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Teens' sexual awareness confronts repression in 'Spring Awakening'
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University Theatres Mainstage series will present
"Spring Awakening," a landmark theatrical work by 19th-century
Frank Wedekind, April 10-20 in Theatre A of the University of Iowa Theatre
Building. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April
10-12, and Wednesday through Saturday, April 16-19; and at 3 p.m. Sundays,
April 13 and 20.
The University Theatres production is an adaptation by graduate-student
director David M. Maslow, for whom the production is a Master of Fine Arts
"Spring Awakening" has been described as "a fairy tale
on fire," a brilliant fable of sexuality, personal responsibility
and individual thought in a time of repressive social values. The play
was so controversial in its frank portrayal of teenage sexual awakening,
its questioning of societal values and its grotesque symbolism that uncensored
production was not possible until after Wedekind's death.
"It very much questions the viability of society," Maslow
observes. "Is a restrictive, self-censoring society a wise thing,
or should it be questioned? That was a big issue, as was the issue of sex.
The whole idea of children coming into their sexual selves was very risque
and challenging to what was a Victorian sensibility, even in Germany.
"The idea that these children are not only discovering that they
can think and question the power structure, but that they can question
societal norms and do what society forbids was a very dangerous attitude.
It scared the pants off them -- or onto them, actually, in this case."
Maslow's adaptation not only dislodges "Spring Awakening"
from its peculiarly German, late-19th-century setting, but also infuses
the story with a playful and exaggerated theatricality.
"We either had to find a way to make the actors portraying children
look smaller, or to make the world look larger," Maslow explains.
"It was much easier to out-size the world, and a lot more fun and
Stilts are used to make all the adults eight feet tall, and the teachers,
who have developed their intellect to the exclusion of all other human
capacities, are portrayed by costumes that make them giant, disembodied
Wedekind is recognized as the father of German expressionism. He was
an iconoclastic poet, actor, playwright, director, dramaturg and cabaret
singer who was active in Zurich, Munich, Paris and Berlin in the 1880s
through the second decade of the 20th century. A versatile and prolific
creator, Wedekind wrote some 30 plays and pantomimes, 17 prose narratives,
21 essays on a variety of literary and cultural topics, nearly 150 poems
and cabaret songs, and extensive biographical notes and diaries.
An opponent of moralistic society, with all its repressive mechanisms,
Wedekind celebrated bohemian street life, satirized the pretensions of
the bourgeoisie, and intended to shock his audiences into seeing beyond
conventionality and hypocrisy.
He was reviled by polite society as an immoral buffoon and pornographer,
but he was also idolized -- by Bertholt Brecht, among others -- as a revolutionary
literary and cultural force.
Wedekind completed "Spring Awakening" in 1891, but its first,
heavily censored production did not take place until 1906 in Berlin. The
Berlin Superior Court banned the play altogether in 1912 because of its
"offensive material," but later relented when the justices decided
the play was a serious drama.
"We are shown the impact made on young, unsophisticated creatures
just entering the period of sexual development, by the realities of existence,"
the German justices wrote. "They are defeated in the struggle which
develops chiefly because those who might most be expected to give them
guidance, their parents and teachers, fail, as the poet sees it, out of
unworldly ignorance and prudery, to instruct them and point the way with
sympathy and understanding."
Tickets for "Spring Awakening" are $13 ($6 for UI students,
senior citizens and youth 17 and younger). Tickets may be purchased in
advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for
each performance will be available one hour before curtain time at the
Theatre Building box office.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa,
dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is
toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged
to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases
to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option
of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services
should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with
hearing impairment who use that technology.
This production includes material of an adult nature. Potential audience
members who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should
contact the Department of Theatre Arts, (319) 335-2700, for additional