8:00pm • Friday, December 2, 2022 • Arthur Miller Theater • Spoilers 3rd paragraph
Last Friday I had the honor of being one of the first audience members to experience the new student musical theater organization on campus, In the Round, as they presented Spring Awakening at the Arthur Miller Theater. First, I must confess, I approached Friday night’s performance with some trepidation. I’m from a small town with a smaller art scene, and when I hear “new theater company,” my mind is drawn to uncomfortable hours spent watching community theater groups stumble through off-key musicals. Within the first few minutes of this performance my fears were assuaged: the brilliance which In the Round exhibited in this production redefined for me, as a non-art-student, what it means to attend a school with some of the top music, theater, and dance students in the world.
The highlights of the performance, for me, included the heartbreaking duet “The Dark I Know Well,” performed by Leslie Meloni as Martha and Bianca Garfinkle as Ilsa as well as the wildly impressive ad-libs of Chad Marge as Georg during “Touch Me.” Beyond those shout-outs, I appreciated the thoughtful handling of the underlying messages and themes in the show. In the Round chose to use the color purple throughout the performance, gradually incorporating the color into each character’s costume to symbolize the moment “the community irrevocably harms them” (In the Round). At the end of the show, purple flower petals rained down as the actors sat facing us to sing “The Song of Purple Summer,” seeming to warn the audience of the costs of censorship.
The production illustrated in vivid detail how each character was wronged by a culture of silence. This manifests particularly in the story arc of Wendla, played by Juliet Freedman, who begins the plot by begging her mother to explain where babies come from, and ends the victim of rape and a botched abortion. I also found a kind of symbolism in the way two actors, Jamie Martin Mann and Jill Pierangeli, repeatedly donned different roles to collectively portray all of the adult characters. While the actors admirably recast their personalities for the changing needs of each scene, the repetitiveness also served to represent the way the characters’ world strove to manufacture its children into uniformly moral (a.k.a. censored) adults.
This performance was truly the best introduction I could have had to the story of Spring Awakening, and I wish I could have attended all of the showings this weekend to dig more deeply into the care put into every detail of the show. I can’t wait to see what In the Round creates in the future, and I am so excited about this necessary addition to the campus art scene.
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