“Spring Awakening” takes Urban Theatre in new directions

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Blake Case, Staff Writer

The Urban School of San Francisco Theatre Department chose “Spring Awakening” for their fall production, an unusual choice compared to previous musicals. Fall productions in the past have included a musical adaptation of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” featuring 50’s music, and “Oh Kay,” a cheery prohibition period piece with music by George Gershwin. Spring Awakening was a completely new direction.

  The production went into depth on difficult themes, including teenage sexuality, rape, suicide, and abuse. Assistant Director and cast member Sarah Morse (‘18) took part in previous Urban School Fall Productions, and saw her senior production as an opportunity to spur conversation about the topics.

  “Instead of having this be like past fall productions, our goal is to make it so we are having a conversation with Urban, and it’s not just something that people come to see and are meant to think about by themselves,” said Morse. “We want to help the discussion.”

  The Urban Theatre Department also has put on the Peer Ed show, which often tackles controversial themes among the cast, students, and Peer Resource members themselves, the student counselors and veteran performers of the show. Similar to those who participate in Peer Ed theatre, the cast of “Spring Awakening” took proactive measures to start a conversation surrounding difficult themes. Cast members Willa Barnett (‘18) and Sam Masto (‘18) reached out to affinity groups, including Students For Women’s Equality and Rights (SWEAR) and Young Men’s Group (YMG), to create conversations focused on tough conversations.

  “It’s been helpful for me to try and lead the conversation a bit more, so that I’m less anxious about people coming to it and just getting the shock value stuff,” said Barnett, who played a lead role in the musical. The cast itself took time within their D-Period classes to discuss the characters themselves and how to create these difficult scenes.

  “Being able to discuss [the character’s] actions as a cast is really important to how I want to play the character, because it’s going to be sending an important message to the community,” said Masto, who played the male lead.

  Discussion proved invaluable to cast, who struggled to portray these themes. “It will inspire a ton of conversation and dialogue across generations, not only within the Urban community and amongst ourselves, but outside of it,” said Shafia Zaloom, a Health Education Teacher. “Spring Awakening” was originally written in 1891 by Frank Wedekind and was adapted for musical theatre in 2006. However, the relevancy of the topics has been maintained, and the difficulty of coming of age has proved universal through the popularity of both the play and the new musical.

  As Zaloom elaborated, the production gave Urban the opportunity for students to dissect a concrete example of sexual assault rather than discussing something that happened at a party on a Saturday night. “Something that actually has some distance to it, but is still concrete and real,” Zaloom said. To have created this opportunity for Urban students to discuss a real scenario presented to them through the theatre was an important experience for Urban; not only for the cast, but for the audience and greater community as well.