’Spring Awakening’ Rocks
UC Davis with Bold, Soulful Song and Dance
(Updated November 8, 2013)
Presented by the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance, “Spring Awakening,” the rock musical and winner of eight Tony Awards, is directed by celebrated Granada Artist-in-Residence Stafford Arima with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik.This provocative exploration of the journey from adolescence to adulthood is based on the play by Frank Wedekind.”Spring Awakening” opens on Thursday, Nov.21 with final performance on Saturday, Dec.7 in Main Theatre, Wright Hall.There will be audience talkbacks with the director, cast and creative team members directly after the perfo rmances on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5.
The bold and poignant story of “Spring Awakening” follows a group of teenage friends as they cope with the agonies and ecstasies of discovering their sexuality. Through lyrics set to a pulsating alternative rock score and dynamic choreography by doctoral student Chris McCoy, the characters struggle to figure out who they are while dealing with difficult issues including abortion, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and suicide.
Set in late-19th century Germany, the angst, emotion, desire and romance still resonate with audiences today explains Director Stafford Arima.
“I chose to direct “Spring Awakening” here at UC Davis because I felt that the classic story of discovery would connect with students in an immediate way. The brilliant fusion of Wedekind, Sheik and Sater have created a body of work that celebrates love, transformation and the awakenings that live within all of us. “Spring Awakening” reminds us that we are not alone and that through the trials of life, we can find our way towards a ‘purple summer.’”
“The Song of Purple Summer” is one of the show’s many energized and soulful numbers. Lead character Wendla’s lament “Mama Who Bore Me” expresses an inability “to handle things” given her fearful mother too timid to explain the birds and the bees. Sexually-frustrated thoughts and desires are expressed by schoolmates in “The Bitch of Living” and young Martha’s profound woundedness is revealed in “The Dark I Know Well.”
Despite its honest portrayal of the complications of love, sex, social constraints and dark human experiences, “Spring Awakening” brings hope as in “Those You’ve Known,” explained by lyricist Stephen Sater to concern “the love still felt for those we have know that enables us to continue in the face of losing them.”
Director Arima compares the many visceral qualities of “Spring Awakening” to another musical theater blockbuster.
“’Rent’ and much later, ‘Spring Awakening’ were in many ways, directed towards a youthful audience, and I believe both shows gave young audiences a raw and heartfelt musical that they were clamoring for defying many conventions of traditional musical theater.”
While choreographing the UC Davis production, Chris McCoy has found this nonconformity challenging as well as motivating.
“The rock music and expressionistic style of the ‘Spring Awakening’ numbers allow for total creativity but also fight against typical musical theater dancing. Bill T. Jones, the original choreographer, created such an iconic movement vocabulary for the show that it has been a challenge to find my own dance language. Luckily our scenic design and space are very different from what was originally used and this has given me a wonderful canvas on which to create the dances.”
This “canvas,” created by award-winning scenic designer and Theatre and Dance Professor John Iacovelli, is industrial and abstract. Its Steampunk-like style permits McCoy’s movements to run wild.
“So many of the musical numbers are about teenage angst and the desire to bust out of the social constraints that bind us,” says McCoy. This is fun to choreograph because it opens itself up to just letting go and thrashing about and really rocking out. It’s wonderful to ask these college students to head-bang and jump off chairs and run through the aisles.”
The actors are enjoying the experience as well, according to Jessica Walsh, a UC Davis senior and communication major who plays the lead role of Wendla. “Although it’s only been a few weeks, I feel like I’ve grown more than I have in a year.”
Twenty of the 23-person cast represent a wide range of undergraduate academic disciplines with majors ranging from managerial economics to linguistics to human development. One cast member is a graduate student in dramatic art and one is a UC Davis alumnus. Lead actor Marcos Sastre III, who plays Moritz, is a UC Davis staff member employed as a full-time specialist at the Center for Mind and Brain.
“Moritz embodies a very intense, and somewhat crippling aversion to his inner demons—trials that are only exacerbated by a community of authority figures who do not support him, says Sastre III. “Being an extrovert myself, approaching Moritz’s sense of loneliness and abandonment has been a real challenge, but I believe exploring it throughout this process has helped me grow as an actor tremendously.”
Director Arima appreciates his diverse UC Davis cast and entire company.
“I have been amazed by the openness of the students, their incredible talents, and how eager they are to push themselves to their limits. I’ve also been blessed with a wonderful team including Chris McCoy (choreographer), John Iacovelli on sets, Maggie Morgan on costumes, Michael Palumbo (lighting), Ned Jacobson (sound), Musical Director Erik Daniells and Stage Manager Micaela Cirimeli who have helped me towards a unique UC Davis vision of ‘Spring Awakening.’”
“Thanks to this amazing creative team, the incredible ensemble of actors and the artistry of Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater, we expect to give audiences a vibrant evening of music, visual flair, exciting choreography and a narrative that reveals and heals.”
This production of “Spring Awakening” is rated R for adult material including violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
Stafford Arima Bio
Fall 2013 UC Davis Granada Artist-in-Residence Stafford Arima was nominated for an Olivier Award for his direction of the West End premiere of “Ragtime.” Other work includes: “The King and I,” “A Little Night Music” and “Miss Saigon” at Sacramento Music Circus; “Carrie” (Off-Broadway); “Allegiance” (The Old Globe); “Altar Boyz” (Off-Broadway); “Bare” (2012, Off-Broadway); “The Tin Pan Alley Rag” (Roundabout Theatre Company); “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris” (Stratford Shakespeare Festival); “Candide” (San Francisco Symphony); “Ace” (The Old Globe); “The Secret Garden” (World AIDS Day benefit concert, NYC); “Bright Lights, Big City” (Prince Music Theater); “A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim” (Boston Pops); ”The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea” (San Diego Rep.); “Total Eclipse” (Toronto); “Children’s Letters to God” (Off-Broadway); and “Bowfire” (PBS television special). www.staffordarima.com.
What: “Spring Awakening,” an eight-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical concerns teenage discovery of sexuality. Rated R for adult material including violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater; Music by Duncan Sheik
Based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Directed by UC Davis Granada Artist-in-Residence Stafford Arima
Where: Main Theatre, Wright Hall, UC Davis
When: Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 21-23, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 24, 2 p.m.;Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 5-7, 8 p.m.
Tickets: General $18/22; Students & Seniors $16/20
Purchase tickets: 530.754.2787 or 866.754.2787; tickets.mondaviarts.org
More info including group ticket rates: theatredance.ucdavis.edu; facebook.com/UCDtheatredance