Young actor finds ’Spring Awakening’ fun, challenging
The original was written in 1891. It was banned for 100 years. The setting is Germany. The plot is about the turmoil of coming into one's own sexuality without any information - at all. And it's now been made into a rock musical. Sound crazy? Well, it was a plan just crazy enough to be nominated for eleven Tonys and win eight, as well as land four Drama Desk Awards.
The show is Spring Awakening. It's a musical based on Frank Wedekind's play by the same name. The music was composed by Duncan Shiek with the book and lyrics by Steven Sater. And don't let the late nineteenth century setting fool you. This is a raw piece that not only isn't afraid to get its hands dirty, it willingly jumps in and tackles territory others fear to tread - teenage sexuality, masturbation, abortion, bondage, child abuse, and suicide.
The music is alternative rock. The themes are impossible to ignore. And the show is currently in Miami through May 16 at the Adrienne Arsht Center. EDGE spoke to one of the show's stars, Taylor Trensch (who plays Moritz), by phone. Trensch, plays Moritz in the show and boasts regional credits that include The Rocky Horror Show (Frank 'N' Furter), Little Shop of Horrors (Seymour) and Rabbit Hole (Jason).
An ensemble show
EDGE: Can you give a snapshot of your theater background?
Taylor Trensch: I started doing plays and musicals when I was seven-years-old. I was Mayor of Munchkin City in the Wizard of Oz. I studied it in school, did some regional work, auditioned for this show, and got it.
EDGE: Can you tell readers a little about the story of Spring Awakening?
Taylor Trensch: It takes place in 1891 Germany. It’s about a group of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of their sexuality. It’s definitely an ensemble show with everyone heavily featured.
EDGE: Do you approach a show like this differently when it already has a reputation as a straight and is now a musical?
Taylor Trensch: I think as a musical it works so well. Maybe even better than it does as a play. The songs are set in 2010 so you step outside of the play into modern times and get to rock out and comment on what happens in the story. It makes it really accessible for every audience member. The music is recognizable. You’d hear it on the radio.
EDGE: What is it that attracts people to Spring Awakening?
Taylor Trensch: It definitely can be very dark. But it also has a lot of humor that draws people in. Musical theater is so often an escapist form of art. But that’s not always how life is. So I think audiences are excited to see something more honest and real and it makes them want to come see us. And all of the issues are so relevant and timeless for all audience’s members. Whether you have gone or are going though or are going to go through puberty, there’s someone in the show you can connect to.
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Watch this clip of the National company of Spring Awakening performing "The Bitch of Living."
A challenge, but fun
EDGE: Are you still blown away that this is what you get to do for a living?
Taylor Trensch: Every single morning. Absolutely. There are times on stage when I’m actually sitting with audience members and I remember exactly what I’m doing and I feel like I’m going to cry. But I know I shouldn’t. I remember how lucky I am to be acting for a living and to be acting in this show. It’s a challenge. But it’s so much fun.
EDGE: How did you come to get the part?
Taylor Trensch: I had the longest audition process out of our cast. First I auditioned in high school. I sent a video to springawakening.com and sent in more material. And we went back and forth. I flew up to New York to see them. But it wasn’t the right time or I was too young and I went in one more time and I got the part.
There’s one other girl in the cast who’d been auditioning for about the same amount time, like four years. This piece of theater is so special. There’s nothing else like it out there. And I don’t think there ever will be. The music is astounding. [My character’s experience] is not too far from my own high school experience and those three things kept pulling me back to the show and I knew I had to be a part of it.
EDGE: What’s the biggest challenge you face in terms of performing this particular show?
Taylor Trensch: My character becomes pretty dark by the end of the show and at first it was a big problem to get to that low. To get that depressed, to be suicidal. But the team of actors doing this show... everyone is so talented. If I just listen to what they say, it becomes pretty easy for me to go there.
EDGE: Who should come to see this show?
Taylor Trensch: If it were a movie it would probably be PG 13. So it’s for teenagers and adults. But on a case-by-case basis, of course. Some twelve or thirteen year olds are ready and some fifteen and sixteen year olds are not. There’s a Parent’s Guide on springawakening.com. All teens should see the show. It opens up an important dialogue between them and their parents.
EDGE: Anything else you want to say to potential audience members reading this?
Taylor Trensch: I think its kind of fun for audiences to know that it’s this really cool play fused with an even cooler rock concert like a theatrical experience and a rock concert all at once.
Spring Awakening plays through May 16, 2010 at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida. For more information visit the Arsht Center website.
Watch this clip from a documentary of Spring Awakening:>i>