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‘Cambodian Rock Band’ takes surprising path to Berkeley Rep

Dengue Fever had come to the Big Apple in 2015 to perform a concert, but it was an unrelated encounter with Bay Area playwright Lauren Yee that had a lasting impact on the Los Angeles band.

“She wanted to meet up and have a beer and talk about some stuff,” recalls Zac Holtzman, guitarist and co-founder of Dengue Fever, which started in 2001. playing in a Cambodian rock and roll band.”

Yee had definitely contacted the right group, who are known for performing classic Cambodian pop and rock songs.

The idea sounded appealing to Holtzman and his bandmates, so they decided to embark on an adventure with the San Francisco-born playwright. Next stop was the ground floor, Berkeley Repertory Theater’s new play development program. where the work – called “Cambodian Rock Band” – was first developed in 2016.

All these years later, “Cambodian Rock Band” is finally ready to make its Bay Area premiere at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theater. Directed by Chay Yew, the live music play begins previews on Feb. 25 and runs through April 2.

The play, described as darkly funny, tells the story of a survivor of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime who returns to Cambodia after 30 years, just as his daughter is about to become one of the country’s most notable war criminals. to prosecute.


It features a soundtrack of classic Cambodian songs from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as modern Dengue Fever songs, performed by a live band on stage.

No, that live band is not Dengue Fever, but rather a group of actors trained in music.

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“We were actually helping the actors learn how to play our songs,” Holtzman says of Dengue Fever’s involvement during the play’s early stages of development.



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