Spring Awakening shocks, resonates


A revelation of teenage truths, sexual stirrings and adolescent angst experienced throughout history to present day, Frank Wedekind's wonderfully twisted tale, Spring Awakening, has it all.

Set in Victorian era Germany, this so-called "children's tragedy" follows the escapades of Melchior, Moritz, Wendla and their young friends. The group is experiencing their sexual awakening and becoming curious about their bodies, masturbation and each other. Their teachers and parents, respectable adults all, fight to keep these young people on the straight and narrow, with often hilarious and disastrous results. While the characters struggle toward an uncertain future, several wither and fail to survive the awakening of spring.

Students prepare the backdrop for the twisted tale, Spring Awakening.

"At the time Spring Awakening was written, in 1891, it was so outside the norm in both content and form that Wedekind faced heavy scrutiny," says director Jay Whitehead. "With its candid inclusion of sex, masturbation, suicide, homosexuality and even sado-masochism, the play was considered far too shocking for any government to allow it to be performed. Even 15 years later, when it was finally staged, it was never done so uncensored. However, our production has censored none of Wedekind's original vision."

Whitehead adds that the shock value of the play does not hinder its message.

"The play is poignantly relevant to our time," he says. "When sexual confusion and misguided notions of morality are leading youth to put a gun in their mouth or jump off the George Washington Bridge, this play is as important as it ever was. I chose the translation by award winning author, Jonathan Franzen, because of his approach to the original text. Certainly this is a play with a strong social conscience and the message resonated all the more packaged in the extremely dark comic sensibility of Franzen's translation. "

With sets and costumes designed by MFA drama student, David Barrus, Spring Awakening promises to be a mesmerizing night of theatre.

"The set is unlike anything I've seen or worked with before, and the costumes, featuring a chorus of grotesquely masked adult characters, fits beautifully with the weirdness of the overall production," says Whitehead.

Dark yet funny, stunning yet inspirational, Spring Awakening is an absorbing and memorable play. It shows at the University Theatre stage, Nov. 23-27 at 8 p.m. nightly.

For tickets, visit the University Box Office, Monday through Friday, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., or call 403-329-2616. Tickets are priced at $15 regular admission, $10 student/senior.