This weekend, the Pomona College Department of Theater and Dance will be performing the Fall musical, Spring Awakening. The musical opens tonight, Nov. 20, with four Scripps students involved in the production: Katherine Marcus Reker, who plays Marta; Sarah Lopez, who plays Adult Female; Dominique Chua, who is Assistant Stage Manager and Victoria Montecillo, who is Assistant to the Musical Director.
Spring Awakening is a coming-of-age rock musical based on the 1891 play of the same name by Franz Wedekind. Set in late nineteenth century Germany, Spring Awakening tells the story of young Wendla, who, as Director Ortega says, “is just longing to know what it is like to be alive.” The musical criticizes the sexually-oppressive culture of 1890s Germany; because of this, the musical was often banned or censored.
When asked what it was like to be a part of such an intense production, the Scripps students were unanimous in seeing the play as a challenge they were ready to take on.
“At first it was very scary, especially after we first got cast,” Lopez said. Marcus Reker agreed, and said, “We really just wanted to do the characters justice, to tell their stories well.” The musical dives into many tough topics, but Monticello said that “the show does an amazing job at tackling these really tough issues that are still relevant today.”
“The main way of dealing with such intense and dark situational stories is to make sure that you get a cast that will be bonded by love and camaraderie,” Ortega said. Chua agreed that having a supportive atmosphere has made the play a great experience. “After getting to know everyone, it makes the content a lot easier to handle,” she said.
Ortega said he suspects that the Claremonts will be more ready to handle this musical. “This is a very progressive campus, and this is a very socio-political statement by Wedekind,” he said. Wedekind was raised in an area of Germany that had many Bohemian communities, and because of that was able to see that “what is taboo to everyone is not taboo for a different group of people,” according to Ortega. He sees it as if Wedekind is saying, “I’m not here to scare you, but I want you to see a different way of how people are taking these issues.”
Both cast and crew believe that it is integral for the 5C community to see the play. Montecillo pointed out that it is particularly relevant for Scripps students.
“Spring Awakening does a really great job of tackling the representation of different women and girls,” she said. Marcus Reker agreed, saying, “The women in the show are all very complex characters. They’re not one-sided. They’re all very different. It gives these women a chance to share their stories in a very powerful and empowering way.”
Ortega further adds that the play is, in general, appropriate for the college audience. “Wendla [the main character] is in essence the ‘wanderer’ — that is the literal translation,” he said. “She is someone who does not feel. I think that anyone who has had that moment in their life where they are like, ‘I just want to know what it is like to feel, to touch, to love, to be loved,’ should go see this play; this is a great opportunity to see that displayed right in front of your eyes.”
To Ortega, one line in particular sums up the experience of this play — the love interest of Wendla, Melchior, tells Wendla, “I feel your heartbeat, Wendla, I feel it wherever I go.” Ortega said he is particularly fond of this line not only because it is beautiful, but because it “exemplifies what the story is about. It is just about what it is like to feel alive.”
Although they are all in the play together, each Scripps student has a slightly different opinion on what the process of arriving to opening night has been like. Chua, who is rather new to the theatre scene here at Claremont, reflects, “I have been amazed by the talent, because not a lot of people at Pomona are actually theater majors. Seeing people combine choreography, dance, music and acting has been magical for me.”
As the first show is quickly approaching, Lopez is eagerly awaiting an audience. “There are a lot of lines that are funny, heartbreaking or scary. I’m really excited to see how people react to those. I think once we do see their reactions, the show will become real to us and will become all the more powerful since the audience’s thoughts will be changing based on what they are seeing.” Monticello agreed, adding that “Spring Awakening is really dependent on how the audience takes everything, and I think the cast will work off the energy of the audience and will really draw reactions from that.”
Marcus Reker is amazed at the progress that has come about. “We’ve all put so much work into this, and we’ve all become really close as a cast. It is really exciting to see — I mean, we have a show!” She is additionally excited because of how impactful the play is. “You will walk out having felt something very big. Though some may relate to a specific character, everyone will in some way, shape or form walk out having felt something.”
Director Ortega is just as excited as the students are. “They are just waiting for the audience. You can feel it. It is an exchange of energy. They want you to see what it is like to be a human being, and your breath will be in this space with theirs, and we will all breathe together.”
This play has been a particular challenge for Ortega, but one that he has met with all eagerness. “I’ve never had to deal with a play that tackles these issues at so many levels. I have learned so much out of this, not just as an artist or a director but as a human being.” He adds that the cast and crew have made this experience all the more valuable. “No one is better than anyone, and no one is less than anyone. We each do our job, and we are all equal.”
Ortega also stresses that “this point of view, our point of view, is completely different than any productions of this play in the past.” The cast and crew together decided that “all of the different cast members of that show are integral in the whole production,” and as a result, emphasis is being placed on scenes that may otherwise have been overlooked.
Nearly sixty people are involved in the making of this play, which features 16 cast members, 22 songs, nine musical dance numbers and a live eight-piece band. Spring Awakening opens today, Thursday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. and will also be performed on Friday, Nov. 21 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 22 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. The show runs for approximately two hours and will be performed at Seaver Theater at Pomona. Tickets are $5 for students, staff and seniors and $10 for general admission.