Exploring Spring Awakening: Week Two, Blog One (Mary Rose Nicholas)
How does a rehearsal process evolve from tablework to movement or as ensemble member and Thea understudy Mary Rose succinctly writes, “from page to stage”? Keep reading to learn about exploring choreography and music in week two of Spring Awakening, our musical opening in September.
“Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?” –Alan Menken, Pocahontas
After our first week of analysis, each word of the text and note of the score has led us to a better understanding of the specific relationships between our characters and their world. But how to clearly translate this story from the page to the stage while making it utterly unique to the team in our room? And how to do it in a single week, before running the show in full for our costume, set, prop, light, and sound designers tonight?
We are fortunate to have the tools and direction we need to excavate the libretto. Marie directs our exploration of every simultaneous and oppositional force in the text, guiding us to discover each source of conflict: children vs. adults; sex vs. violence; classic script vs. contemporary song; high drama vs. comedic relief; dream vs. reality; connection vs. isolation; exposure vs. protection; doctrine vs. education, sin vs. forgiveness; speech vs. silence; sea vs. forest; calm vs. storm; spring vs. summer.
And with the motivation of these dualities, the scenes ebb and flow, rise and fall, like a river or the wind, through the solid platforms and spinning frames on our little stage. We allow the text to drive how characters connect and separate. The three literal images in the song title “Mirror Blue Night” are all incorporated. A lift is carefully choreographed so that Wendla appears before Melchior exactly as the dialogue states: “like a tree-nymph fallen from the branches.” Angels appear when imagined by a character nearing death.
But then how to show what is not in the text? In the duet, “The Dark I Know Well,” the concept of assault is suggested, but unnamed. So Marie’s staging honors the omission and therein creates the presence of its power. The few concrete images given, such as “smile” and “breathe,” become sinister caricatures. Ilse and Martha find themselves helplessly trapped in the twisted undercurrent of music, and the clash of male voices joining the female soloists is harsh and unnatural, foreshadowing what each cannot or will not say aloud: “There is a part I can’t tell/about the dark I know well.”
In this and every song, our music director Adam, does not teach the notes or lyrics. Instead, he teaches us how best to bring out their power and explore alternatives to traditional vocal beauty. In “My Junk” and “I Believe,” pieces that suggest a light love song and church chorale respectively, we embrace harmonic and rhythmic dissonances, instead of reconciling or resenting them. We trust that they exist with purpose, and then we go deeper to discover the disruption in the story that they expose and enhance. By not attempting to blend our different voices into a uniform choir, we create unexpected colors as our individual sounds meet, inform, and complement each other.
Our directors have helped us uncover purpose and power in each scene and song in the course of one week. Spring Awakening is outlined and off-book. And now, we and our design team will have until September shade, polish, and paint every detail.