The Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening” opens on campus April 22 with the goal of enlightening and informing.
Adapted from an 1891 German expressionist play by Frank Wedekind that faced its own share of controversy, the show confronts various themes of teenage life that are still just as present today.
The musical engages with topics such as education, religion and sexuality.
“Addressing issues and bringing them to the forefront makes one actually think about them,” Kyle Montgomery, who plays Moritz Stiefel in the show, said. “Though it may make people feel uncomfortable to think about abuse, homosexuality and rape, it is necessary in order to prevent deeper issues and to stop these events from happening.”
Director and choreographer Penny Maas, an assistant professor of musical theatre and former Broadway actress and choreographer, said the show is about both knowledge “and the lack thereof,” as well as facing truths and consequences.
Wendla, the lead female role in the play, does not understand her changing body. With curiosity and trepidation, she experiences her new appearance and feelings, similarly to how the male characters Melchior and Moritz do.
Wendla and Melchior are eventually overcome with a desire unlike anything they’ve experienced before and soon find themselves facing the consequences.
The musical deals with the confusion that occurs when hormones and maturity mix with the ignorance created from a sexually repressed culture.
“Spring Awakening” serves as a cautionary tale that brings light to the dangers, deconstruction and unraveling of a society that refuses to face and speak its truths, Maas said.
The angst and the drama are exposed in a modern light, highlighting the fact that coming-of-age is a timeless struggle.
“It is 1891 Germany in scenes and a contemporary day rock concert during the songs,” Maas said. “These songs are universal and they transcend time, for these problems and worries transcend time.”
Anthony Fortino, a junior accounting and theatre double major, plays Melchior in the show. He said that the original source material comes from at a time when suicide and abortion were major, but taboo issues, and that the play was written to open discussion.
“It is still applicable in todays society and we are not afraid to show that we are bringing awareness to the fact that these issues are still happening today,” Fortino said.
The actors said they are staying true to the original language in the script, even though some of the language is racy and may make people feel uncomfortable.
“Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, the composer and lyricist, agonized over every lyric and note and made deliberate choices,” said Maas. “You can’t take something out because it changes the integrity and meaning of the show.”
Maas said the only change she is making to the original show is with regard to scenes involving nudity.
“I believe you can tell the story without it and I don’t think you need to be nude in order to understand the passion of these kids,” said Maas.
Setting the scene is left to the lighting designer, Matthew Wofford, a senior theatre design major.
Wofford said he will use lighting as a tool for one’s imagination.
“During the scene where there would be nudity, the actors will be shown in silhouette, leaving it up to the audience to figure out the scene,” Wofford said.
Michael Heil, associate professor of theater and the show’s set designer, said he wanted the set to convey the issues appropriately in an environment based on the 19th century, but also be influenced by the 21st century.
With only a month and a half of rehearsals, Maas said the actors had a short time to explore their characters and work with her to find a way to expose these issues while still feeling comfortable on stage.
“One of my favorite things is just letting the actors create something that speaks their language and expresses their feelings and then stepping in at the end to make it a cohesive piece,” Maas said.
The actors said they are excited to perform on campus because this show will address issues that students face and provide a learning experience for all.
“It will be good for TCU students to see their fellow peers put on something that maybe they should open their eyes to,” Montgomery said.
Fortino agreed, and said he thinks the pop-rock style and lyrics will really resonate with college students.
Kiera Kindsfather, a senior theatre production major and stage manager for the show, said this musical is great for young adult audiences and has a really important message.
“It magnifies what can happen if people aren’t talking to each other and shows that communication and raising awareness of issues are so important,” Kindsfather said.
“Spring Awakening” will be performed in the Hays Theatre on April 22-25 at 7:30 p.m., April 26 at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. and April 27 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are going fast and the April 22 and 23 performances are already sold out.
Tickets are $10 for TCU students and there is a waiting list for every show for last-minute tickets. For more information, call the Theatre TCU box office at 817-257-8080.
“I challenge you to come see this rock concert musical and then talk about the issues that were addressed with your friends,” Heil said. “The show will bring up questions that are uncomfortable to ask or give responses to, but it has to be done.”