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May 8, 2017

New adaptation ‘springs’ into action at the Curtain Theater

The University of Massachusetts Theater Department’s first play of the semester, “Spring Awakening,” opens tonight at the Curtain Theater.

“Spring Awakening” tells the story of young teenagers in 1890s Germany. They struggle to deal with their changing bodies and emerging sexualities in a world of complete sexual repression. Without sufficient guidance from the adults in their lives, the teenagers are forced to learn from experience, and must face the consequences of their actions.

“Spring’s Awakening,” as it was originally titled, was first published in 1891 by German playwright Frank Wedekind. However, it was not performed in Berlin until 1906. The play was considered extremely controversial by contemporaries when it premiered due to its inclusion of young adult sexuality, rape, implied incest, homosexuality and childhood death. As a result, performances of the play were often banned.

Even today, the themes explored in “Awakening” could be deemed controversial. The play’s most recent incarnation was the 2006 Broadway musical, directed by Michael Mayer.  The play was nominated for 11 Tony awards, of which it won eight. Like previous productions, it did not escape criticism for its controversy.

UMass student Gregory Boover, who stars in the campus production, said, “I feel like when you’re watching this play, you’re watching what goes on behind closed doors.”

This production also features a new adaptation by director Toby Bercovici and dramaturge Emily Denison, both graduate students in the Theater Department,

Bercovici and Denison chose to write a new adaptation, because “none of the other adaptations had everything. There wasn’t one that put it all together,” Denison said.

A key difference between this adaptation and its predecessors is that the actors who play teenagers also double as the adult characters. 

“We see the kids who are going to grow up to be like their parents,” said Bercovici.

“It is a very physical representation of this cycle,” Denison added.

Additionally, this production runs 55 minutes long, as opposed to the original, which could run two and a half hours or more, according to Bercovici.

“We take the spirit of it, and make it more shocking, relatable and funny for today,” Bercovici said.

Tonight’s performance will also include a question and answer session with Bercovici, cast members and other members of the production team.

“Spring Awakening” plays Feb. 25 through Feb. 27, plus March 2 through March 6 at 8 p.m. There are 2 p.m.  matinees on Feb. 27 and March 6. All performances are at the Curtain Theater. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $7 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the Fine Arts Center box office, by phone at 545-2511 or 1-800-999-UMAS, or by visiting the online box office at http://umafacweb.admin.umass.edu/Online/.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached at amesibov@student.umass.edu.

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