Out North Contemporary Art House has been known for producing both quirky and controversial productions for years, and their next offering to Anchorage, a musical called “Spring Awakening,” is no different.
Director Caleb Bourgeois was approached by Scott Schofield, the former executive director at Out North, to do the production a year ago, but now, with the show opening on Friday, July 20, it’s crunch time for both his actors and himself.
“Spring Awakening” is a 2007 Tony Award-winning rock musical by Steven Sater that is based on a controversial 1892 German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind (which ended up banned for several years and landed Wedekind in prison). The play takes place in late 19th century Germany, and surrounds a group of adolescents on the cusp of adulthood who are just coming into their sexuality. The play zeros in on several different struggles, including their lack of understanding and a refusal by adults to explain what they are going through.
“It essentially centers around Coleman [Alguire]’s character, Melchior Gabor, who’s this kind of rebel, knowledgable, intelligent guy who’s just trying to get through. Joe [Chu]’s character, his best friend Moritz Stiefel, is kind of the guy who just can’t get ahead and he’s always down on his luck. Wendla Bergmann, Ashley [Glore]’s character, is this girl on the brink of womanhood, going through her own thing of self-discovery as well,” said Bourgeois. “It’s really a story about all these different kids and how difficult it is to be this age, whether it’s in this time or the past.”
The cast sports a diverse background in theater, some more accustomed to musical theater while others are more classically trained. Glore, who was in musicals in high school but is attending Belmont University for acting, isn’t as familiar with singing as she’d like to be.
“I think the most difficult part is, as someone who is not extremely trained in singing, I want to try my best in rehearsals and sing as I’m supposed to and this and that, but that’s not really the nature of the musical,” she said. “Musicals have so much to do with the music, but if all I’m doing is focusing on the notes, that’s not what’s important, so I’m trying to find the balance.”
Alguire (a 2012 UAA criminal justice graduate), by contrast, isn’t as accustomed to acting as he is to singing.
“I was part of the university Glee Club for almost two years, and I’m a good singer, but acting is not my forte, so I’ve been having character building problems,” he said.
The third star, Chu, is having his own difficulties, despite currently going to school for musical theater at Illinois Wesleyan University.
“I’m going to school for this stuff, and it’s hard, but then I come back and I’m thinking, ‘oh, it’s fine, I’ll do “Spring Awakening”’. No, it’s a really hard show,” he said. “Duncan Sheik is a really great composer, considering he’s a 90’s pop star, so yeah, I think the singing is what’s difficult for me, even though it’s kind of my forte.”
Despite everyone being at different parts of the theatre spectrum, Bourgeois is pleased with his luck in casting.
“Somehow in Anchorage, serendipitously, the cast just always sort of comes together. You always get this perfect mix of people who audition for shows, so we really lucked out with the turnout for this production,” he said. “It’s a perfect little ensemble.”
Due to the intimate nature of the show, Bourgeois plans on dividing the seating in Out North’s theater so that the stage is in the center of the rom, with the bleachers on either side so that the audience is closer and can better connect with the story. The cast will be able to more easily interact with the audience during their musical numbers as well.
“I feel like we’ve built up such a momentum with this show, and I’m excited to share it with an audience,” said Glore. Alguire agrees, and thinks the audience will enjoy the edgy production.
“There’s a lot of strong emotions in the play, and it’s very connecting music,” he said. “Combine that with the very momentous things that are happening in these people’s lives, and you’ll definitely want to come see it.”
“Spring Awakening” will be running weekends at Out North from Friday, July 20 through Sunday, August 5. Tickets are $25 for the general public and $20 for seniors and students with valid IDs, and can be purchased online at www.alaskapaccentertix.net.