Friday, October 10, 2008

Play of the Week: Spring Awakening

Frank Wedekind's first play is one of the most important plays of the modern era of theatre history - much like Woyzeck is. Both plays are by German playwrights and both deal with subject matter that was unfamiliar to the theatre up to this point in history. Spring Awakening deals with adolescent issues that present even larger questions to us as adults: teen pregnancy, suicide, homosexuality, masturbation, abortion, and imposed sexual repression. As in an allegory, these ideas become easily polarized by setting the teen world against the adult world and both sides of the argument become very clear.

Both sides are not always seen. Most productions get hung up on the "teen angst" side of things and use it as a liberation piece. Indeed the success of the wildly popular musical version of the story seems to be marketed around teen sex and rebellious rock-and-roll. Many revivals of the original play miss the fact that Wedekind intended humor in much of the early part of the play. We get so caught up in the dark recesses of our repressed mind that we miss the outlets we allow ourselves through humor; his characters do the same.

Find a copy of the play and read it with an open mind. First find the comedy. Find places where you can roll on the ground with laughter at the sophomoric ideas the characters have. We are laughing at ourselves when we believed the same things in ignorant bliss. Then think about what causes that ignorance. Think about a way of presenting this play no that no one side is "right" or "wrong." Both sides are perfectly at home in our society and the question is usually which has the louder voice at any given moment in time. Is there a way to present this play so that both have an equal voice and the audience must debate within themselves which resonated most with them? Try to find a way to keep this play alive beyond the final curtain into the discussions at the pub or water cooler over the next week.

Read the full text online.

Happy Birthday: Helen Hayes (1900-1993) and Harold Pinter (b. 1930)

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