Exploring Spring Awakening: In the Shadows (Written by Mary Rose Nicholas)
Spring Awakening is in the midst of their tech week and today is a special day as our understudies perform in their principal tracks for an invited dress rehearsal! Our wonderstudies, as we like to call them, have been working incredibly hard so today is their day! Keep reading to find out more about the understudy process through Mary Rose Nicholas’ perspective.
“Where I go, when I go there, no more shadows anymore.”
–Steven Satar, Spring Awakening.
Every member of this cast, principal and ensemble, has been treated with so much value respect. And, as an ensemble of understudies, we have been given every resource available to principals. We all studied the show together and participated in table work. We devised our choreography and blocked scenes in each other’s company. We have had solo coachings with Adam, polished scenework with Paisley, drilled fight and intimacy choreography with Lana, and been given specific character notes by Marie. We have never been pressured to do everything the exact same way as our principal. Instead, we have been encouraged to share the same journey, the same overarching plan, but to travel this path in our own way.
The only thing understudies have less of is time. But in every challenge there is an opportunity. Our opportunity is to master the material with the same nuance, but less rehearsal. If we go on for a principal, we have been assured our interpretations will be supported by our castmates. They will adapt to the choices we make while fueled by adrenaline and the chance to shoulder the responsibility of a role in this great show.
I am in the company of five incredibly talented wonderstudies. Sydney (Anna U/S) is dance captain and runs the lift and fight call before each run to ensure these moments are focused, safe, and smooth. Gina (Ilse/Martha U/S) and Mireya (Wendla U/S) have prepared some of the most vocally and emotionally demanding roles in the show while preparing to return for their senior year of college (at Columbia and Carthage respectively). George (Moritz/Hanschen U/S) mastered his tracks in only two weeks of rehearsal after joining us straight from a summer stock contract while Adam (Melchior U/S) rehearsed and performed in a production Newsies simultaneously with our process.
As an ensemble, Marie has guided us to find beautiful and specific moments of connection, fleshing out our tracks to be powerful and full, not just shadows and whispers. All of our ensemble selves have names: some are invented based on the show’s period; mine, Marianna Wheelin, is taken from a lyric in “Bitch of Living.” And, as the weeks pass, the work we’ve put into developing the ensemble has grown integral to the show as a whole. The principals are even generously stepping into some of our ensemble responsibilities for our invited understudy run this Thursday. I personally am so grateful they are helping us keep those moments and the powerful sound of our entire company. The kindness and partnership among the cast has been one of the most rewarding parts of this experience. Emily (Thea) always gives me snacks when I’m hungry and a smile when I’m sad, and I am so very happy to be both her understudy and friend.