Our Trip to See Deaf West Theater’s Production of ‘Spring Awakening’ in Los Angeles
Maureen and I took a quick weekend trip out to Los Angeles to see our nephew Michael Arden and the play he was directing, Frank Wedekind’s 'Spring Awakening' at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
We had been looking forward to seeing Michael, who many of you know from his time in Midland Community Theater's Pickwicks here, or some of his movies, TV shows and Broadway plays. This was my first time to see him direct a play and he chose a great one.
Based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play and featuring an electrifying score, 'Spring Awakening' follows the lives of a group of teenagers as they navigate their journey from adolescence to adulthood in a fusion of morality, sexuality and rock & roll.
Learn more about Deaf West Theater's 'Spring Awakening':
The show features book and Lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, choreography by Spencer Liff, and was directed by Michael Arden.
But this new production was different as it incorporated Deaf West Theatre’s innovative take on the 8-time, Tony Award-winning Best Musical - performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English by a cast of 27. It has been heralded as an “emotional triumph” by the Los Angeles Times and enjoyed a sold-out engagement at downtown L.A.'s Rosenthal Theatre in the fall of 2014 up until this weekend when they finished their last performance.
Of course, we think everything Michael puts his mind to is great, but here is what other reviews said of the show:
“It's hard to enumerate all the ways in which the Deaf West's “Awakening” is so very, very good. The signing in this production does more than simply translate; it ennobles. Spencer Liff's choreography incorporates signing and movement into perfectly coordinated sequences that seem completely organic to the narrative, while music director Jared Stein exploits the show's young singers to spine-tingling effect. Yet the real star of the evening is director Michael Arden, whose staging involves a mind-bogglingly intricate meld of the show's many disparate elements. Compositionally spectacular and emotionally truthful, his ‘Awakening’ awakens us to the dormant possibilities of this musical, with all the goosebumps and teardrops to prove it.” – Los Angeles Times
Director Michael Arden gives the word discovery new meaning in a spectacular production of Steven Sater (book & lyrics) and Duncan Sheik's (music) “Spring Awakening” … Arden's gift for knowing how to express the emotion in a scene or a song begins with his sensational casting. What is so terrific about these partnerships is how beautifully they come together to create rich characters that literally spring to multi-dimensional life … The partners often interact and consult with each other as scenes unfold and never is there a moment when the speaking actor's eyes aren't riveted on his or her deaf counterpart, which makes everything so much more sensual … As the actors sign - passionately, lyrically, and completely open to their emotions - it creates a new kind of choreography; one that is so much a physical part of these characters that it is impossible to imagine the production without it. The need to communicate is fierce … It's pretty obvious that I adored this production, for so many reasons that I hope you will discover for yourself. If you go to the theatre like I do - looking for magic and hoping to moved - I can recommend no better production than Deaf West's “Spring Awakening.”– Broadway World
We are so proud of Michael, Andy and the entire Deaf West Cast and we hope that you will also get a chance to see this wonderful production soon, on Broadway!