Despite its setting in late 19th century Germany, the Dramat fall mainstage production “Spring Awakening,” explores themes that are still relevant to Yale students today.
“Spring Awakening” — set to open next weekend at the Yale Repertory Theatre — was written by Tony Award-winning writer Steven Sater and features music by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik. A pop-rock musical, “Spring Awakening” tells the story of a group of 14-year-olds resisting societal norms.
“It’s about wanting to feel something,” said Ethan Riordan ’22, who plays protagonist Melchior Gabor. “It’s about wanting to do something that is real and true.”
The Dramat hires professional directors for the fall mainstage musical and the spring mainstage play. “Spring Awakening” is directed by Ivey Lowe, a New York-based director and developer of new theatrical works.
According to Riordan, the title of the musical reflects the revelations of the teenagers as they begin to question authority. Primarily, the show focuses on sexual awakenings. Riordan and Anderson both said that Lowe and the production team have been sensitive and constructive in addressing the musical’s sexual content.
“Spring Awakening” does not shy away from dark topics and includes graphic content such as rape and physical violence. Alaina Anderson ’21 — whose character, Wendla Bergmann, figures prominently in these sensitive scenes — said that navigating these issues has been “all hands on deck” and that the comfort of the actors remained a priority throughout the process.
According to Anderson, Lowe, who has training in fight choreography and intimacy choreography, has emphasized the importance of a respectful process. Lowe did not respond to request for comment on the record.
“We make sure that everyday when we go into rehearsal, we establish consent that we are okay to rehearse these scenes today,” Anderson said.
According to Riordan, preparations began with an in-depth discussion of the issues presented in the musical. Rehearsals of the sensitive scenes were first rehearsed “closed,” meaning that only Lowe and the actors involved were present, in order to make the actors feel comfortable. Throughout the process, rehearsals of sensitive scenes began with verbal consent of participation and ended with a brief check-in with actors involved.
Anderson said that working with an expert gives students the opportunity to experience a professional production process.
“[Lowe] let me be there 100 percent of the time,” said assistant director Yesim Celebi ’21.
Celebi said that Lowe has been a positive mentor and teacher for her, especially as she considers pursuing theater after graduation.
As the show enters its “tech week,” members of the cast and crew alike are excited about what they have already accomplished.
“[This musical] gave me the opportunity to grow a beard, which I’ve always wanted to try,” joked Toby Richkind ’21, who plays one of the two adult characters. “But in all seriousness, the show really grapples with what are the societal pressures the kids have to fight against and how is it that a community can come together to fight back.”
“Spring Awakening” will show in the Yale University Theatre at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.
Lindsay Daugherty | firstname.lastname@example.org .