The Liberty Bell drama club is presenting “Rock ’n’ Roll,” a complex and entertaining mix of history, music and politics by Tom Stoppard. The show opens Jan. 25 and continues through Jan. 28. Shows are at 7 p.m. Thursday through Friday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Set in Cambridge, England, and in Prague, the story spans a momentous historical period, from the Prague Spring in 1968, when Czechoslovakia rebelled against the Soviet Union, to the Velvet Revolution that precipitated the end of Communist rule in 1990.
“Rock ’n’ Roll” is a fascinating drama with multiple subplots, including censorship, the counter-culture, global politics and, of course, rock ’n’ roll. “Music is like a character in the play,” said Kelly Grayum, the Liberty Bell English teacher who’s directing the show along with Danbert Nobacon.
“One of the reasons I wanted to do the play is that it’s about music going across borders,” said Nobacon. “You can’t stop music with the Berlin Wall.”
Nobacon, a member of the British anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba in the 1980s and ’90s, was able to tell the students about his own experiences playing in Eastern Europe. “Our music got to Prague before the band did,” said Nobacon.
Rock bands central to the plot include the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, and an underground Czech group called the Plastic People of the Universe (one student spent hours online tracking down their music, said Grayum). The show ends up being an “electrifying collision of the romantic and the revolutionary,” according to The Merc’s description.
The show involves 27 students, 23 on stage and four helping backstage and with the technical aspects of the show. While Grayum and Nobacon focus on directing the production, The Merc will provide support staff, facilities and resources for them to rehearse and bring the production alive onstage.
“We are very excited to be working with the high school students,” said Missi Smith, executive director at The Merc. “When they take over our theater to create everything from the set, to costumes, to the action onstage, the students learn more about the production process in an authentic, high-quality theater atmosphere, and their creative energy will greatly enhance our season.”