Spring Awakening: Challenging Injustice Through the Lens of Theatre

Rosie Best, MAT, MSW, LSW | September 21 | 1:30-2:30 PM | Room 3020

Topic: Art, Conceptual | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Twenty years’ experience as an actor, producer and director, attest to the ways plays, musicals, and television adaptations embody the imperative to attend to social injustice. This presentation examines three works -works spanning 130 years and two continents- that indicate clearly that adults fail to trust the young people in their charge. In the words of the French saying: the more things change, the more they remain the same. In Spring Awakening, adults fail to comprehend the magnitude of the young people’s concerns. Youths’ earnest attempts to process their experiences of suicide, sex, sexuality, rape, abortion, and sexual abuse are denigrated and denied.  Their efforts to become responsible stewards of their own lives are systematically undermined by adults who lack empathy and pedagogical insight. Too often, we fail to educate young people appropriately. We infantilize them. We condemn their fumblings and their brilliance indiscriminately. We mock their attempts to grapple with foundational issues. At times, we damn their findings as unreal. Sometimes we stultify their unique contribution to the world. Who knows what gems we have lost as a result of this denial? This presentation examines three versions of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening: Tragedy of Childhood. First, the original text published in 1890, then the 2006 Broadway musical adaptation, and finally the segments as included in the 2018 television show, Rise. The presenter concludes that our resistance to acknowledging young people’s agency in their own lives hampers their ability to handle the most serious issues they face.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Explore how theatre can be used as a tool in examining social injustice.

·  Examine three versions of one work of theatre and how it can be used as a tool for social justice.

·  Inspire other artists to use academic rigor and arts in tandem.

About the Presenter