Words from an “Awakened Mama”

Written by Bobbie Rothman, patron of Theatre Horizon

I was asked to share my perspective as a parent raising a teenager and relating my experience(s) to the themes of Spring Awakening. So, what is it like to be a parent of a teen? Well, it’s complicated… and fun and worrisome — and sometimes lonely, and did I say complicated? But, it’s always wonderful.

Spring Awakening takes place during the Victorian Era. It is a coming of age drama that deals with many taboo feelings and relationships as well as what we would consider today as normal teenage curiosity. The social norms during this period made open communication close to impossible. Adults were expected to act one way, and children were expected to emulate adults and act just like them. Young people were taught to “speak only when spoken to” and their feelings and desires and sometimes their questions were ignored and/or punished. Today, we are much more open with our feelings, our sexuality and how we communicate. This doesn’t always mean that the topics surrounding sex, the human body and its functions are comfortable to discuss with pubescent young adults, however, we know how important it is to have our kids informed of what they are doing, what they want to do and the repercussions of their actions. During the play, because of the inability to talk openly about certain topics, a young girl’s life was tragically changed (believe me, it’s incredibly tragic but I don’t want to spoil it for you!). Perhaps, had her mother just been honest and open with her when she asked — “where do babies come from?” this young girl’s life would have turned out a different way.

Pertaining to the sexual awakening aspect of Spring Awakening — I am the mother to both a son [20] and a daughter [17]. They both know that they can come to me with any questions regarding sex, and I have tried to be open about this topic too. Having said that, talking about sex with your kids is walking a tightrope — not enough information and they are uninformed and ignorant — too much information and you can make them uncomfortable. The last thing they want to picture is their parents “doing” what you are delicately trying to explain to them. One of the most important things I tried to impart to them was their right to say NO and STOP and the importance of respecting the words NO and STOP. Unlike the mother in Spring Awakening, I shared exactly how babies are conceived. I discussed birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, expectations in relationships, inappropriate touching, and a myriad of other topics that I thought were important for them to know and understand.

In Spring Awakening, independent thought and feelings apart from the social standards of the day were strongly repressed in young adults. Sometimes it bothers me that my son and daughter question rules that I set down, or question their teachers or other adults with whom they come into contact. I’ve tried to teach my children to respect adults; however, it seems that today’s teenagers consider what they have to say and what they feel just as important as what an adult has to say, or even more important in certain circumstances. I love that my kids aren’t pushovers and are independent minded because I was brought up to respect my elders in a way that never allowed me to voice my thoughts or feelings. On the other hand, as an adult, I know that tweens and teens have so much to learn from us, if they would just listen.

During the time period of Spring Awakening, it was very inappropriate to publicly show feelings for another person of the opposite sex, but even more unacceptable to show feelings for another person of the same-sex. Many people lived lives of love deprivation. I am so amazed at how a large majority of kids today are “blind” to someone’s sexual orientation. They may notice a difference, talk about the difference, but most of the time, they ask questions, accept and just move on. In Spring Awakening, homosexuality still needed to be hidden. Today, my children have friends who are openly gay to their families and friends, in their schools and at their jobs.

In conclusion, I think it’s always been complicated to raise a teenager. I do believe though, that the relationship we have with our children today allows for a comradery not allowed in the late 1800s and is also a much deeper, richer and more honest one.

Photo Credit: Matthew J. Photography
Left to right: Erica Nicole Rothman (ANNA), Grace Tarves (WENDLA), SAMANTHA JOY PEARLMAN (THEA), and Mary Tuomanen (ILSE)

Spring Awakening Cast: Profile Craig O’Brien

Craig O’Brien, starring as Georg/Dieter

Craig O’Brien is extremely excited to be back with Theatre Horizon.  Favorite credits include Little Shop of Horrors (Theatre Horizon), Avenue X (11th Hour), You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (New Benefit Theatre) and Eclectic Society (Walnut Street). Image

On the Eve of Previews: A Production Assistant’s Musings

Written by Matthew Mainhart, Production Assistant

Have you ever been the little guy?  The gopher?  The coffee maker?  That’s what a Production Assistant’s job is when you take it at face value.  The Production Assistant is the guy you get to do whatever job needs doing that there just doesn’t seem to be time to do.  This sounds like an unimportant and uninspiring position, but you would be wrong to assume such a thing.

