Smells like teen spirit

By Jill Campbell

Sexuality, abuse and rape will take center stage at the Studio Theatre tonight when the theatre department unveils Frank Wedekind’s “Spring Awakening.”

Abuse and rape aren’t necessarily issues that cross daily conversation, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be brought up, said sophomore political science major George Barchini, who’s in the play.

The show centers around the lives of teenagers struggling with adolescence and identity in 19th century German society. Although first written in 1891, the issues the characters face are still relevant today.

Due to its controversial nature, “Spring Awakening” was not performed in Wedekind’s native Germany until 1906, and not performed in Britain until 1963. The teenaged characters rebel against their parents’ authority and expectations, and the plot contains scenes and discussions of sexuality, abuse, rape and abortion.

“The show sends a message about sexual repression amongst youth,” said freshman theatre major Jena Finn, whose character is physically abused by her parents in the play. “In many other cultures, sex is not an uptight subject. It seems that [Americans] are still repressing sexuality because it scares us to be open about it. Because of this, many of the unfortunate acts that occur in the play still occur in real life. Hopefully [the show] will be an eye opener to people about just how important it is to talk about these subjects, and about how crucial the teenage years are.”

Carol Najarian of the theatre department said the play has been a challenge for the student actors.

“It’s not necessarily a difficult play to act in, but the script is very difficult,” Najarian said. “The students are each playing a few parts, and for each they wear a different costume, a different persona. There are probably 40 parts and only 21 actors.”

The explicit subject matter of the production was a new experience for some of the actors, but for students like Finn, the most taxing part of “Spring Awakening” was the rigorous rehearsal schedule.

“I was not used to the rehearsal process that Northeastern is familiar with, so it was an eye-opener for me to be rehearsing four hours a day, four or five days a week,” Finn said. “[Our rehearsals were] held like professional theatre rehearsals; you are only called [to rehearsal] when the director wants to specifically run your scene, and you have to be fully prepared before you get to your rehearsal.”

“Spring Awakening” is directed by Saheem Ali, a Northeastern theatre department alumnus who is now working on a master’s in theatre direction at Columbia University. Ali’s previous directing experience includes the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and several productions at Columbia. “Spring Awakening” is Ali’s first production as a guest director at Northeastern.

“Working with Saheem was an experience for me because he was so professional,” Finn said. “I wanted to put my time with him to good use and be able to learn from him. I didn’t want to slow things down and make it harder on him, either. He’s a great director and he knows what he wants, so I didn’t want to hinder him from working his magic.”

“Spring Awakening” features one of the largest casts and one of the most complex sets in the history of the Studio Theatre according to a press release from the theatre department.

“We’ve got a very strong ensemble cast of actors ranging from all years, an incredibly creative design staff, and an ingenious director,” said sophomore theatre and English major Matthew Zahnzinger, who plays the headmaster in the play.

“The finished product that we’ll be presenting is at times witty and amusing and then jumps into something that can be terribly disturbing.” he said. “To date, this is arguably one of the most thematically and emotionally diverse productions I’ve ever had the pleasure to work on.”

Performances of “Spring Awakening” will be tonight through Saturday night and October 25-28. All performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Center for the Arts box office in the lobby of Ell Hall, and remaining tickets will be sold at the door. Student prices are $8 on Wednesday and Thursday nights and $11 on Friday and Saturday nights. For further information, contact Carol Najarian at (617) 373-2245.

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