Spotlight: Spring Awakening

Okay, so here’s a bit of a genre mashup – I sure don’t see a lot of plays being reviewed on book blogs, but here’s one to start the ball rolling. Today’s Spotlight is on Frank Wedekind’s Spring’s Awakening, and its companion musical adaptation, Spring Awakening.

I decided to make a post on this after Wedekind’s play was featured in bustle.com’s 18 Books Every Woman Should Read When She’s 18, by Kristen Scatton, but it’s not like I had never heard of it before then. In fact, I seriously love both Spring’s Awakening and Spring Awakening, and even dedicated my first tattoo to the musical.

Spring’s Awakening is about teenagers. Who screw up. Sound familiar? It should – we’ve been equating the teenage years with mistakes for generations, and this play is proof of it.

The setting of Wedekind’s play is Germany in the 1890s, also written in the early 1890s. Reading his work always gives me an eerie sense of deja-vu because all the issues Wedekind tries to tackle correspond quite directly with a stereotype in today’s culture. These conventions have been around for a LONG time, which makes these works a little uncomfortable to watch or read.

Then there’s the 2007 musical, which brought Wedekind’s work into dialogue with modern culture and music, under the direction of Michael Mayer (whose main directorial project right now is Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. It’s fabulous.) with music and lyrics by Duncan Shiek and Steven Sater. It helps that I was in my teens and thus within the target audience when Spring Awakening made it to Broadway, and that the original broadway cast, and all national tours so far, have been incredible. The music in this musical is not what you’d expect really. It’s rock music, which contrasts with the dialogue left in Wedekind’s time period, with the costumes, and with many of the characters.

The music by itself is great to listen to, don’t get me wrong, but after months of anticipation after the 1st National Tour’s inception, I finally saw it all come together, and had a near-transcendant experience. As many times as I had listened to the cast recording, the production as a whole brought everything together in my head, and I finally felt, in a rare case here, that somebody got me.

Honestly, I could go on and on about these two shows and the differences between them, the thoughts behind their adaptation to to broadway stage, and the symbolism within, but I’ll leave that for readers to discover on their own. (At least for the time being)

What I’m pointing to is a wholehearted support of Wedekind’s dark, angsty text within this list. I honestly believe that these two texts changed my life, and all because I read them when I was a teenager.

Plus, Wedekind’s play is a short read (it being a play, and all) so you should definitely check it out.

-Shannon
The Fault in Our Blogs

2 thoughts on “Spotlight: Spring Awakening

  1. YES!! Spring Awakening was a total – well, AWAKENING for me when I saw it years ago with the original cast. It moved me SO much, just as it did with you. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me to read the source material before now, but I should look into it if you recommend it!

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  2. Oh definitely! There's also a book called “A Purple Summer: Notes on the Lyrics of Spring Awakening” by Sater that is a great read. And the coffee table book “Spring Awakening in the Flesh” is supremely well done, though difficult to get ahold of these days! 🙂

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