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“Spring Awakenings”

Author John Cech
Air Date 3/21/2007

Spring Awakenings Transcript

Spring arrives today and, with it, all sorts of stirrings. One of them is a new production of an 1891 play by the German dramatist, Frank Wedekind. It’s called Spring Awakenings, and it’s about a group of teenagers who are coming of age in late-nineteenth century Germany in the thick of their timeless discoveries of their emerging identities.

In this new version of the play, as they recite their lessons, the boys complain about the indifference of the adults around them, including their authoritarian teachers.

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We’ve heard all of this before and have lived through it ourselves if we’re out of our adolescence. Steven Sater adapted Wedekind’s play for this staging and wrote the lyrics for the songs that are powerfully, movingly set to a contemporary rock score by Duncan Sheik. Together, they have carefully carried the spirit of Wedekind’s original work forward into the present.

The awakenings and the problems are the same. In search of their identities and their first tastes of real intimacy, young people find themselves beseiged by often enormous pressures — from parents, school, peers, and their own biological yearnings. One of the young men in the play, who is failing out of school, commits suicide. One of the girls, Wendla, played and sung by Lea Michele in this production, gets pregnant, and she becomes the subject — of whisperings.

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Melchior, the boy who is responsible is shipped off to a reform school. Nevertheless, the young people make their poignant peace with their shared tragedies, and they move on, into the ageless dance of a “Purple Summer” in this aching, eternal journey.

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