FTT to present ‘Spring Awakening’
Serena Zacharias | Tuesday, April 17, 2018
To complete the semester, the Notre Dame Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) department will perform renowned rock musical “Spring Awakening.” The musical will be directed by FTT head of musical theatre Matt Hawkins and will run from April 18 to April 22 in the Patricia George Decio Theatre in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC).
Set in late 19th-century Germany, “Spring Awakening” tells the story of teenagers attempting to navigate their journey into adulthood.
Senior Grace Weissend plays the character Ilse in the production and said the play emphasizes the importance of communication in the coming-of-age process.
“The musical shows what happens when communication breaks between parents and children and when parents don’t trust their children with the information they need to become adults,” she said.
Based on a German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, Steven Satar and Duncan Sheik adapted “Spring Awakening” to a musical in response to the Columbine shooting.
“The idea was that the parents, the adults, were failing their children and the weapons were guns,” Hawkins said. “[Satar and Sheik] decided to write this and do an adaptation of Wedekind’s original play, and the weapon is sex.”
Sophomore Teagan Earley, who plays the character Wendla, said the cast had the unique opportunity to meet with “Spring Awakening” composer Duncan Sheik to discuss how the music directs the show.
“The thought is that if these children who are not allowed to talk in the classroom and are barely allowed to talk outside of their classroom could express themselves freely, it would come out as hard rock music,” Earley said.
Students will relate to “Spring Awakening,” Hawkins said, because of the modern music, the age of the characters and the universal themes it espouses.
“When you get to college you’ll be exposed to different people who have different values and different backgrounds,” he said. “Hard conversations will happen, but really healthy conversations will happen, so “Spring Awakening” is just perfect for young students at the height of their sexual experience and the height of trying to understand what is institution and who is suppressing them.”
Weissend said the music melds the modern and the antiquated, which makes it different from usual musical theatre conventions.
“Musical theatre gets a bad rap for being happy, sunshine, singing-and-dancing-land and fake conflict, but this show really explodes that stereotype because of its themes,” she said.
The focus on starting a dialogue has been apparent throughout the rehearsal process, Earley said.
“As the show is trying to encourage conversation between adults and kids, [Hawkins’s] directing style has been trying to encourage that dialogue as well,” Earley said. “When the Parkland shooting happened, we stopped rehearsal and we sat down and had a conversation about it and how it related to the show.”
In light of the connection between the topics of the show and the current political atmosphere of the country, Weissend said, the program is donating a portion of the box office proceeds to March for Our Lives, a series of national demonstrations last month that advocated for gun safety measures.
Hawkins said he hopes after seeing the show people can better recognize that the lack of communication between different generations has serious consequences.
“What’s hard about it is that the adults have been children before, not the other way around,” Hawkins said. “The adults have the knowledge, and they have the experience, but when they do not provide guidance, comfort and education on these hard subject matters, these young people will have to figure it out themselves.”
Hawkins, Earley and Weissend all said they want “Spring Awakening” to serve as a catalyst for important and necessary conversations and as an opportunity to enhance dialogue above all else.
“We live in a very polarized society nowadays, but I think ‘Spring Awakening’ will be an opportunity on this campus to engage in actual conversation to really connect as human beings,” Earley said.