Spring Awakening - July 21 - July 30, 2017

JustArt Theatricals

 Context and Commentary 

Spring Awakening, the original 19th century German play upon which the musical is based, was seminal and important. It spoke to the transition away from the realist movement in the theatre of the time and signalled the transition into an exciting new world of theatrical expressionism. Due to the subject matter and frank handling of sexuality and violence, the play was infrequently produced, and often banned. However, there were some important productions of it, most notably the original production in 1906. This version, produced by Max Reinhart at the Deutsches Theater was one of the earliest examples of true "Epic" theatre, a form later mastered by the wildly influential Bertolt Brecht. 


From the Profound...

It is important to note that the Epic Theatre style relies on an engagement in the truth of the content by the audience. It was the belief of practitioners of the style that this truth was impossible to conceive of within the confines of theatrical presentation. Basically, if I'm seeing a story that is posing as really happening to actual people, but I know I'm in a theater and I know I'm seeing a play then I can never truly connect to the potential reality of the circumstance of the characters. If I acknowledge the essential untruth of the dramatic form I can dispense with worrying about veracity, or the accurate representation of reality, and I can begin to focus on the impact, the meaning, of the story. 


This idea led to the Brechtian "alienation effect", wherein the audience is confronted with the truth that they are involved in a theatrical, not actual, event and "alienated" from the supposed reality of the story. This essential directing philosophy drove the century of artistic innovation to follow. 


...to the Profane.

Much is made of the "bad" language in the show, as well as the sexual and violent aspects of the story. This show can put people on edge. That being said, if one is attentive, it can be seen that the "profanity" is used intentionally, and the same can be said for the other, less savory, elements of the play. 


The primary characters in the story are adolescents at various stages of unhappiness. It is important to note that their use of profanity is specifically tied to their mental and emotional state. The play progresses and the degree of their trauma increases while the suppression of who they are intensifies. It is in moments of acting out when their expression turns from poetic (as it is in nearly all the songs) to profane. This framing of their acting out within a vocabulary that exemplifies the indulgence, linguistic violence, or plain teenage tantrum throwing suggests that it isn't about prurience, but rather about showing how desperate, and realistic, these kids are.


The same, most likely then, can be said for the ways in which sex and violence are portrayed. It is clear that the characters who engage in these behaviors are trying to figure out who they are. They have varying degrees of intellectual understanding of the world, here symbolized by an understanding of sex, and those variations lead to imbalances of power and, ultimately, tragedy. 


The real heart of Spring Awakening is that in the wake of destruction wrought by angry, confused, hormonal, terrified, ecstatic children, hope and growth are possible, and, like the progression from spring to purple summer, inevitable. This is a dark story, but a true one. And, like our darkest truths, made beautiful by our ability to transcend and grow from our pain.


Director's Thanks


To my children, Zack and Carey: As I work to tell stories of a world out of balance, and give voice to the desperately voiceless, I am determined to use this art to try to build a world worthy of your beauty, love, humor, spirit. I want to affect change so that you may live in a world that deserves you.


To my wife, Melissa: Your willingness to support me in the pursuit of my dreams is stunning. Your belief in the goodness of this work for our family, and for the world is constantly inspiring. Truly, I could do none of this, without you and I am entirely grateful for all you do for us.


To everyone, family and friend, who has nudged, guided, or pulled me on the path toward JustArt, Thank you...


"Watch me, just watch me. I'm calling. And one day all will know."

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