Teenage sexuality, masturbation and abortion will take center stage tonight at Schoenberg Music Hall.
These topics are the subject matter that UCLA’s Hooligan Theatre Company delves into in this season’s fall musical, “Spring Awakening.” Set in late-19th century Germany, the musical depicts the burgeoning sexuality of a group of teenagers and the follies that ensue due to the repression of these urges and feelings.
Third-year linguistics and psychology student Juliana Scott, managing director of Hooligan Theatre Company and one of the producers of the play, said that it was the subject matter and the play’s critical acclaim that led to the play’s selection as this season’s musical.
“We chose “˜Spring Awakening’ for our fall musical because it’s a really up-and-coming show,” Scott said. “It won the Tony Award for best musical a couple years ago and it has a great educational message that is really relatable to college students and our generation. It’s definitely a big name draw.”
With a cast of 23 student actors and a production crew of 50 students, Scott said that Hooligan emphasizes the talent of an entirely student-produced play on campus.
“Hooligan is important because we provide these opportunities to students to really design, direct, choreograph and act in plays that are totally their own. It really allows the creativity to shine,” Scott said.
In order to capture the realism of the time period, Becca Kenigsberg, fourth-year theater student and director of the play, read the original text of the play by playwright Frank Wedekind and researched German society during that time period.
Kenigsberg said that reading the play and listening to the music of the Broadway original made it easier to envision what she wanted in each character.
“I started to play with who the characters are, so I can look for that in the auditions and figure out what the play is about beyond the plot. I wanted to focus on human connection and relationships, whether it’s through your parents or friends or a significant other,” Kenigsberg said.
Kenigsberg also said that, while the play is faithful to the Broadway original, there was a decision made to make the sex scene between the primary characters of Melchior and Wendla in this rendition more consensual and romantic, as opposed to the struggle in the original play.
“We’re still doing things (according) to the text except for the sex scene. In the original play, Melchior rapes Wendla, and in this play, there’s still some struggle but we’re taking out the rape completely. We’re making it much more consensual and sexy and romantic,” Kenigsberg said.
Third-year political science and communication studies student Graham Wetterhahn, who plays the emotionally conflicted character Moritz Stiefel, said that the sexual elements of the play make it edgy and appropriate for the collegiate audience.
“There’s a sex scene in the play between the other characters so there’s a little bit of awkwardness rehearsing and having sex in front of your friends. It’s definitely not something you’ve grown up practicing, but I think students will enjoy the slightly sexual and risque nature of the show,” Wetterhahn said.
With original choreography, set design and blocking, Kenigsberg said the musical will not be an exact replica of the Broadway musical but an interpretation of the play with a more simplistic style and universal message.
“My hope is that the audience comes in with an open mind,” Kenigsberg said. “I hope they see less of the teenage angst and see (more) teenage discovery and … how people in general struggle with finding themselves and their place in the world.”