While alternative rock may seem off-putting for a musical set in 19th-century Germany, bringing off-putting material to light is what this show is all about. And The Western Stage hasn't shied away.
"Spring Awakening," the edgy rock opera that explores the dangerous consequences of sexual repression, opens Saturday on the Mainstage of the Performing Arts Building on campus at Hartnell College in Salinas.
Directed by Jon Patrick Selover, this Central Coast premiere stars Christopher Marcos, Sydney Duncheon, Jennifer Gregoire and Adam Schroeder.
This production is recommended for mature audiences only, due to partial nudity, strong language and sexually explicit content.
Set in a small village in Germany in 1890, "Spring Awakening" tells the story of a group of pubescent teenagers who are reeling from their hormones as they struggle with their feelings of sexuality in a repressive society.
The most unique component of this work — which won eight Tony Awards in 2007, including "Best Musical" — is the score.
While adapting the musical from Frank Wedekind's 1891 play that was censored for dealing with taboo topics such as masturbation, incest and abortion, the playwrights
"It's a stunning device," said Selover, who admits he was originally jarred by the idea of using modern vernacular in a 19th-century German setting. "But when I realized they were using rock 'n' roll as a device for the universal language of youth, I thought it was brilliant. They broke all the rules and they won eight Tonys."
In a society where glossy Victoria's Secret models beckon from magazine pages and pornography is available to anyone with Internet access, it may seem as though the idea of sexuality as taboo is antiquated.
But Selover maintains that "repression isn't isolated to 19th-century Germany. It's something we still deal with today."
He gives examples of the silence that surrounds issues of sexual abuse, as well as the practice of teaching of abstinence-only in schools — rather than sexual education that can empower adolescents to make informed decisions and avoid some of the negative consequences that are explored in this story.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that The Western Stage's video advertisement for this production, which was slated to run on KSBW earlier this week, was banned from airing between the hours of daylight and 11:30 p.m. because it was deemed inappropriate for viewer audiences.
The commercial depicts a woman running her hand down her scantily clad body, two boys about to kiss, and an image of a couple lying in a haystack, their legs intertwined.
"The graphic issues that are dealt with in this show are definitely still in today's society," said Marcos, who plays the role of Moritz, an adolescent who struggles to deal with insecurities. "Parents and other adults are still afraid to talk to kids about sexuality and puberty. I hope that this show will be a wake-up call for adults to start talking about these issues. They aren't something you can push aside; they will always be in our world."
Selover added that confronting the taboo that prohibits talking about sexuality can help avoid some of the negative consequences that are portrayed in the story."We can all come together as a community and encounter this story. Excellent theater like this shows us aspects of life that we can reflect on — and challenges us to think about things differently."
Lily Dayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. GO!
·What: The Western Stage presents "Spring Awakening"
·Where: The Main Stage Theater, Hartnell College performing arts building, 411 Central Ave., Salinas
·When: Opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8; continues at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees, through Sept. 29
·Tickets: $20 general, $10 children at 755-6816 or online at www.westernstage.com; Group sales of 10 tickets or more available at a discounted rate at 755-6012