My name is Matthew Mainhart.  Previews for Theatre Horizon’s production of Spring Awakening start tomorrow, and throughout the rehearsals I have been the Production Assistant.  I started out the rehearsals as acting Assistant Stage Manager.  On the surface, this meant that I did cleaning and general organization.  More importantly, I spent a lot of time with Bayla Rubin, the Stage Manager.  The organization and multitasking that Bayla brings to her job is nothing less than inspiring.  As her assistant, I got the chance to see the struggle between order and creative freedom.  As Matthew Decker and the cast worked together to create a show with depth and meaning, it was Bayla that ensured that the rehearsals were used efficiently yet allowed for these artists to explore their impulses and visions of characters and scenes.  After the two weeks of rehearsals our Assistant Stage Manager, Sarah, came on board and I shifted responsibilities.

At first I was unsure what my new responsibilities would be and who I should be looking to for direction.  But if you know anything about putting a show together, you know there is always someone who needs help and something to do.  So at the start of tech week, I started asking everyone I saw if they needed anything.  And this is how I began working with Melanie Leeds, our Production Manager.  The job of the Production Manager is like that of Production Assistant, except you have real responsibilities and are a central communication point for every department involved.  This means that you are fielding all sorts of issues all day and sometimes have very limited time to get them all fixed.  At times, Melanie can get one of the designers or technicians to deal with the issue, but other times she needs to take direct action.  Melanie, like Bayla, has to be highly organized and on point at all times.  This is where it’s nice to have a Production Assistant around.  I began working on anything she needed.  This included anything from simple supply runs to stapling baffling, to hanging duv (curtains to block backstage light from getting on stage).   Working with Melanie gave me a chance to see the various departments and how they all interacted and worked together to build a world for the actors and director to play in.

People like Bayla Rubin and Melanie Leeds are the unsung heroes of all theater productions.  And these two have done a great job keeping Matt Decker’s ship running so that he and his cast and crew can explore the world of Spring Awakening.  And over the last month, that exploration paid off, as evidenced in the recent run-throughs.

So looking back, my past four weeks have been full of cleaning, organizing, and odd jobs.  You might call me a gopher, but the beauty of being a gopher on a project like this is you get to see the big picture, touch many different parts of the project, and learn a bit about everything.  Sure, I’m not making directing choices, or designing the lights or sound, but I’ll tell you what I am doing; I’m enjoying the ride, and I hope you will too!

Notes on the Production

-Excerpts from Spring Awakening: In the Flesh by David cote

Frank Wedekind, the author of Spring Awakening, was born in Hanover, Germany in 1864. As a young man, he often fought with a tyrannical father who wanted his freethinking son to be a lawyer. Wedekind attended high school in Switzerland. He went onto a notorious
and celebrated life as a bohemian, social critic, journalist, songwriter and actor. He was also, naturally, a hugely influential playwright. His first drama, Spring Awakening, written in 1891, was instantly banned.

It’s fairly safe to assume that the majority of people coming to see Spring Awakening have never heard of the original play before. But it’s not an obscure work: In literary and theater circles, Spring Awakening has long been part of the canon—albeit a difficult part.

Even though Frank Wedekind had to publish the script with his own money and didn’t see a production until fifteen years after it was written, during his lifetime, the work was hailed as a groundbreaking exposure of bourgeois hypocrisy and, later, as a forerunner of German expressionism and the Theater of the Absurd. The play’s production history is long and storied. The great German director Max Reinhardt managed to get a censored version produced in 1906 at the Kammerspiele Berlin. Its 1912 American premiere was at the Irving Place Theatre in New York. The production was in German, which may account for the fact that it wasn’t shut down by the police.

The next American version, five years later and in English, wasn’t so lucky. After just one performance, it was banned. Eric Bentley’s translation was performed at the University of Chicago in 1974. London audiences finally had the chance to see an unexpurgated version in Edward Bond’s 1974 translation for the national Theatre. Then, in 1978, director Liviu Ciulei brought his stark vision of the play from the Juillard Drama School to the Public Theater in New York. The next significant production of Spring Awakening is the musical version of the play you will see at Theatre Horizon.

