But I am sure that I love this play with every fiber of my being and I don’t believe in censorship of any kind.
The very argument of Spring Awakening is that when young people are denied permission to fully understand their world- chaos ensues. Adults may act to protect the young, yet I believe that with this beautifully stark adaptation of Wedekind’s classic Romantic play, contemporary authors Sater and Sheik prove that people can only become whole by the path of their own experience.
Yet, today you’re about to see the Beacon School production of Spring Awakening and not a lick of the script has been altered. Our remarkable students would accept nothing less.
B’DAT is a family. We spend countless hours together and we talk about everything. Spend 15 minutes in the theatre office and you’ll hear about college and AP Chemistry, Shakespeare, cinema and Jessica Chastain’s dress at the Oscars and how much chocolate and coffee we can consume before rehearsal. We talk about music and poetry and religion and faith and the future and the shape of our hearts. Yes we talk about feelings – but more than just gushing, as theatre artists we’re learning how our emotions evolve, how to manage their constant undulation and how to harness and ride them through the arc of a play like a surfboard on a tsunami.
But irony is my friend, you see, and in B’DAT we only have one real rule. Only one. We don’t kiss and tell. Personal business is personal and theatre business is business. We keep the drama ON stage and all that LOVE stuff elsewhere. Yes, we talk about everything but we don’t talk about… um… well…
So when my friend and colleague Jessica Bashline said, “Jo Ann, are you out of your mind? You’re going to be taking about sex with your students for three months!” the reality of this play slapped me rather abruptly in my way-too-old-to-be-this-naïve face. How on earth was I going to direct a play about puberty without censoring – myself? As the kids would say, “so awkward!”
And then we started rehearsal and we all discovered that Spring Awakening is about so much more. We started with a game. Tag. Everyone plays tag. When you’re little touching is not taboo. It is playful and fun. It is about surprises and laughter. But we’re taught that touching is dangerous very early in our adolescence and we begin to fear that any human contact could be misinterpreted as a sexual advance. As a company we had to deconstruct how we touch to create the trust essential to staging intimacy without putting anyone in danger. What resulted was the most generous and compassionate cast and crew B’DAT has ever experienced. They have taken such incredibly great care of one another.
And thus to the actors and technicians Spring Awakening is a much bigger experience than the obvious excitement about being the first high school in New York City to produce the play – uncut none the less. Nicole says this play is about protecting a woman’s right to manage her own body. To Dan, it is about “well everything”. For Ellen Spring Awakening is a group of people that she feels closer to than any other. Kaitlin said, “I mean Martha’s pain IS the cello, like I totally get that!” For Enrique it was about the music moving him so profoundly that he couldn’t help but throw himself into the work. Eliot had more fun than I can even begin to articulate. For Emma Young it is about the human connection, however intimate, fleeting and profound. For Judy is it about color and shape and light.
For me it is about capturing wonderment - a first kiss, a first play (Julia! Noah! Cameron! I am so crazy proud of you!) a broken heart, or a disappointment so devastating that the only way to survive is to embrace some new self-awareness, forgiveness and grace. It is about that first fall into nothing when your soul places itself in another’s and together you leap into the abyss of “what if?” It is about choosing love - despite the risk.
After rehearsal Lilli and I sometimes walk up the hill giggling at the adorable gaggle of young people bouncing into the twilight ahead. They are so full of wonderment. They are so this play. And we are so glad that we are far enough away from 16 to feel a teeny bit nostalgic and wise, but close enough still that our hearts can flutter a bit when we see light sparkle in their eyes.
What an honor this journey has been. We are all so lucky to share in your grace.
Thank you from the bottom of my humble playmaker’s heart.