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Spring’s Awakening: A sum of all its parts

author: alexa lawlor | staff writer

The adaptation of Spring’s Awakening is sure to linger with audiences long after. Photo Credit: "Remnants of an Awakening" by Joviel Buenavente
The adaptation of Spring’s Awakening is sure to linger with audiences long after. Photo Credit: “Remnants of an Awakening” by Joviel Buenavente

We got to hear from some of the Fall production’s stars on and off the stage.

From Nov. 9-12 at 7:30 p.m., the theatre department, as part of the Caligari Project, will present an adaptation of Spring’s Awakening, written by Frank Wedekind and adapted by Kenn McLeod, Elizabeth Leavitt, and Jeremiah Munsey.

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with people from all departments of the production: an actor, the stage manager, the costume designer, and the director. Here’s a little preview of the show and the hard work that went into putting it together.

Nicole Garies, Actor

Q: Can you tell me a bit about your role in the show?

I play Wendla; she’s fourteen years old. Her sister just had a child, and she tries to ask her mother how it happened, because she doesn’t know, and her mother refuses to tell her. So, essentially, she tries discovering this on her own, and…well I don’t want to spoil the end of the play, but she gets herself into a bit of trouble with it.

Q: How many other university performances have you been a part of? How does this one compare to the others?

This is my third university production. This one definitely has a really solid storyline, it’s a narrative. The other two I’ve been in, one was a Shakespeare, which was a narrative too, but it was a little difficult for the audience to understand, because it was Shakespeare. The other one was experimental theatre, so it didn’t really have a storyline at all, but this one is a really simple, straightforward plot and I kind of like that. (laughs)

Kenn McLeod, Director

Q: What was the casting process like?

Oh, it was cool because originally, this play – when I say originally, it’s because this is the second time the show has been done – the first production of it was in Las Vegas when I was doing my Masters degree down there, so that was in 2006, and in that production we only had thirteen actors. All the adults were played by the same two actors, and all the kids played the kids. So, I had two rounds of auditions for the show. Back in May, I had one round of auditions, and came up with an acting ensemble of about twelve for that, so for the whole summer they knew they were in the show, but they didn’t know what parts they were going to be playing. Then I thought, “Okay, in the fall when, you know, first-year students come in and people maybe missed the auditions, we’ll do another little round and we’ll maybe find a couple more people”. I thought maybe I’d have six people interested, of which I could use maybe three, but I had twenty-seven come out for the fall auditions. So, I’d already cast twelve, and I had another twenty-seven…they were all tremendous auditions, so I had to really start cutting down. At the end of the day, it still ended up with twenty-one in the cast, so it almost doubled the original amount, and then sort of pieced things out that way. So, it was great to have a very wide pool of talent to choose from. The hardest part was having too many actors and trying to decide how to use the ones that I had. 

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your role as director?

Well, I’m always explaining what a director does. My textbook sort of answer is that the director is the one in charge of…I think of myself as the first audience, so when I work on a piece, I approach it from a viewpoint of “what do I want people to see, what do I want people to take away,” so my role is everything from the casting, to the meetings with my designers about what’s it going to look like, meetings with sound, meetings with lights, for more of the look and the sound of it, working with the actors so that at the end of the day, the stage picture that an audience witnesses has been sort of crafted by my input. Sort of the classic way it goes is that if everybody loves the show, they congratulate all the actors, and all the designers on it, and if they hate it, they blame the director. So, if it goes well, it should look like you didn’t really do anything, it should be hard to explain, because there’s so much that you sort of focus and move around that when it’s done well, it’s not heavy handed, it’s hard to tell what a director has done, other than you saw a show.

Karlee Rabby, Stage Manager

Q: For the people that don’t know, can you tell me a little bit about what you’re in charge of as stage manager?

As stage manager, I deal with the actors and I basically deal with the whole production and making things go as smoothly as possible, and communication. I do all the scheduling, and whenever there’s an issue, I’m the first one to go to, and I document it and I make sure that it gets figured out. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about the job?

My favourite part about the job is being able to work with such amazing and different people. So many people that are from all different tracks of life, and then they come into the theatre and then they work on a project, production, whatever it might be, and they put their hearts and souls into this thing and a lot of people don’t see that, they just see the show. But I love being in the rehearsal room every single day; I love being able to see the process happen and being able to see people grow and being able to see relationships starting and ending, and all of that, I just, I love the whole process. However, that would probably be my favourite.

Q: What can the audience expect to see from the show?

They can expect to see spectacle. They can expect to see something so different from what has occurred at the university, from costumes to sets to acting in the last…ten years. There’s been nothing done like this show before, and it’s very amazing being able to sit back and watch everything come together, just talking about the set itself, it’s so very different, it’s not contemporary, it’s so abstract, it’s so interesting, that I’m sure that at the end of the shows, people will be a little bit of “What the heck did I just see?” but also a little bit of like “Awe, wow, that was good” and that’s what I want out of the show at the end, but I think spectacle is the best explanation for that.

Carson Walliser, Costume Designer

Q: Did you have any specific inspirations, from the books you looked at or anything else?

Yeah, for sure the biggest inspiration for the entire show was nature. Just looking at things in nature, the original concept that I came up with back in April was to base every single person in the show off of something found in nature, and so we have people based off of rain, constellations, flowers and weeds, ash, all these sorts of different things that they were all going to embody, and then those are the things that really got distilled down, but they’re still in there.

Q: How do you make sure you make the “right” costume that really embodies the character?

I didn’t feel like I had really made the right choice until I saw the people that were cast in those roles doing that part, especially for the first time, because watching actors, since I’m usually acting, watching actors do a reading of something for the very first time is really interesting, because it’s a lot of natural tendencies coming out. And, so, watching them do that, you get to see these sparks and glimmers of what’s there, which actually influences the costume design too, especially when it comes down to the finer details of things, seeing what people do on their own, and so I think that’s always a moment when I’m like, “Yeah, this works; this is really going to fit them.” You know, you try your best before that, coming up with the concept and everything, but it’s always when you really see the people in the clothes for the first time, and you see them being those people for the first time, that you really know.

The performances will take place in the Riddell Theatre from Nov. 9-12. Tickets are free for university students with student ID, $15 for adults, and $10 for seniors. Learn more at the University of Regina website.

About Alexa Lawlor