UK Theatre debuts ‘Spring Awakening’

By Judah Taylor | @kykernel

The smooth running machine of society will be stalled by adolescent angst in UK Theatre’s final performance of the academic year. “Spring Awakening,” a musical filled with taboo topics that has often been censored and outright banned for its content will open this weekend, in the Guignol Theatre.

The play, written in the early 1890s by Frank Wedekind, comments on the sexually oppressive society of 19th-century Germany, and the sexual fetishes that it breeds.

“This is a play about adolescent angst,” said UK Theatre Chair Nancy Jones. “There are young people having sex, masturbating, talking about young girls being molested by relatives, teen pregnancies and homosexuality.”

“Spring Awakening” doesn’t just talk about sex, but uses it to criticize the sexual culture of the time, which could be oppressive and even mechanical.

“The entire show is almost like a mechanism,” said mechanical engineering and theater freshman Beau McGhee, who plays Ernst in the show.

“German society is supposed to run very smooth and dry, almost like a machine,” McGhee said. “But everything the kids in the show are throwing into it, are clogging and stopping this machine. They are causing problems in German Society. There’s also the lack of knowledge of these kids as they’re coming of age. They are experiencing all kinds of things that they just don’t know about. They’re trying to fit them into the rigid society that they’ve been given, but that’s very hard of them and it causes some issues.”

The adult themes in a play about adolescents have often been seen as controversial, but the fact that it is dealt with in the form of a musical can really be shocking to some.

“Spring Awakening” deals with “stuff that most people find controversial for a musical,” Jones said. “Most people want to go to a musical and see tap dancing, but this one will really make you think.”

While preparing to stage the eight-time Tony Award-winning show, UK invited a member of the original cast to work with them. Jonathan Groff, who led as Melchior in the show’s original Broadway run, gave the UK cast feedback during a visit before spring break. He said in a video on the theater department’s website that the UK cast was so good that the performance moved him to tears.

“I was blown away, truly,” he said in the video. “The kids in this show are so phenomenally talented, they’re so perfect for all of their roles and, most importantly, they’re connected to this material and to each other and are giving really special, unbelievable performances.”

“Spring Awakening” opens this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Guignol Theatre. Following performances will be April 19 and 20, and 25-27 at 7:30 p.m., and April 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students, and $15 for the public.