For a significant number of Palo Alto High School graduates and their families, the June performances of American Idiot at San Jose's Center for Performing Arts represent more than just an opportunity to see the Green Day musical, which debuted in 2009 at Berkeley Rep before heading to Broadway in 2010. It's a chance to welcome home Alex Nee, who appears poised to become Paly's most famous acting alum since James Franco. After graduating from Paly in 2009, Nee was accepted into the theater program at Northwestern University. Last year, while still a 20-year-old junior, Nee was tapped to play Johnny, the Tony Award-winning musical's leading man.
For Nee, who's been grinding out eight shows a week of Idiot since last fall, returning to his stomping grounds as a professional actor rather than just another college kid home for the holidays is "definitely weird," he says from Disney World, a reward for six days of engagements in Florida. "But getting to perform with this show in San Jose is special, so I'll be filled with all the usual emotions -- nervous, excited, sweaty."
Nee is the youngest member of the Idiot cast (he celebrated his 21st birthday while touring in the U.K.), but that's a role he's actually pretty familiar with. "In fifth grade I was in a Foothill College production of Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. It was my first semi-professional show, and I got to be around all of these amazing adults, who were doing what I loved doing for a living. The fact that the play and material was so taboo for someone my age made everything that much more appealing."
As for a lot of young actors, the playwright proved a major influence. "I fell in love with Durang," he says, "and subsequently writers like Albee, Mamet, and Shepard. They taught me about irony and realism, and how to love even the darkest, most twisted characters." Other influences were closer to home. "Throughout middle and high school, I always sort of looked up to the older, cooler kids because, you know, being young for my grade I always wanted to be older. Elan Maier was sort of that older brother figure for a lot of that time. And his work on stage was just so exciting. He taught me what it was like to be unabashed, unafraid and just plain weird."
Nee also credits his teachers, from Jeanie Smith at Jordan Middle School (Go Jaguars!) to theatre teachers Kristen Lo and Kathleen Woods and vocal teacher Michael Najar at Paly (Go Vikings!). "I really look back fondly on playing Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henderson in The Laramie Project and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof," he says. "These roles all stretched me in important ways."
Full article at KQED: HERE