Fall plays feature hot topics, raunchy scenes
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 21:10
Two theater organizations presented musicals with adult themes this week.
“Avenue Q” performed by E-52, addresses sex, pornography and racism while “Spring Awakening” performed by Harrington Theater Arts Company, also addresses sex in addition to abortion and suicide.
Junior Neil Redfield stars in “Spring Awakening,” and says he sees value in presenting such raunchy adult-themed musicals to a college audience.
Redfield, anthropology major and performance studies minor, says he is fascinated with the human condition and believes theater addresses the quintessential question of what it means to be human.
The modern musical “Spring Awakening” is based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play of the same title. Wedekind’s characters grapple with sexuality, homosexuality, depression and other less discussed issues humans still face today.
These topics at the core of “Spring Awakening” have not changed with time. To further add to the plot, playwright and lyricist Steven Sater juxtaposes the play with a modern rock soundtrack.
College students such as Redfield, though slightly older than the characters in the play, identify with the issues the characters encounter. These difficult life topics do not change over time; struggles with feeling alone and fears of not being loved have tormented humans for centuries, Redfield says.
“There’s something really incredible about the fact that these things are still so present,” Redfield says. “I think we have this premise that these issues we come up with are new. We’re not the first humans to have these fears of being loved and of being wanted and of being OK.”
Redfield says digging into specificity helps him when acting. It is impossible to portray profound universal ideas as a single actor. However, he says audiences witnessing and joining a character in important life experiences is the crux of theater.
“That is what theater is,” Redfield says. “It is the specificity of one person’s experience or of multiple peoples’ experiences, depending on the show and what happens to them.”
“Spring Awakening” features brief nudity and the Harrington Theater Arts Company keeps true to the script. Redfield’s character, Melchior, bares his rear on stage—the first time that Redfield has exposed himself on stage.
He says his director took great care in making sure the cast was comfortable with each other and in gradually building up to fully portraying the raunchier scenes. Redfield says he is comfortable with the nudity because it directly correlates with what the characters are experiencing at the moment it happens.
“For me it’s a question of ‘Does it contribute to the story?’” Redfield says. “If it doesn’t contribute to the story, then I don’t want to do it.”
“Avenue Q” also features nudity and sex, but the actors are not physically exposing themselves on stage. The play, being a parody of Sesame Street, features the E-52 actors blending into the scenery and manipulating the puppets that are the main characters. This production is double casted, enabling two actors to portray each character.
Freshman Brad Michalakis and junior William Bryant each play two characters: Princeton and Rod. They dove straight into scenes during the rehearsal process, having little rehearsal time without the puppets.
The actors say they knew at the auditions what raunchy content the show contained.
Michalakis says audiences will like the show for its shocking vulgarity. Bryant says the adult content contributes to the comic effect of the show, but “Avenue Q” is more than just vulgarity.
“It has a ‘Family Guy’—like comedy that will draw people in,” Bryant says. “There’s a lot of heart too that counters the raunchiness.”
Sophomore Kaitlyn Breloff says she was very excited to hear that E-52 was performing another musical and is not deterred from seeing the play because of the vulgarity.
“With it being a little bit raunchier, it appealed to the college audience,” Breloff says.
Breloff says she was not uncomfortable with any of the adult scenes and feels she is fairly open to elements that may make others feel uncomfortable because she has been exposed to them before through her own theater experiences.
Redfield says he would consider participating in a play that contains nudity and raunchiness again as long as those elements are essential to the understanding and presenting of the plot.
“We’re here to do a job, and that job is to tell a story,” Redfield says. “Anything that takes away from that goal is just fluff.”