Spring Awakening Blooms in a new Adaptation

By Michelle Leibowitz, Bloc Reporter 

The University of Maryland’s adaptation of Spring Awakening, a musical focused on sex, diverged from the original Broadway version at its opening night Feb. 28.

The musical, directed by Brian MacDevitt, Sara Pearson and Patrik Widrig, opened to an audience of about 400 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, according to Alex Pile, guest experience manager for the center.

“I have never seen the Broadway version, but I know from what I hear that it’s different because they don’t have dancers,” said Jenay McNeil, a senior theatre major who plays Ilse in the show.

“We have [the dancers] on stage most of the time to represent anything we need them to represent.”

The performers take on each other’s roles, where actors dance and dancers sing.

This is the university’s first full-scale production musical that incorporates students from both the dance department and theatre department, McNeil said.

“It’s very different. In the original, every time there was a song, someone jumped on stage and sang. We’re making it more smooth,” said Andrew Cissna, the production designer.

The barefoot dancers, who wore white loose-fitting clothing and had twigs in their hair, moved in fluid-like motions.

Dissimilar from the original, dancers in the university’s version represent nature and love, while the actors signify patriarchy and violence, Cissna said.

The musical Spring Awakening is inspired by a German play Frank Wedekind wrote in 1891 as a social commentary on patriarchy.

Throughout the show teenagers face turmoil as they discover their sexuality in a society that bans sexual freedom.

“We really want to start a conversation with this piece and the topics that it brings up,” McNeil said.

“People think Spring Awakening is that show about sex, but it’s not about just that. It’s about the boundaries that don’t give teenagers the space to feel safe about what their bodies are capable of doing.”

The recommended viewing age is 17 as the musical is laced with profanity and sexual innuendos, with song titles such as, “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked.”

The audience applauded when the actors ended a scene by sticking up their middle fingers.

The performance took on serious tones as actors portrayed scenes of abuse, teenage pregnancy, abortion and suicide.

The lighting crew lit the stage in shadows to represent the masking of the truth that occurs in a strict patriarchal society.

“We lit the stage to inflict emotional context, as well as to tell a story,” said Robert Denton, the lighting designer. “The truth is hidden and shadows help play the role of fear.”

Cat Ashley, a senior chemical engineering major, rushed to buy her ticket when she found out about the production.

“In general, I think everything was so complex and well together that it made for an incredible show,” she said.

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