Dr. Hill and students

Wofford Theatre presents ‘Spring Awakening’

Theatre, music departments collaborate to stage award-winning musical

Spring Awakening 382x255
The Theatre and Music departments collaborated on Wofford Theatre's production of "Spring Awakening."
2016-04-21

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Disenchanted teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of their own sexuality is an ageless story. Wofford College’s Theatre Department will explore this intricate story with upcoming performances of the Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awaking,” set in 1890s Germany and accompanied by modern alt rock music.

“Spring Awakening” performances, open to the public, will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 21 through 23, and Wednesday through Saturday, April 27 through 30, in the Tony White Theater in the Campus Life Building on Wofford’s campus. To purchase tickets, go to www.wofford.edu/boxoffice.

Wofford Theatre’s production – presented in collaboration with the college’s Department of Music – stars senior theatre and English major Maddi Eberhardt of Watkinsville, Ga., as 15-year-old Wendla. The story follows Wendla as she and her friends begin to question the constricting society in which they live.

“The society that these characters have grown up in is very restrictive, and once they begin to hit puberty, they begin to have different questions and concerns, but their parents don’t tell them anything,” Eberhardt says. “They’re lost and confused, and this play follows them through this sort of sexual awakening as well as an awakening as a human, and I think it’s incredibly powerful. Everybody can relate to this show in some way because they’ve all experienced being a teenager and the struggles that come with that age.”

Through the avenue of rock music, the play features the characters battling and coming to terms with various problems and questions about such issues as sex, religion, homosexuality and depression.

Tristan Krebs, a sophomore theatre major from Louisville, Ky., is the assistant director for the show. Her role is to watch rehearsals and assist the director however is necessary, including offering opinions and ideas on how to build, alter, or clarify the show. “This play has been so amazing to work with so far because the cast has been so dedicated,” Krebs says. “It’s been fascinating watching the play form because it addresses an unbelievable number of issues that face our culture today, both as young people and as humans in general. The show doesn’t shy away from any topics that are too often ignored, which makes it vital to experience.”

Eberhardt adds, “A lot of the characters in the show feel completely alienated from their surroundings, and they don’t know who to turn to. Even though the setting of the show is in 1890, the music is so interesting because it modernizes the text and brings the issues to the front, making us realize that these issues are still as applicable to society today.”

The theatre and music departments have collaborated extensively on the production. Orchestra students provide background music, singers from Wofford’s various vocal groups have joined the play, and the music professors have assisted in rehearsals. Christi L. Sellars, instructor in music, says her experience helping the actors learn the music has been rewarding.

“I think the cast has really committed to this show and its message,” she says. “The actors are driven to produce the best product that they can. They have all worked hard in learning the more complex songs, such as the numbers with a lot of harmony in them. These numbers are challenging and take a lot of rehearsal time.”

Eberhardt says the dedicated work of the entire cast and the instructors in theatre and music contribute to the success of the show.

“I would not be right here if it wasn’t for the support of the theatre professors and department. Dr. Mark Ferguson (chair and director of Wofford Theatre) is the director that an actor needs because he will push you and he demands a lot from you, but he’s also incredibly supportive and he loves to experiment, which is beautiful,” Eberhardt says. “I’ve worked with many of the cast members multiple times now, and I trust them, which allows us to try new things and experiment when we interact on the stage. We can work off of each other.”

Eberhardt says the part of Wendla has been her “dream role” since she was in middle school. “It’s rare that you find something that you are excited to go to every day, but this experience has been amazing, and I’m so grateful for it,” she says. “I’ve always loved theatre because it’s happening live and something can change every night. The same show is never staged twice, and I think that provides something exciting for both the audience member and for the actor.”

“Spring Awakening” is intended for mature audiences.

By Kelsey B. Aylor, Wofford Class of 2018