I have been a theatre kid since the tender age of 5 when I got my first role in my church’s Christmas play. I was Balthazar, one of the three wise men. I remember laying on my bed, running my lines, and how badly I wanted to make sure that part was absolutely perfect. When I got to recite my lines in front of my family, I felt this extreme rush and pride over working so hard and becoming a part of something so wonderful. Since that day, I have been in many shows, worked with great casts, and I have even starred in a few. But nothing amounts to the amazing experience I had with Spring Awakening and the family I made through that show.
Spring Awakening is a musical about teenagers growing up and coming to terms with their sexuality, society, and burning questions about the world. The beauty of this musical is that, despite the dark, angsty undertones, the musical remains very buoyant through the flow of the music written by Duncan Sheik. Also it should be noted that the musical takes place in 1800’s Germany, but the themes and situations are still very much present today. Parents are able to take their teens to this show as a way to open up lines of communication about sex, drugs, personal identity, teen suicide, and so much more.
When I auditioned for the show, I was hoping to be a part of the chorus, anything I could do to be a part of this brilliant show. My audition was not spectacular, but I almost came close to tears during my song, showing emotions that evidently rang true with the director. I was originally cast as Thea, one of the close friends of the principal female character Wendla. I was excited, and couldn’t wait to start on the show. Three days later, I received an email from the director Jimmy Chrismon, asking me if I would be willing to do a role shift and take on the part of Wendla. I remember waking up to this email, rubbing my eyes, reading it again, and then screaming in my pillow before I started jumping up and down with pure joy. I got to play one of my dream roles!
The rehearsal process was truly unreal. From the beginning, we all bonded as a cast (Video). Music rehearsals, blocking, and watching the show come together over a few short months was never dull. One of my favorite memories was literally the first rehearsal my “love interest” Tyler and I had with just Jimmy and Bailey, the stage manager, in the room. We had to block and begin to work out the “hay loft scene” which is the big controversial rape scene in the show. Tyler was really tentative and polite about where to touch me, and out of frustration I just said, “Dude, just grab my boob, already. You’re going to have to get used to it.” After that, there was a lot of laughter and eventually we got into a routine. All of the cast was so invested emotionally in this show, it became show much more than a musical. It became a life-affirming event.
Moritz (Steven James) gets caught snoozing during class
Copyright Michael Photography
During the process, I had the insight to video tape a lot of the rehearsals. The choreography(Video), I have to say, was inspiring. Steven, who played Moritz and Jimmy worked so hard on the choreography (Video) for the show, and it turned out beautiful. We weren’t allowed to curse during the rehearsal process, having to substitute words like “stuck” and “itch” instead of the obvious words. During tech week, we had bottled up those words so much, we totally got “angsty” and yelled those words at the top of our lungs. My inner 14 year old loved it.
As the day of opening got closer, we realized that our time together as a “family” was coming to a close. During our final dress rehearsal, just before Song of Purple Summer, Tyler (Melchior) gave Kitty (Ilse) the bouquet of purple summer flowers and hugged her. That moment was so poingnant, so moving, we all lost it as a cast, and cried through the entire song. There was not a dry eye left.
Ilse (Kitty Whisenant) and the girls sing “Mama Who Bore Me”
Copyright: Michael Carr Photography
The run of the show was phenomenal. We had a fantastic turn out, and the show was well received by Creative Loafing magazine. Steven has gone on to many other great projects. Kitty was dubbed a powerhouse, and I am hoping she is able to get back into theatre soon. Tyler and I even got a notable nod from the arts and entertainment magazine, which is saying something for the girl whose audition was simply dreadful.
After the show closed, we continued talking and being each other’s “therapists” for getting over show withdrawals. Most of us stay in touch with each other. I even got an awesome thrill from running into Hannah who played Anna in a haunted house at Scarowinds a few weeks ago. She made one spooky dead thing, and she is a spectacular actress. The show left so much of a mark on me, I wanted to make that mark permanent. Just a few weeks before Christmas, I took my sister in for her first tattoo, and I got one of my own to commemorate the experience of being in this show.
A year later, I truly appreciate still the closeness I had with the cast and the willingness of Jimmy to take on such a challenging show. I will never forget it. To see more Spring Awakening Interviews andRehearsals, follow the link!
What experiences have you had that had a signficant impact on you? I would love to hear! Leave a comment below.