In his Frühlings Erwachen, Frank Wedekind attacks the static unyielding nature of bourgeois society while advocating for greater openness through the free exchange of ideas. The original Springs Awakening presents us with dire warnings. Yet for all its turbulent content, the show ends with a sense of optimism for the coming century as Melchior goes off to explore free of the burdens of the old ways. It is hard to imagine that at the dawn of yet another century the story of Wedekind’s “Children’s Tragedy” would still hold relevance, embodied in the Punk Rock adaptation Spring Awakening by Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater. How can this story of transformation still resonate across so many generations separated by the cataclysmic events of that wondrous and horrible twentieth century?
“All is Revealed” “Nothing is Hidden” “Stasis verses Modernity”
These three phrases were the starting point for the visual collaboration in this production. From the band onstage to the absence of masking and the exposure of the lighting fixtures, the creative team worked to express these simple terms in all aspects of the production. Through the collaborative process, the team determined that the costumes would maintain the stasis inherent in the period of the setting, while the lighting would primarily express the idea of modernity, specifically through the extensive use of bare light bulbs and practical fixtures on the set. Additionally, we did not hesitate to allow shadows to be cast on the walls of the theatre to further enhance the theatricality of the event.
Through Melchior’s journey of discovery we see the weather implicit in this work. The urgency of spring to mature into summer serves as an impactful metaphor throughout the musical. As the play ends, the cast sings “The Song of Purple Summer” with the words that describe a change. “The earth will sway with corn, The days so wide, so warm,… A song of what’s to follow – the glory of the spring… the clouds begin to thunder, Crickets wander, murmuring.”
One would think that in this age of information, where we carry the internet in our pockets and change is the status quo, that the story of Spring Awakening would seem trite and improbable. However our new century, barely a decade old, has proven itself to be as turbulent as its predecessor, with our dreams of the “Age of Aquarius” coming to naught. As artists we must continue to rail against hegemony and the rigidity of thought so that we can effect societal change towards a greater openness and acceptance of ideas. We do this through the stories that we tell.