On Feb. 8, Ghost Light Players, a community theatre group which started at Ryerson last year, put on its first ever production as a theatre company – Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening.
Part of what makes us human is our flaws. This fact, that we are imperfect beings, along with the sexually-repressive culture of 19th-century Germany and the sexual fantasies it breeds are two main themes Spring Awakening explores.
They are also a reason it was heavily censored after its completion. Despite Wedekind finishing the play around late 1890 or early 1891, it wasn’t until 1906 that it was first performed.
Many would argue that we live in a much more liberated and uninhibited society today. They would be right. But through their modern interpretation of the play, Ghost Light Players has shown that, though the times may change, the problems adolescents face stay relatively static.
Such as Nicholas Fassbender’s portrayal of Moritz – an honest representation of any boy who has ever experienced the pangs of puberty or an undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. He is, at his core, just a stressed-out kid looking to fit in, looking to succeed – in all definitions of the word: academically, sexually and mentally.
Similarly, Kara Swayze’s Wendla accurately encompasses the innocence of a young girl learning to traverse the uncertainty of her own sexuality, especially in the increasingly hypersexualized world we live in.
Oliver Daniel’s take on Melchior shows us the negative impacts of censorship around the topic of sex, and the paradoxical nature of how placing a taboo on such a subject creates hypersexualized adolescents with sexual rage and little to no outlets to express it. It’s also relateable for any child who has ever felt unsupported by their parents in a time of crisis, cast away to a boarding school because of problems in their adolescence their parents are unable (or unwilling) to deal with.
Many other aspects of the play have been tastefully revamped for a 21st-century audience, such as a particularly violent sexual scene between Melchior and Wendla which was performed in a manner that makes very clear the intent of the scene without sacrificing the actors’ comfort – something artistic director Andrea Pestana said was very important to her in putting together the production.
Additionally the foolish, often excessive, portrayal of adulthood in this play is also something many adolescents today will relate to. Especially as society progresses to a point where the divergence in opinions between millennials and their parents often causes disconnects so extreme they can only be described as hilarious.
Ghost Light Players’ Spring Awakening runs until Feb. 10 at the University of Toronto’s George Ignatieff Theatre. You can buy tickets and see showtimes here.