Abuse, Sexual Exploration and Curiosity: A Look At ‘Spring Awakening’

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INTERVIEW Ben Nour

We spoke to director Jo Finnis about Macquarie Musical Society’s latest theatre production, the Tony Award winning musical ‘Spring Awakening’. Jo talks about her experience working on Spring Awakening, her thoughts on the controversial content of the musical and how she thinks audiences will respond.

Could you describe Spring Awakening for those readers who haven’t heard of the musical before?

Spring Awakening is a rock musical set in the 1890s in Germany. It explores the adolescent state and the emotions they experience within the society and their own minds. It also contains themes of abuse, sexual exploration, innocence and curiosity.

Why was the decision made to produce Spring Awakening over other shows? Was there anything in particular about the musical that made you want to produce it?

Well it is my favourite musical, I saw it at STC and I had never liked musicals before then. I connected with it straight away. I love music and acting separately and this was the perfect combination of these two loves.

Spring Awakening is quite confrontational with its portrayal of rape, abortion, child abuse and suicide. How do you think audiences will react to this subject matter?

I think that in the way it is presented the themes are there to shock you, but because it is a piece of theatre it tackles these issues in an accessible way. I think students will react less critically than adults, hence why it is perfect for a university society. It is good to be able to think about these issues because awareness is important. Even if these issues don’t happen to us, they still happen and that’s important.

What can you tell us about the cast and crew of Spring Awakening? All of the cast are either current students or alumni from Macquarie Uni, is that right?

Yes they are, I study Psychology and Health and I am in my fourth year. Sarah Morris, my producer, studies education of the primary inclination. Kate Finnis, my sister and musical director, is studying Post Graduate Egyptology. The cast ranges from first year students to alumni.

How has the production process been so far? Has Spring Awakening’s production differed in any way to production of other musicals?

This is my first time directing a musical, so I’d say it’s very different to directing dramatic theatre. From my experience being a part of other musicals, it has the same elements just with more emotion. Most musicals are very face value but Spring Awakening delves deeper beyond the large dance routines and happy endings. Spring Awakening needs the actors to think about the issues and use that to understand what their characters are going through. Because of this therehearsal process has been quite emotionally draining but it’s definitely worth it when you see the final product.

Does your version of Spring Awakening differ in any way from the original musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater?

I focus more on the emotions the characters have to experience and so I am moving away from the shock postmodern twist on history that they were going for. My lighting and sound design aids the emotional output of the actors, especially during songs.

What kind of experience do you want audiences to take away from Spring Awakening?

Well of course I would like them to enjoy it! I would also like them to learn something, whether it be becoming more aware of issues that society faces today or the dangers of intellectual oppression.

Spring Awakening opens on Friday 25October, and will continue on Saturday 26, Wednesday 30, Thursday 31 October and Friday 1 and Saturday 2 November 2013. All shows will be performed at the Lighthouse Theatre, North Ryde. For tickets and further information visit http://macms.org/Home.php