‘Spring Awakening’ will rock UCD with bold, soulful song and dance

By From page A9 | November 19, 2013

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Jessica Walsh stars as Wendla in a UC Davis production of "Spring Awakening." Abigail Alcala, UCD/Courtesy photo

Check it out
What: “Spring Awakening”
Where: Main Theatre, Wright Hall, UC Davis
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 21-23; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24;8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 5-7
Tickets: $18-$22 general, $16-$20 students and seniors
Info: Call 530-754-2787 or 866-754-2787, or visit tickets.mondaviarts.org

Rating: R for adult material including violence, sexuality, nudity and language.

“Spring Awakening,” the rock musical and winner of eight Tony Awards, will be presented by the UC Davis department of theater and dance under the direction of Granada Artist-in-Residence Stafford Arima.
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 a final performance on Saturday, Dec. 7, in Wright Hall’s Main Theatre. There will be audience talkbacks with the director, cast and creative team members directly after the performances on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5.

The bold and poignant story of “Spring Awakening,” with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, 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.

“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,” Arima said. “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 toward 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.”

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 toward a youthful audience,” he said. “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.”

This “canvas,” created by award-winning scenic designer John Iacovelli, a theater and dance professor, is industrial and abstract. Its Steampunk-like style permits McCoy’s movements to run wild.
The actors are enjoying the experience as well, according to Jessica Walsh, a UCD 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 UCD 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,” Sastre said.

“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.”

Special to The Enterprise

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