Behind the scenes of ‘Spring Awakening’


Joseph Yanez, (L) playing Melchoir, and Thomas Evans, (R) playing Melchoir’s Understudy, bow in the center of the stage grieving Wendla’s, played by Olivia Curry, death at her funeral at he opening show of “Spring Awakening” in the Campus Theatre on Friday, March 11. (Sharlisa Shabazz | The Union)

Theater students seized the stage with energy and joy at the opening show of “Spring Awakening” on March 11 and continued performing with the same energy through 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 broader level while living in an uneducated society.

Daniel Nakawatase, the director for the musical, is an artistic producer of an Encore theatre group, a local theatre company in South Bay.

“I’ve directed at a lot of other schools. My primary focus is in educational theatre that benefits schools and communities,” Nakawatase said.

Although Nakawatase has had experiences working at theatre departments at other schools, he spent his first semester at El Camino College with the cast and crew in rehearsals to prepare the musical, “Spring Awakening”.

“Directing a show at El Camino has been an amazing experience. It’s really nice to return to a professional process in an academic setting, it’s not like that everywhere,” Nakawatase said.

Through the making of the show, student actors can get hand-in-hand experiences with professionals, designers, technicians and creative team members.

Nakawatase said “Spring Awakening” highlights what it means to be a young person in an age where adults don’t necessarily know how to do right by you.

Olivia Curry, 18, is a student at El Camino who is passionate about theatre and pursuing 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 not 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 as she herself is a teenager.

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

Wendla played by Olivia Curry sits in the center of the stage during the final scene of 'Spring Awakening'. Taken at opening show in the Campus Theatre on Friday, March 11. (Sharlisa Shabaz/ Special to The Union)
Wendla, played by Olivia Curry, sits in the center of the stage during the final scene of “Spring Awakening”, taken at opening night in the Campus Theatre on Friday, March 11. (Sharlisa Shabaz | The Union)

Thomas Evans, 18, is a theatre 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 to not take youth for granted.

“As soon as I look upstage I have to let everything wash off,” Evans said.

Evans describes the sudden emotion rush before the musical as “emotional whiplash”.

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

Evans found it difficult to move between different characters and personalities owing to the unfamiliarity of not having done so previously.

“Having to swap in and out between characters from 10 seconds of having a full-scale emotional breakdown to then having maybe the second funniest scene in the entire show is just such a harsh situation,” Evans said.

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

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

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

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

Throughout the rehearsals, Yanez would have to remind himself that he is not the character he is acting.

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

Though challenging, the fact that the musical was difficult to portray is what allured Yanez to becoming a cast member.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nakawatase points out a facet of the show that most people overlook. He said the musical poses a question to the viewers of how each subsequent generation can honor the coming generations.

“As an educator, it’s a very near and dear topic to my heart because we work with young people all the time. And we’re here to further your learning. You all can become the leaders of tomorrow,” Nakawatase said.