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Historical Context & Contemporary Issues: Spring Awakening at Bootless Stageworks

Historical Context & Contemporary Issues: Spring Awakening at Bootless Stageworks

In a short period of time, Broadway has seen the premier and revival of the important piece of theatre known as Spring Awakening – and now it’s coming to Bootless Stageworks. The show follows pubescent teenagers as they begin to question what it means to be an adult: handling subjects such as sexual abuse, homosexual relationships, suicide, and many others. For this challenging piece of theatre, Bootless Stageworks has brought in Justin Walsh, along with several new artists, to work through the demanding script and score

Spring Awakening is a show with its feet planted firmly in historical context and contemporary issues. Based on a play of the same name written in 1890, it’s amazing to see how the issues present in the 19th century have transferred to the new millennium: while costumes and dialect of the characters firmly root this piece in its time period, the struggles undergone are current hot-button subjects of debate. Directors, including Walsh, have constantly been finding new parts of the text to highlight since the musical’s debut in 2006. Issues have vanished from the public sphere only to resurface and be incorporated into the musical’s consciousness: tackling topics from blossoming sexuality to the politics surrounding the deaf community and more.

Walsh, in Bootless’s upcoming production of Spring Awakening, aims to bring the issues of communication, oppression, and xenophobia to the forefront – making them accessible for audiences to engage with. “I love dark shows,” says Walsh, as the male cast begins to drill Latin in the background with the music director, James Fuerst. “I always say with dark shows – I approach them by trying to make the things that are abysmally-dark lighter and the things on the lighter side, darker. For me, this balances out the audience’s perception of ‘Whoa, this is too much,’ making it more accessible to everyone. There are moments in this show we go darker than any other production I have, personally, ever seen. Usually these are moments that are treated as throw-aways, are glossed over, or treated minimalistically. We are hands-on and ripping people’s hearts out with certain numbers.”

Rehearsal goes on, with the six men asking questions about diction by the piano. Justin stops for a minute to get a thumbs up from Fuerst before returning. “This show is about surviving the confusion that is life,” the Latin recitation has stopped at this point, underscoring Walsh’s sentiment. “The show is about adolescence, but that experience falls under the gamut of confusion we face from birth to death. This show is about not knowing the answers, and making the right – or wrong – choices as we try to guide ourselves through it.”

Spring Awakening begins previews October 7 and runs October 14-22. This production promises to be one that implicitly asks audiences to interconnect and question its subject matter – as well as seek change after leaving the theater.