‘Spring Awakening’ makes Millikin debut

Denny Patterson

Millikin’s Department of Theatre and Dance will proudly premiere its second main stage show of the semester. “Spring Awakening” will be performed in Albert Taylor Theatre April 17-20 at 7:30 p.m. and April 21 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets start at $12 and Millikin students can receive one free ticket.

Set in late 19th century Germany, this classic tale was written by Frank Wedekind in 1891. Duncan Sheik and Steve Sater turned it into a rock musical which opened on Broadway in 2006. It centers on a young girl named Wendla Bergmann and her friends in the midst of puberty. These teens are discovering their sexuality and identity while trying to handle the difficulties of everyday life. Topics such as sexual abuse, intimacy, homosexuality and depression hit almost every character in some way.

Due to the story’s controversial issues, the play was originally banned in Germany for some time. “Spring Awakening” is known to be raunchy, but director Lori Bales does not believe that picking “Spring Awakening” was a risky choice.

“The indie rock/pop score was a good fit pedagogically because we’ve been working with Sheri Sanders,” Bales said. “Sheri has held two master classes here – her ideas are awesome, because they’re based on researching and understanding the social conditions of the era that inform style. Also, it is popular with the students, and the other answers all have to do with the delicate and painstaking process of choosing a varied and interesting main stage season.”

The cast of “Spring Awakening” includes Sarah Beth Odle, Danielle Davila, Arri Pittman, Anastasia Arnold, Kim McClay, China Brickey, Emily Gardner, Meghan Redding, Jack O’Brien, Anthony Norman, Darian Lunsford, Ryan Lacy, Sean Doherty, Matthew Moore, Brian Kocher, Jake Morrissy, Jordan LeGaux and Nic Belanger.

Norman, a sophomore, is playing the character Moritz Stiefel. Some of his other performing roles at Millikin include Claude in “Hair,” Chip in “Spelling Bee” and Frankie in “Lie of the Mind.” He says playing Moritz is his dream role.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I was cast as Moritz. It’s a blast, because I connect so deeply to the character, because I am basically Moritz. We share many of the same qualities, and it’s been very fun to find those similarities and have myself be on that stage, along with the character,” said Norman.
“This role is different because of the dark subject matter, and I have never had to deal with teen suicide for a character before. I hope to learn more about myself from this role, and I hope to gain a peace and calming understanding about myself.”

Because “Spring Awakening” is a familiar show, the cast has not had a difficult time adapting to the play.

“Sheri’s workshops have been incredibly valuable in terms of our understanding, and they’ve been singing these songs since they were little,” Bales said. If you choose this field, you always bring your A-game. If you don’t, somebody else will. That said – this is an amazingly talented cast.”

In terms of the audience, both Bales and Norman hope this production will leave a huge impact.

“I hope the audience realizes that they have to make a difference in the world now,” Norman said. “Not later, but now. I hope they realize that the subject matter that this show deals with is still very relevant and [I hope] that they do not take it lightly, because [these topics] are still subjects that are still very real today.”
“We make art in order to reflect, heal, share and educate,” Bales said. “Every production is an educational experience whether here in Decatur or in New York City.”