Spring Awakening presents us with a coming of age story where pre-pubescent teenagers are struggling to understand themselves and the world around them. Within that framework, I wanted to explore the damage that can be done when we aren’t connected with one another.
As stage director, I have chosen to update our production through the use of current technology (tablets, phones, etc.) to bolster the themes of connection loss within today’s culture and society. Perhaps this show needn’t be updated at all, as it was intended to remind us that these cautionary tales still play out today as they did in 1891 Germany. However, I believe that the artistic license to play with convention affords us (actor, audience or director) the opportunity to continuously create dialogue and connection in order to discuss artistic works of this level of importance.
Frank Wedekind’s Frühlings Erwachen (translation: “Spring’s Awakening”), written in 1890, carries with it the rarely used subtitle “A Children’s Tragedy.” Dealing with once taboo (and in many places, still taboo) issues of sexuality, puberty, rape, abuse, abortion, homosexuality, and suicide the notion of “tragedy” seemed clear: it is in the circumstances. The tragedy thus centers around the destructive things that can happen when we speak at each other instead of to each other.Over the past several years we have seen a rash of bullying and teen suicides around the country—many of them highly publicized. The issues these acts stem from are topics we confront in Spring Awakening, many of which could have been prevented—or at least mitigated—if the characters had been given the freedom and confidence to communicate and connect with each other or their elders. In a world where we have replaced face-to-face conversation with texts, snapchats, tweets, and subtweets, Spring Awakening provides a frightening reminder to us about what can happen when we quite literally stop talking with each other.