CWU theatre puts on the coming of age story Spring Awakening


Morgana Carroll

Student performers focus on sensitive topics in Spring Awakening.

Morgana Carroll, Staff Reporter

The bright stage lights bore down on Wendla, played by Sayli Keni, as she walked on stage. The first thing Keni saw was a mirror, as Wendla tried to understand her changing body and why she looked more like her mother every day. 

Mama, who bore me?” Keni sang. 

Spring Awakening is a play written and set in late nineteenth century Germany by Frank Wedekind, and later adapted into a musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater in the early 2000s. The CWU Theatre Department put on the musical on May 13-15 and 20-22 in McConnell Hall 129.

The musical is a coming of age story about teenagers trying to understand their feelings toward their adolescent bodies, in a society that doesn’t provide emotional support and around elders who won’t provide answers. 

Spring Awakening has mature and adult themes, so the ticket website includes a content warning with a list of the themes, including sex, masturbation, suicide and abortion. The program handed out at the start of the play also includes content warnings for the audience.

Director Callum Morris said one of the reasons this play was chosen was because of how relevant these themes are. 

“This is subject matter we’re still talking about and trying to understand today,” Morris said.

Morris said the way the characters in the play didn’t have any resources to understand their changing body due to the culture of 1800s Germany is similar to how many states still offer abstinence-only sex education. 

Similarly, Morris said they think this play is relevant due to the current challenge of the status of Roe v. Wade. One of the characters in the play goes to visit a doctor for an abortion after getting pregnant. 

“Many adolescents are dealing with a lot of this still,” Morris said. “To add the challenges of how society is working now on top of that, many of the stories we see in this piece people will identify with.” 

Intimacy Choreographer, Emily Rollie, said the team of coordinators made an effort to portray the sexual scenes in a way that was comfortable for the actors.

“You can tell the story in so many different ways, so we want to tell the story in a way that the actors are comfortable with, where they can consent enthusiastically to the scenes,” Rollie said. “We tell the story within the actor’s boundaries.”

Rollie said something she always makes sure to do is to separate the actor from the character in these scenes. 

“Similar to fighting choreography, the actors aren’t actually fighting, they’re just performing that fight,” Rollie said. “That also applies to scenes with sexual content. The actors are performing. They aren’t doing any of these actions. There’s an important separation there.” 

Keni said that she always felt comfortable rehearsing and going over these scenes and didn’t remember any of her coperformers voicing that they were feeling uncomfortable. 

“For me, personally, I was comfortable with everything,” Keni said. “Of course, some of the intimacy took some getting used to, but also we have a very talented intimacy coach.”

Keni said that Spring Awakening was a fun show to work on because of how mature it was. 

“Compared to the other shows I’ve done, it’s a lot more mature,” Keni said. “It’s been kind of an acting challenge, for that reason. So that’s what makes it stand out more.” 

One scene that Keni said she’s always really glad to perform is the song “Totally Fucked,” due to how much fun it is to sing. Keni also says that it’s easy to sing because it is all in chorus.

“One moment that stands out to me every night is whenever we perform “Totally Fucked,” which is probably our favorite song in the show,” Keni said. “Every time we perform it, we have so much energy, even if we’re not feeling our best that day. We put all our energy into that one song, and then it feeds off into the audience.”