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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

FPT director discusses bringing ‘Spring’ to campus

Published: April 1, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

Free Play Theater hopes to push boundaries this weekend with their production of Frank Wedekind’s controversial play “Spring Awakening,” which is about teenagers’ sexual awakenings in a repressive small town.

The 19th century German play, translated into English, has been banned numerous times in the history of its performance for its strong themes of sexuality and its broaching of controversial and sensitive topics such as suicide and abortion. Recently, the play has been adapted into a rock opera by Duncan Sheik that has made it more relevant for modern audiences. Free Play Theater rediscovers Wedekind’s more nuanced original.

Hillary Crum ’13, the director of “Spring Awakening,” sat down with The Hoot to discuss the play, sex and the desire to blow her audience’s minds.

Kayla Dos Santos: Why did you decide to do the German play “Spring Awakening”?

Hillary Crum: Free Play is about challenging the audience and leaving them with their jaws on the floor. “Spring Awakening” certainly does that. I love the musical, and I enjoyed the play a lot more than I expected. I read it in Scott Edmiston’s “Desires and Awakenings: the Search for Identity in Modern Drama” course.

KDS: How has Duncan Sheik’s rock adaptation affected putting on the play “Spring Awakening”?

HC: It was more an obstacle for me than for anyone else. I was so attached to the musical, I had to keep asking myself if I was so attached to a certain way of staging because I saw it in the musical, or because that was actually how I wanted it. I wanted to create a different experience.

KDS: How is the musical different from the play?

HC: The play has a non-consensual sex scene … there’s more gray area. Frank Wedekind’s script is a lot nicer to the kids. The musical shows them as sex-crazed teenagers, while in the original the characters have a lot more dimensions … There are specific nuances of the characters, little stylistic differences, specific reasoning for saying something.

KDS: The play has been banned numerous times for its focus on sexuality. What do you think makes it a controversial subject?

HC: Sexuality had a lot of potential. There is a heterosexual sex-scene on stage, as well as two boys kissing—which was so much sweeter. I think college students have heard it all, but sex was a taboo subject when the play was originally written. The scene with the two boys kissing was difficult at the beginning, but the two actors handled it very professionally.

KDS: What was your favorite part about directing “Spring Awakening”?

HC: My favorite part was watching my cast members take a piece of writing and make it into a performance. It’s a challenge because Wedekind’s play has such beautiful, dense language.

KDS: What was one of the biggest obstacles you faced?

HC: I had a really hard time casting it. There’s never enough boys, I had to go through UTC [Undergraduate Theatre Collective] casting. While the actors are not necessarily my top choice, all filled their parts amazingly well. The actor who plays Melchior, Yoni Bronstein [’13], came in every day with something new to say about Melchior. He’s still finding things and it’s two days before the show.

KDS: What do you hope audiences take away from “Spring Awakening”?

HC: I want to blow their minds. One of my high school directors told me that there has to be passion in directing, and that’s what I have for this play. I want to leave them reeling … and thinking about this for weeks.

Performances of “Spring Awakening” will be given in the Schwartz auditorium on April 1 at 8 p.m. and April 2 at 2 and 8 p.m.