The idea behind the musical is to place the scenes in 1891 provincial Germany. But when the kids sing, as Steven Sater, the author of the book of Spring Awakening, explains “you give voice to the pain and longing expressing by those young people that remain mute.” When the songs happen, the action stops and we are inside the minds, hearts and souls of these kids, through a contemporary musical lens.

Kids always want to rock out. They can always be rock stars in their bedrooms. The place where generations have found release from the same unformed anguish is rock.Image

Caption: Frank Wedekind in 1883 at the age of 19

Spring Awakening Cast: Profile Anthony Connell

Anthony Connell, starring as Hanschen/Rupert

ImageAnthony Connell is very excited to join the cast and crew of Spring Awakening.  A 2011 graduate of DeSales University, where he played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls and Mordred in Camelot, he spent last year at the New Candlelight Theatre in Delaware playing such roles as George in Wedding Singer, Chip in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Leo Bloom in The Producers.

Spring Awakening Cast: Profile Erica Nicole Rothman

Erica Nicole Rothman, starring as Anna

Currently a junior at Germantown Academy, Erica Nicole Rothman is thrilled to be making her Theatre Horizon debut in this incredible production of Spring Awakening.  Recent theater roles have included Tracy in Hairspray, Natalie in Next to Normal, Doralee in 9 to 5, and Hope in Urinetown – for which she received a Cappies nomination for Best Lead Actress. Image

Spring Awakening Cast: Profile Grace Tarves

Grace Tarves, starring as Wendla

Grace Tarves is excited to make her Theatre Horizon debut with Spring Awakening. She is a recent graduate of The Boston Conservatory with a BFA in Musical Theatre. Previous roles include Martha (Spring Awakening at Mazeppa Productions), Monteen (Parade) and Iris II/The Child in Iris: A New Play (Boston workshop, Pittsburgh, NYC premieres) She is returning to Iris for its Portland premiere this June.Image

Planting the Seeds for a Spring Awakening

Written by Production Assistant Matthew Mainhart

This past week, rehearsals started at Theatre Horizon for their production of Spring
Awakening. This Tony Award winning musical based on a 19th century German play, explores the sexuality of burgeoning youths in the repressive German culture of the 1890’s.

Only one week in, Director Matthew Decker has pushed his cast’s production beyond such a simple description.  Decker’s firm but open directing style demands complexity from his actors and creativity from his production staff.  Decker has put together a highly talented cast and staff who are up to the challenge.  In order to help them tap into the play Decker took the role of teacher early on, assigning homework to each of the cast members based around the plays setting. Each actor went home and prepared a presentation on one of the facets of the play. There were presentations on religion, economy, education, Faust, philosophy and anything else that might give the cast and crew insight into the world of these characters. The presentations were supposed to be 10 minutes each, but the cast went at their task with such enthusiasm that each presentation easily went over this limitation as the new information sparked conversations and discussions about how the information illuminated this or that within the play.  Each presentation equipped the cast with new knowledge to make deeper decisions and stronger choices.

And this is a good thing, as Decker looks for the deeper complexities of every song
and scene, polishing them to shine like many faceted jewels. With the help of Music Director, Amanda Morton and Choreographer, Jenn Rose, Decker worked his way through the first scene this past weekend. In this scene Wendla Bergman, played by Grace Tarves, sings the song “Mama Who Bore Me”. On the surface this is an accusatory song from a young woman to her mother, upset over her lack of knowledge on things of a sexual nature. But Decker and his crew refuse such simplicity. After only a few hours the song had exploded with tones of confusion, shame, joy, and excitement. Jenn Rose’s choreography of the scene opens up these tones for the audience on a visceral level and Grace Tarves’s innocent sound lends credence to the scene that easily draws the viewer along Wendla’s journey of self-exploration.

The cast rehearsed other scenes throughout the weekend with the same vigor and
creativity, bringing life to each moment. The world that Decker and his cast have begun to
weave is intricate and intense. In short, after a week of rehearsals Spring Awakening shows all the signs of blossoming into a beautifully complex journey.