Spring Awakening: An Arousal of Knowledge

By Katelyn Newman

Image from the Diamondback, diamondbackonline.com
Image from the Diamondback, diamondbackonline.com

After a year-long process of casting, rehearsing and alternative thinking, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center delivers “Spring Awakening” to the stage. Taking a spin from Frank Wedekind’s original play and delivering a musical performance, “Spring Awakening” explores patriarchal-versus-natural culture and the power of knowledge as an awakening tool.

“It’s about kids, and it’s about high school kids, so it’s about people and places and roles that our students can play from real life—they can draw from their own lives and their own experiences,” co-director Brian MacDevitt said. “It’s immediate, and its topics are immediate to our society now.”

Written originally by Frank Wedekind in the late 19th century, the University of Maryland’s “Spring Awakening” combines dance, theater and voice departments for the production. Using dancers labeled ‘elementals,’ the show portrays the desired, natural and free essences of the main characters, who are locked into their patriarchal society.

“The students must obey the parents and must obey the church, and it goes against nature,” MacDevitt said, who is a well-known lighting designer for Broadway productions, including “The Book of Mormon.” Spring Awakening” was his first production as a director for the performing arts center.

The performance had three directors including MacDevitt, Sara Pearson and associate professor of dance Patrik Widrig, and will be presented eight times between Feb. 28 and March 8.  The folk-rock music by Duncan Sheik and original choreography aims to expose the emotions behind this coming-of-age comedic tragedy.

“We tried to tune into the feelings of ‘Spring Awakening,’” said Pearson, an associate professor of dance at this university since 2009. “The sense of danger, the sense of questioning, the sense of softening the heart, the sense of betrayal, the sense of wonderment, and the sense of awakening, really.”

MacDevitt and Pearson said that they left many of the decisions to the students in order to involve the performers in both the presentation and meaning behind the rock musical.

For lighting designer Rob Denton, his main angle in the production was to show that true instincts naturally break through the patriarchal barriers that society installs.

“The confinement of light starts to come through and the sense of nature from the outside world is starting to break in through their world.” said Denton, a third year graduate student studying lighting design. “I feel that [Spring Awakening] applies to everyone with this power of sense and discovery and knowledge.”

“I really didn’t know this show coming into it—I listened to the music a while ago once, but I’m so glad I tried out—it’s an amazing show,” said Zac Brightbill, a junior theater and communications major who played Melchior in the performance.

“’Spring Awakening’’s about knowledge, and how that knowledge should be shared among people and at what point in their lives,” Brightbill said. “It’s coming to terms with the ability to share that knowledge, and openness about sharing that knowledge and being understanding when people don’t understand.”


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