Student-directed adaptation of ‘Spring Awakening’ premieres

Janos Cseh, ’15, and Jessica Pierson Turner, ’14, rehearse for Spring Awakening on Monday, Nov. 26.

This fall semester, Student Experimental Theatre presents a translation of the play “Spring Awakening.” The show is completely student-produced, from the lighting to the costume design.

Originally written by German dramatist Frank Wedekind, “Spring Awakening” deals with the impulsive feelings of youth and the coming-of-age changes that surround sex education. The audience is taken on a journey following students through the confusion in growing up.

The characters deal with issues of rape, abuse, homosexual relationships and suicide, issues that are still relevant and crucial to present day youth.

SET brings together experienced actors along with newcomers, ranging from first-years to seniors. Returning actors are dealing with different transitions in roles while newcomers are still learning the ropes of theatre.

Lauren Reiff, ‘14, said that “Spring Awakening” is a new kind of theatre for her and has convinced her that she is capable of more intense dramatic roles. Riff was previously involved with Allegheny’s productions of “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

“I’m very conservative but I read the show and really liked it,” Riff said. “It’s given me an open mind. It shows I can do challenging material. It’s always a great moment as an actor when you don’t have to fake it. When you come off stage, wow, you can’t describe the moment.”

SET also gives students the opportunity to participate in the behind-the-scenes work of the performances.

Zoe Aaron, ’13, has been a costume designer at the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts since she was a first-year, but she also played the role of Peaceblossom in the Playshop’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”

After the SET audition process, Aaron brings everyone in for measurements and starts pulling items from the shop for the costumes. She said that the costumes in this particular performance are not very elaborate, so most of her work involved adding details to basic items.

Many of the actors said that the student-run aspect of the environment has made bonding with the cast easier, because all members feel welcome and comfortable.

“I like it a lot, it’s a community,” said Duane Horton, ’14, who plays Dr. Seltzer, Rev. Bleekhead and Mr. Garbor. “I feel actors all have something in common. I like bonding with the cast, like people who would never usually talk.”

Blair Hartman, ’14, is directing the play. Hartman has previously written, directed, designed and performed for both Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre and SET. Her first experience with theatre at Allegheny was a One-Act performance in her freshman year. She took a directing class her sophomore year and then directed the One-Act performance called “Chasing the Sun.”

Hartman chose “Spring Awakening” and proposed it to the board, who granted permission.

“It speaks to me in so many ways,” said Hartman. “All the pains of growing up, of the adults in our lives trying to shape who we’re growing up to be, of the friends we’ve lost and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. It’s all put to the test in this play in both very dark and very funny ways.”

Hartman gives credit to Sam Hoderlein, ’15, and Hannah Cross, ’15, for keeping her sane during the directing process. She also thanks her cast for giving her this opportunity for her to grow as a director.

“My cast has been incredible,” Hartman said. “They’re so talented, so enthusiastic and so dedicated to this work. Getting to work with each and every one of them over the past two months has been a gift.”

Members of Hartman’s cast said that they love the freedom she gives them with the script.

“Blair is big on following your impulses. She said, ‘If you want to touch your face, do a handstand, go for it!’” said Christopher Schuchert, ’16, who plays Hansy, Gaston and Professor Killaflye.

The play opened Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 and ran through Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012.