DePaul celebrates “Spring Awakening” this fall

Abortion, masturbation, sex and nudity are often not choice topics of discussion throughout private, Catholic institutions.
However, DePaul University, known as the country’s largest private Catholic school, will jump start their Theatre School Showcase series with a focus on many of these themes. Opening Friday, Sept. 28, is DePaul’s take on one of the most controversial shows introduced in years…”Spring Awakening.” The show tells a story revolving around teenage sexual exploration and expression during a time when religion and authority’s presence was overwhelming inhibiting.
A modern take on a century old German play, the rock musical is the first of that variety to be performed on DePaul’s Merle Reskin Theatre stage, 60 E. Balboa Ave., in two years.
“There’s a lot of expectations,” said Alexis Links, The Theatre School production coordinator. “It’s definitely been the hot topic around here recently.”
At a Catholic university supportive of drag performances in student centers and weeks devoted to LGBTQA awareness, it should come as no surprise that DePaul was behind putting on the show from the beginning.
“What the story is about is the danger of not talking about it {sexual exploration} and the tragedy that happens when people are forced to keep quiet,” said the show’s choreographer and Theatre school professor, Julia Neary.
“It speaks more loudly to the frustrations of teen angst in a vocabulary that wasn’t allowed in our parents generation.”
Not only does Neary have experience working with the student cast members in preparation for the “Spring Awakening” run, but she also has had many of them as students in her Acting and Movement classes, allowing for an easier, more “collaborative” choreographic process.
Neary said that the language she uses in class was familiar to many involved and helped the cast form a safe and comfortable performance environment, something especially important when approaching such heavy subjects as teenage abuse and abortion.
“I wanted to make sure students felt comfortable embodying the characters and performing in a more open environment,” said Neary. “It was important that the movement that I had them do come from a more organic place. “
To compliment Neary’s teaching approach, Professor of Musical Theatre and “Spring Awakening” music director, Mark Elliott, appointed sophomore Janie Killips as his assistant to better the bands efforts to understand the importance and role of the show’s music.
“I think it took off some pressure,” said Killips, of her participation with fellow students, explaining her comfort with the shows music and message despite the initial hesitancy from many fellow classmates. “This was really in my ‘box.’”
The education of youth on topics that are oftentimes disregarded or avoided until major tragedy strikes is the overall theme stressed by both Neary and Killips.
“It speaks a great deal on the power of being informed,” said Neary. “It is a very pure story.”
Reflected in both content and subtext, it is hoped by DePaul that “Spring Awakening’s” emphasis on young adult voices being heard is draws a significant parallel to their overall mission as well.
Under the direction of Damon Kiely, “Spring Awakening” will run through Oct. 6.

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