The Cast and Crew of Spring Awakening

If there was any doubt that St. Thomas University has many talented students within its midst, there isn’t one now. In the Black Box Theatre from Feb. 18th to the 21st, STU’s Musical Theatre class is showing their production of Spring Awakening.

Spring Awakening is a rock musical set in late 19th century Germany. It's the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer frustrations of sexuality. The musical is a literal translation of teenage angst. It is a rollercoaster of emotions, including songs titled "The B*tch of Living," "Totally F*cked," and "Don’t Do Sadness."

Musical Theatre prof Dawn Sadoway directs the show. Many students agree she really pushed their abilities as actors and forced them to look at their characters from every possible side.

Evan Getson, who plays the male lead of Melchior, found that his role was a pretty good fit, even though there was a lot of commitment which came with playing it. This production is only his third time performing, musical or otherwise. He described playing Melchior as an amazing experience.

“He’s such a big character with a lot of depth emotionally and, I’ll admit, I’ve had to dig deep to find parts of his character in me to make my playing as truthful as I can,” said Evan. “There are some parts of the role that were easier to play, such as the angst and anger Melchior has towards his teachers and the school system; 14 year old me would be proud!”

There were some parts of Melchior that Evan found difficult to play. One of the scenes in the musical involves violence against one of the other cast members. Ever since they started rehearsing, and even with every performance they do before a live audience, it is difficult to fully commit.

“Afterwards, I have to run and hug them backstage so they know it’s acting!”

Katelyn Goodwin, who plays the female lead of Wendla found that her role almost came naturally as she had played more naïve or innocent parts before. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any challenges in playing her! Katelyn’s character goes through quite a bit, and it was definitely a learning experience.

For the song, "I Believe" – without giving too much away about the show – Katelyn and Evan had to get up close and personal in order to make the musical seem as real as possible.

“We started [rehearsing] just with Dawn, Evan, and myself to make sure we were comfortable. In the beginning, I wouldn’t say it was uncomfortable, but it was definitely something that we took slow. There were things we changed after blocking it, keeping in mind to make sure the audience would be comfortable.” she said. “I think a really important thing [as well] is trust, and Evan and I definitely have that. If we weren’t comfortable together, it definitely would have been obvious in the scene.”

Katelyn says there was no denying that it was a difficult journey.

“This has been one of the most challenging parts I’ve ever played, and it has definitely taught me a lot. I feel like I’ve grown as a performer and a person with everything we have done as a cast and crew with this show.”

Alex Rioux, who plays Moritz, found Sadoway to be a huge part in character development. His character is mentally tormented, so having his professor also playing the role of director made a difference.

“Part of the class,” said Alex, “was creating a detailed character analysis to get a sense of your character and their personality. Though digging deeper to get a sense of Moritz, I researched different anxiety disorders to help with a more realistic portrayal.”

It can only be assumed that there are challenges that come with playing such a disturbed character and Alex definitely felt the pressure of playing Moritz. Ultimately, he decided that the most difficult part of playing his character was being able to preform his character with the amount of passion and anger needed to do so.

“It was a major commitment,” he said, “and [it] really pushed my abilities as an actor.”

Esther Soucoup, who plays the male character of Otto, definitely took an interesting twist to her character.

“Gender has a lot to do with perception,” said Esther. “How people perceive you and how you perceive yourself [is how gender is constructed]. Once I grasped that, the rest of Otto just fell into place. I created this backstory for him wherein his parents have really wanted a boy and they kept telling themselves that they have had one. Now that Otto has reached a mature age, he has a lot of questions and no one will answer him. I told Dawn this backstory and she loved it.”

When asked whether the auditioning process was different or difficult for her, since she was auditioning for a male character, she said it wasn’t much different.

“As we were learning the music, I found myself gravitating towards the tenor parts, which is why I auditioned for a male part in the first place.” said Esther. “The audition process was pretty simple. I asked Dawn if I could audition for both a [male] role and a [female] role. So, when audition day came, I got to sing two songs instead of just one, which was a lot of fun!”

Jessica Murphy, who plays Melchior's mother, found that getting into character was a tad tricky.

“Personally, my biggest difficulty with the show was finding [the] aggression that was necessary to really portray the stress that these characters [had been put] under. It’s a struggle a number of students [in the class] had,” said Jessica. “Being Fanny was a tad tricky as the adults in the play are rather oblivious or, in my [character’s] case, playing oblivious to a lot of [events] happening.”

Evan, Katelyn, Alex, Esther, and Jessica all found this class – as well as the opportunity to perform in the musical – to be a rewarding experience. They’ve learned a lot about themselves and their abilities as actors through their time in Sadoway’s class.

Alex is incredibly enthusiastic about the class, and doesn't hesitate to recommend it to other students.

“Austin Comeau, who plays Georg, has never been in a musical and really took to it. Not to mention Dawn does above and beyond to make time to coach all of her students during and after class," he said.

They couldn’t have done the production without a little help, though. Music director Shawn Henry was a tremendous aid in the production. He helped the students get their vocals to where they needed to be for the show as well as - like Sadoway - helping them find their characters within themselves.

Choreographer Lesandra Dodson really took a unique way of designing the staging, blocking, and choreography for the show. This being said, the cast can agree in saying that she taught them a lot about their bodies and how there is more than just one way to move with the music.

Lastly, the show most definitely could not have gone on without the stage crew and the band.

“They’re the real heroes. Without them, we’d look pretty silly singing in the dark with no music!” said Evan.

The show was beautifully put together and even had a few audience members in tears. Each person involved in Spring Awakening should take a moment and really think about the great work they've done. They are a fabulously talented group of people, whether they were a lead, a minor character, in the band, or up in the tech booth.

What they brought to the table was a work of art and they should take to heart that they’ve made something beautiful, something worth seeing and, above all, something worth remembering.