Rewind and return to the days of high school and drama — how could you forget them? “Spring Awakening” is a musical that highlights the curiosity, anxiety and anger of that stage in life. When rock ‘n’ roll meets dramatic teenage angst, excellent theatrical entertainment results.
Tonight at 8 p.m. through Feb. 19, various times
Arthur Miller Theatre
The School of Music, Theatre & Dance is presenting the show at the Arthur Miller starting tonight. This musical, with music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater, is an adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s German play that delves into the lives of teenagers as they grapple with puberty, the mysteries of sex, abusive relationships and suicide. With a fusion of folk and rock music, the actors face the traditional subjects of growing up.
MT&D sophomore Ryan Vasquez, who plays the protagonist’s best friend Moritz, explained his own interpretation of the musical.
“It is a coming-of-age tale about teenagers dealing with real, dark issues,” Vasquez said. “It’s about relationships and friendships, how they develop and grow apart and how outside factors influence them. It is appealing to college-age students who are just getting through that process and getting (their) bearings about issues (they) have all dealt with in the past.”
The play focuses on discovering sexuality in all its forms, including rape, intercourse and homosexuality, and depicts the role of parents in children’s lives. When parents ignore their children and fail to address the issues they face, problems ensue. Temptation lies at the core of the play, and over its course, the characters reveal how they handle those trials.
Malcolm Tulip, “Spring Awakening” director and associate professor of theatre, discussed the messages that the play conveys.
“We should listen to children as they grow up, remember our own experiences and then act in a way that doesn’t injure them,” Tulip said.
Tulip emphasized how the songs create a three-way dialogue with the characters, their inner selves and the audience. In a traditional musical, the songs are a continuation of the narrative and underscore a particular aspect of the character or their circumstances. However, in “Spring Awakening,” the songs more directly address the situations that occur by being framed in the mind of a character, so they reveal a different perspective to what the audience just witnessed. Furthermore, the songs are very contemporary and speak to the everyday audience.
This adaptation is stripped down to the bare essentials. The scenery is minimal, with only black, acting-class blocks populating the space, emphasizing the experiences of the characters and how they deal with their problems.
Critics have rebuked past productions of the play for exposing youth to nudity and sexuality. Some have even tried to censor the show, claiming it presents an immoral message that should not be brought to the stage. Tulip explained how Wedekind’s play was banned in Germany at the end of the 19th century, and today we are still debating the same issues — little has changed.
“We still have discussions in the media (about) whether teenagers should have access to contraception or birth control, and that discussion is still going on and some adults are still upset and don’t want it in the schools,” Tulip said. “And sometimes, education is compromised by people’s belief systems.”
From this perspective, when a topic is controversial, it becomes even more important to bring it to people’s attention. “Spring Awakening” will attempt to awaken audience members to the problems of teens and it will flower a perspective on how to address those issues.