Behind the scenes of “Spring Awakening”

The theater students took to the stage with energy and joy during the opening show of “Spring Awakening” on March 11 and continued to perform with the same energy over the next few weeks of March.

“Spring Awakening” is a rock musical based on the 19th century musical about teenagers in Germany in the 1800s who have no idea what it means to grow up and experience life on a larger level while living in an uneducated society.

Daniel Nakawatase, the director of the musical, is an artistic producer with Encore Theater Group, a local theater company in South Bay.

“I have conducted in many other schools. My main focus is educational theater that benefits schools and communities,” Nakawatase said.

Although Nakawatase had experiences working in other schools’ theater departments, he spent his first semester at El Camino College with the cast and crew in rehearsals preparing for the musical “Spring Awakening.”

“Directing a show at El Camino was an incredible experience. It’s really nice to get back to a professional process in a university setting, it’s not like that everywhere,” Nakawatase said.

Throughout the production of the show, student actors can live experiences hand in hand with professionals, designers, technicians and members of the creative team.

Nakawatase said “Spring Awakening” highlights what it means to be a young person in a time when adults don’t necessarily know how to do good with you.

Olivia Curry, 18, a student at El Camino, is passionate about theater and pursues a career as an actress. Curry played Wendla, the star of the musical.

“The musical is ultimately about teenagers learning about their sexuality and the frustration of being in a bubble that aren’t allowed to feel the things that they biologically feel,” Curry said.

When Curry read the script for the musical, she was able to sympathize with the character because she herself is a teenager.

“It’s very interesting to be able to kind of immerse ourselves in the world of a play and experience our lives through someone else’s eyes,” Curry said.

Wendla, played by Olivia Curry, sits center stage during the final scene of “Spring Awakening,” taken on opening night at the Campus Theater on Friday, March 11. (Sharlisa Shabaz | The Union)

Thomas Evans, 18, is a theater student at El Camino College who played three different characters for “Spring Awakening.” Evans played Adult Man and was the understudy for Melchior and Moritz.

Evans said the message conveyed in the musical is not to take youth for granted.

“As soon as I look up, I have to let it all go,” Evans said.

Evans describes the sudden rush of emotion ahead of the musical as an “emotional kick”.

“I have to take a minute for myself just to get out of my head and stop being me,” Evans said.

Evans found it difficult to move between different characters and personalities due to unfamiliarity with not having done so before.

“Having to switch between characters from 10 seconds of full-scale emotional breakdown to then having maybe the second funniest scene in the entire series is such a difficult situation,” Evans said.

Joseph Yanez, 19, is a student at El Camino and is pursuing a career in theater. Yanez played Melchior in Spring Awakening.

Yanez adds to Evans’ sentiment and said not to take youth and innocence for granted.

There were several scenes and actions such as mature and rebellious activities required for the musical which Yanez felt did not align with his personal beliefs.

“When you’re acting, you want to get as close to the person as possible without making it personal,” Yanez said.

Throughout rehearsals, Yanez had to remind himself that he was not the character he was playing.

“The choices and decisions I make on stage are not represented by my actual choices,” Yanez said.

Although difficult, the fact that the musical was difficult to portray is what enticed Yanez to become a cast member.

“Despite the plot, the music is beautiful. Music is a big thing for me and that’s what attracted me too,” Yanez said.

Similar to Yanez, Nakawatase said his favorite thing about musicals was seeing it all come together.

“There’s something really special about so many people combining their energies and contributions into one thing,” Nakawatse said. “What’s special about theater is that we tell a story in order to shed light on different perspectives on the human experience.”

Daniel Nakawatase, director of "spring awakening" stands on the Campus Theater stage before the cast rehearses the musical on Thursday, March 10.  (Photo by Sharlisa Shabazz)
“Spring Awakening” director Daniel Nakawatase stands on stage at the Campus Theater before the cast rehearse for the musical Thursday, March 10 at the Campus Theater. (Sharlisa Shabazz | The Union)

Sending a message about what it means to be human is what Nakawatase said is the essence of performing in front of an audience.

“I think normally ‘Spring Awakening’ is stereotyped as the sex musical. There are lots of themes exploring sexuality, identity and who you are. But it’s so much more than that,” Nakawatase said.

Nakawatase highlights a facet of the series that most people overlook. He said the musical poses a question to viewers about how each succeeding generation can honor the generations to come.

“As an educator, this is a subject close to my heart because we work with young people all the time. And we’re here to deepen your learning. You can all become the leaders of tomorrow,” Nakawatase said.