LOGAN – Utah State University’s Department of Theater Arts is about to release a musical that literally has enough to offend just about everyone.
After months of preparation, when spring awakening premiered on Broadway in 2006, it took the theater world by storm. Based on a German play over 100 years old, with a modern screenplay by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Shelk, the musical drama tells the story of teenagers exploring the turmoil of teenage sexuality.
With an electrifying musical score that fuses alternative rock and folk music, the production won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
But the content of the musical remains solid. The show is recommended for ages 16 and up.
Specifically, the Department of Theater Arts advises ticket holders that spring awakening includes scenes depicting sex; masturbation; verbal, physical and sexual parental abuse; physical abuse, sexual assault and rape; teen pregnancy; Abortion; death; suicide; use of weapons; and strong language.
In fact, USU staff even hired an independent director of privacy to ensure that the content of spring awakening didn’t bother the young performers in its cast either.
Intimate directing is a fairly new thing in the theater community, according to Alli St. John, who describes her job as one of championing actors. In this role, she choreographs scenes that typically involve intimate physical contact and simulated sexual acts.
She empowers actors and directors by creating cultures of consent that help performers feel comfortable setting boundaries on stage and saying “no” when they feel unsafe.
“Traditionally, actors are trained to always say ‘yes’,” she explains. “They have always learned that you choose to be an actor, that you surrender to the art and that you have no boundaries. You have to be ready to do whatever you are asked to do.
“It caused a lot of harm and trauma to the actors,” adds St. John.
USU students have responded well to St. John’s training, according to theater arts department chair Paul T. Mitri, who said his department hopes to incorporate similar training into its curriculum and future productions. .
“We really see that students are very, very interested in this field,” he says. “If we can give them the opportunity to learn and practice, it will just give them a step up in their careers.”
spring awakening will be presented at the Morgan Theater at the Chase Fine Arts Center on the USU campus.
Evening performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on October 21, 22, 26, 27, 28 and 29.
A matinee will also be presented at 1 p.m. on October 29.