‘Spring Awakening’ touches RCC hearts

By Ana Contreras / Staff Writer

On the big stage (Joey Smith / Special to Viewpoints )

By Ana Contreras / Staff Writer

If there is anything that is sure to draw an audience, it’s anything labeled “controversial.”

Well, on Oct. 20, Riverside City College became the first junior college in California to produce a version of the controversial German play “Spring Awakening,” at the Landis Performing Arts Center.

The rock musical, presented through special arrangements with Music Theatre International (MTI), was adapted from the 1982 hit play of the same title by Frank Wedekind, featuring music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater.

So why would a hit play be banned from the public upon opening in Germany so many years ago?

Well, the content of the show dealt with some pretty heavy stuff it would technically be given an R rating for some of the topics bluntly portrayed.

For a play coming out in the 1980s, well people just didn’t openly discuss these things at that time.

“Spring Awakening” has since then been reborn and arisen from the vault. Emerging victorious, it has won several awards including Tony awards, Drama Desk awards, and the Olivier awards for best musical, directing, and script.

The play concerns teenagers who are discovering their inner and outer tumult of sexuality and touches upon some emotionally substantial topics such as abortion, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and suicide.

The complexity of these topics are easily shown through the characters’ ignorance and naivety, and how they were taught to not talk about the abuse going on in their own homes.

Sex and conception was not spoken of openly like it is today and the play portrays the challenges that these teenagers faced in dealing with these topics alone.

The actors put on a very good performance. The play was well acted, well sung, and passionately portrayed to move the audience along with the emotions of the characters.

It covers a lot of issues that many teenagers go through in life, or witness in friends and relates to the audience through many shared emotions and struggles.

“It had heartfelt moments that I could relate too,” said Yesenia Bautista, a student at RCC. “I think that anybody could relate to this play because we were all young at one point in our lives.”

Bautista also said she related to many of the struggles portrayed in the play.

“Inner turmoil can lead to destruction,” she said. “Adolescence is a delicate moment in our lives. Transcending from childhood to adulthood is indeed scary and this play carried this message perfectly,” she said.

Although times might change, attitudes toward certain subjects may stay the same and some subjects may always be difficult to handle let alone discuss openly.

This theme is ever so present in “Spring Awakening,” and it helped the performers relate to their respective roles in order to portray the characters more accurately.

“I can really relate to my role because in the show my character finds out that he is gay so it was easy for me because I’m gay too so I really use some of myself in the show,” said Bryan Young who plays the role of the character Otto in the play.

Bethany Baderdeen who played Thea said she felt the same way. “I feel like we are the characters,” she said. “Because what we play on stage . . . is still going on today.”

But even though these topics are heavy, it was also enjoyable as a story and especially as a musical.

The audience was engaged, involved and directly empathetic with the characters.

“It was fun and entertaining,” Bautista said after the play.

“The songs were perfect dead on to the script. I would recommend that people go and see it,” she said.  

Telling the tale of teenagers on the road to self-discovery, “Spring Awakening” is a show for everyone who ever travelled down that road, but certainly not for children.

The show demonstrated some heart-felt moments of love and friendships and portrayed the real complexities of relationships especially at such a delicate time of life.