduate, stars as Extraordinary Girl in The Hypocrites’ production of “American Idiot,” onstage through Sunday at the Den Theatre, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Based on Green Day’s Grammy Award-winning album, the show focuses on a band of five teens post-9/11 who want to escape the confines of suburbia.
“It’s like a rock opera. The coolest thing about the show is that we’re the first Chicago production of it and the actors are all playing instruments,” said Brown, who primarily plays bass. “You can feel the nostalgia of speaking out to your parents, feelings of rebellion. It’s a growing up story.”
Unlike the Broadway version, the female characters in the Chicago production have a strong presence.
“What director Steven Wilson was trying to do with the casting and storytelling empowers the women,” she said.
Beyond “American Idiot,” Brown’s life is a combination of working as an improv comedian, actress, musician and artist. Many people know her best as Posh Spice, the bassist in the 2003 film “School of Rock,” starring Jack Black.
“I was bit by the acting bug,” Brown said.
She was discovered on NPR’s “From the Top” radio show for her musicianship, having performed classical music since she was 4.
Her training at UIC helped her connect with artists from around the world, Brown said. “You get the opportunity to work with some of the most talented, most hard-working directors, teachers, actors, creators, artists, and innovators in Chicago,” she said. “It’s such a good school for networking.”
During her second year at UIC, she worked with Dado, a seasoned director in LA and Chicago, on UIC’s 2012 production of “Full Circle.” She worked with Marti Lyons, artistic associate at Slideshow Theatre and ensemble member of the Lookingglass Theatre, on UIC’s 2014 production of “i wonder if it’s possible to have a love affair that lasts forever (or) things i found on craigslist.”
During her time at UIC, Brown enrolled in improv classes at iO and Second City, where she is a 2015 Bob Curry fellow. Her improv work showed her that what she had been doing as a kid could become a profession.
“I would write out sarcastic skits about our day for my brothers and sisters to act out for Mom and Dad,” Brown said. “I loved taking actual situations in life and the world and turning them into something that make people go, ‘Oh that’s real,’ but also they laugh.”
Brown is currently working on a one-woman musical comedy show and album, “Adult Black Hole.”
“It’s going to be goofy, but it’s going to be honest. Truth and comedy,” Brown said.
Brown aspires to work in TV and film.
“I want my magnum opus to be mixed media — lots of music, theatricals, most importantly humor and seriousness,” she said. “My biggest goal is to have my own show like Amy Schumer.”