MSU’s production of “Spring Awakening” is an unforgettable show, but what about it, exactly, will audiences find the most striking? The rock music? The contemporary issues? The insanely talented cast? (Maybe the weird German names getting thrown around?) See for yourself and make your own decision: “Spring Awakening” is opening Friday, April 7, and it’s a production you won’t want to miss.
“Spring Awakening” is a rock musical following several German teenagers coming-of-age in the late 1800s and dealing with love, sex, and parental expectations. The original play was written by Frank Wedekind in 1891 and was banned for dealing with provocative issues in such an explicit manner. “Spring Awakening” was converted into a rock musical in 2006 and features music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater. If one is wondering why MSU’s School of Film & Photography (SFP) chose to stage such a provocative musical, the answer lies in the enduring relevance of the issues raised in the play.
“It’s about teenagers coming of age, and all of the anxieties, frustrations, and angst that go along with those teenage years,” Cara Wilder, SFP professor and director of “Spring Awakening” said. “Dealing with sexuality, issues of abuse, parental expectations, suicide… We’re trying to target a college-aged audience. [The Black Box] is the student theater—we want the plays to be interesting and intriguing and relevant to student lives.”
MSU’s production of “Spring Awakening” is an interdisciplinary effort that brought together students and faculty from the School of Film & Photography, the School of Music and the College of Engineering. Tom Delgado and Tom Watson of the SFP designed the lights and constructed the set, respectively, along with a fair amount of student help. Jeremiah Slovarp, from the School of Music, is designing the sound with his students, and Stefan Stern is handling the music direction. “Spring Awakening” also features a rotating turntable in the middle of the stage, as well as a lift that is used to raise actors off of the ground; both of these technical features were designed by students from the College of Engineering and are being heavily utilized in the production.
“The creative team has been amazing, and as director, I feel so lucky to have all of these professionals around to facilitate everything,” Wilder said.
The talent of those involved with “Spring Awakening” is evident as soon as one steps into the Black Box Theater. Anyone who is familiar with the Black Box knows that it’s a small, intimate theater, but the people behind “Spring Awakening” have expertly maximized the space. The set is magnificently constructed, featuring set pieces that elegantly convey the setting and a stage that dominates the floor space. The music is performed by a live band situated in a corner of the theater: half the band is on the floor, and the other half is up on a balcony woven into the set design. The intimate, enclosed nature of the Black Box Theater means that audiences will be up close to the events of “Spring Awakening.”
“This play is perfect for the Black Box. It will bring the action right to the audience,” Wilder said. “It’s going to be a real in-your-face kind of show.”
As Wilder explained, even the experienced actors in the cast have had new experiences working in “Spring Awakening.”
“For a lot of the cast, this is the first rock musical they’ve ever done. And a rock musical is a different style of musical,” Wilder said. “It’s got a lot of emotion. And the cast is having a lot of fun with it.”
“It’s exciting, it’s edgy, it’s insane,” Lauren Lane, who plays Wendla Bergmann, said. “There’s a lot of risks going on.”
“I like to think of this play as, instead of ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,’ it’s more like ‘sex, rock ‘n’ roll, and death,” Justin White, who plays Otto, said. “That’s the simplest way I can summarize it.”
However, Wilder also emphasized that, though the musical deals with some heavy subject matter, “Spring Awakening” is a very energetic show.
“It’s a fun show! It’s not all a dark commentary on social issues,” Wilder said, laughing. “It’s an experience audiences won’t forget. People will be amazed by the amount of talent that’s involved in all aspects of the show.”
“Spring Awakening” opens April 7 and will be running through April 23. Performances are on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 3 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. Tickets are $12 for students and $15 for general admission. Tickets may be purchased at the door or can be purchased in advance at First Interstate Bank in the SUB, in the Visual Communications Building, or at Cactus Records. This play contains nudity and is recommended for ages 15 and older.