WILKES-BARRE — In the hit Broadway rock opera “American Idiot,” three friends travel different paths with one thing uniting them: their hometown of Jingletown, USA.
In the Wyoming Valley, three natives traveled different paths, and one thing is uniting them: a love of “American Idiot,” seeing it more than 250 times between them.
Aimee Kislin, 30, Kayla Franckiewicz, 20, and Jonathon Stack, 20, have seen the Tony Award-winning play’s original Broadway run, as well as its three national tours, the latest of which stopped at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for a one-night performance Wednesday.
Based on the Grammy-winning Green Day alternative rock album of the same name, “American Idiot” tells the story of three young men faced with obstacles life throws their way. One struggles with heroin addiction, another with a partner’s unplanned pregnancy and the third with the physical and emotional trauma of war.
“I truly believe there’s a part or character in the show that anyone can relate to,” Stack said.
Kislin, formerly of Forty Fort and now a retail manager residing in Garfield, N.J., didn’t know Franckiewicz or Stack prior to Broadway.
“The Broadway community is tiny, and you see most of the same faces often,” she recalled. “And sometimes you realize you’re from the same neck of the woods.”
A common routine among the Broadway audience community is lining up in the early-morning hours for the chance at discounted tickets. While in line, Kislin noticed a Diamond City Figure Skating Club jacket on Franckiewicz, formerly of Bear Creek and now a Manhattan resident and full-time student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Soon, a connection was made.
The duo soon became a trio, though each was drawn to the play for different reasons. Stack, 20, of Wilkes-Barre, is a full-time student at Misericordia University who learned about “American Idiot” from fellow Coughlin High School alumnus Franckiewicz. Stack said that introduction kindled his love for Broadway and theater in general.
‘My heart and soul’
Kislin’s love of the theater stretches back to her childhood.
“My mom is the one who started the whole theater thing in my life. She would take me and my sister to shows often when we were younger,” she said. Her exposure to “American Idiot” came from her love of Broadway.
“It was a new show. A rock musical. Starring a Tony winner, directed by a Tony winner. It was Broadway. That’s the main thing.”
Now, she says, the play’s coming-of-age story struck a chord.
“This show has brought us together, we’ve grown up,” she said.
“I think I’ve become the person I was always meant to be. I love theater. It’s my heart and soul. I can’t imagine my life without this show and these people,” she added.
For Franckiewicz, the play has served a more practical purpose.
“I’ve been running a fan blog for the show on Tumblr since March 2010 that’s just about to hit 3,000 followers,” she explained. She has since taken this experience with social media and theater and used it to secure an internship managing the social media channels for The Broadway League.
No two shows alike
Even for the most diehard Broadway fan, seeing the same play as many times as these three (168 times for Kislin, 60 for Franckiewicz and 23 for Stack) is a bit unique. So unique, in fact, that Kislin was profiled in a New York Times piece last year for attending more than 500 individual Broadway performances.
The trio admit some might not understand how they can see the same show repeatedly. To them, though, traveling throughout the Northeast to see the show multiple times is no different than following a musician or attending multiple concerts by the same artist.
“No show is ever the same for us,” Stack said. “We’re probably some of the only people that go to a show and hope to see an understudy just to see how that person portrays the character. And with a whole new cast every tour, they always keep it fresh and exciting.”
The three have support from their family and friends, but that doesn’t mean everyone is ready to pack up and go on a road trip with them.
“Sure, my roommates couldn’t fathom doing the same thing themselves, but at the end of the day, I think they acknowledge that it’s my hobby just like going to concerts all the time is theirs,” said Franckiewicz.
What it comes down to, though, is the experience.
“ ‘Idiot’ is amazing in itself, but it’s live theater. Every single show is different. An understudy. A new dance move,” said Kislin. “And the fact that it’s coming to NEPA is mindblowing. And this cast will bring it 110 percent.”
And the experience will continue, with upcoming shows in Binghamton, N.Y., and Bloomsburg, all before the third national tour comes to a close in May in Denver. For these three, though, each time is like the first time.
“It’s different every show,” Kislin added. “Every. Single. Show.”