Split Stage’s ‘Spring Awakening’ challenges viewers
A Tony Award-winning rock musical based on a controversial play “with cutting-edge ideas” set in late-19th-century Germany isn’t typical community theater fare, according to Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre.
But “Spring Awakening” by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, adapted from Frank Wedekind’s play, is right in line with Split Stage Productions’ commitment to staging innovative shows that don’t fit the mold of traditional offerings.
It is being billed as “Split Stage’s most daring production yet.”
Burgess-Lefebvre, associate professor of theater/communication at Robert Morris University, is directing the musical presented by Split Stage and produced in collaboration with The Theatre Factory.
“I think this production will delight those who are already fans of the script and challenge and thrill those who may be seeing it for the first time,” she says. “The more cutting-edge ideas are a wonderful connection to Split Stage’s mission to bring more unusual shows to the area.”
The topics of this rock musical — teenage sexuality, youth rebellion and self-discovery — are geared to a more mature audience.
“It does have some brief nudity and deals with teen suicide,” she says. “As with anything, parents should do some research first.”
One of the central characters is the naive Wendla Bergmann (played by Kristin Carmella of Cranberry), who becomes pregnant by Melchior Gabor (Cody Larko). Melchior’s best friend is Moritz Stiefel (Nick Black of Brookville), who is traumatized by the changes he is experiencing as he matures.
Carmella sees her character as beautiful because of her innocence and compassion.
“As an actress, I try not to let my character’s circumstances affect my life, but they certainly go through some heart-wrenching things in this play,” she says. “There are certain plot points in this show that affect me, and I’m sure most of the other members of the cast, very personally.”
Black’s character’s trauma also brought personal emotions to the surface during rehearsals.
“Revisiting that feeling every night is scary, but you’re telling a story, and if I think that, it keeps me grounded,” he says.
Burgess-Lefebvre says the cast of “Spring Awakening” comes from a rich and varied background and is committed to bringing honesty and truth to this piece.
“It does have mature themes of sexuality, but the more powerful themes are of loneliness and the search for how to get along in a society that encourages and rewards intellect but doesn’t know how to do the same for emotional intelligence,” she says.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.