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Spring Awakening EN302: European Theatre. Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) Bertolt Brecht on Wedekind in 1918: Bertolt Brecht on Wedekind in 1918: ‘His vitality.

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Presentation on theme: "Spring Awakening EN302: European Theatre. Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) Bertolt Brecht on Wedekind in 1918: Bertolt Brecht on Wedekind in 1918: ‘His vitality."— Presentation transcript:

1 Spring Awakening EN302: European Theatre

2 Frank Wedekind ( ) Bertolt Brecht on Wedekind in 1918: Bertolt Brecht on Wedekind in 1918: ‘His vitality was his finest characteristic. … A few weeks ago at the Bonbonniere he sang his songs to guitar accompaniment in a brittle voice, slightly monotonous and quite untrained. No singer ever gave me such a shock, such a thrill. It was the man’s intense aliveness, the energy which allowed him to defy sniggering ridicule and proclaim his brazen hymn to humanity, that also gave him this personal magic. He seemed indestructible.’ (1977: 3) ‘His vitality was his finest characteristic. … A few weeks ago at the Bonbonniere he sang his songs to guitar accompaniment in a brittle voice, slightly monotonous and quite untrained. No singer ever gave me such a shock, such a thrill. It was the man’s intense aliveness, the energy which allowed him to defy sniggering ridicule and proclaim his brazen hymn to humanity, that also gave him this personal magic. He seemed indestructible.’ (1977: 3)

3 Frank Wedekind ( ) 1864: Born Benjamin Franklin Wedekind in Hanover. Parents both German: mother a singer, father a doctor. 1864: Born Benjamin Franklin Wedekind in Hanover. Parents both German: mother a singer, father a doctor. 1872: Family left Germany for Switzerland due to increasingly authoritarian and conservative German politics under Bismarck. 1872: Family left Germany for Switzerland due to increasingly authoritarian and conservative German politics under Bismarck. 1886: Clashed with father, who wanted him to continue his legal studies, while Frank wanted to be a writer. Left for Zurich after a physical fight with his father. Worked as advertising manager for Maggi soup and as secretary to a circus. 1886: Clashed with father, who wanted him to continue his legal studies, while Frank wanted to be a writer. Left for Zurich after a physical fight with his father. Worked as advertising manager for Maggi soup and as secretary to a circus. 1891: Published Spring Awakening (Frühlings Erwachen) at his own expense. 1891: Published Spring Awakening (Frühlings Erwachen) at his own expense. 1899: Tried and imprisoned for nine months for ‘libelling the crown’, following anti-Government poems in the political satirical magazine Simplicissimus. 1899: Tried and imprisoned for nine months for ‘libelling the crown’, following anti-Government poems in the political satirical magazine Simplicissimus. 1901: Founded political cabaret troupe The Eleven Executioners in Munich. 1901: Founded political cabaret troupe The Eleven Executioners in Munich. 1906: Married Tilly Newes, the 19-year-old star of his play Pandora’s Box, following her suicide attempt at the discovery that she was pregnant with his child. 1906: Married Tilly Newes, the 19-year-old star of his play Pandora’s Box, following her suicide attempt at the discovery that she was pregnant with his child. 1918: Died in Munich. 1918: Died in Munich.

4 Spring Awakening (Frühlings Erwachen) 1891: Publication. 1891: Publication. 1906: Theatrical premiere of Spring Awakening in Berlin. 1906: Theatrical premiere of Spring Awakening in Berlin. 1908: Banned in Germany (ban subsequently revoked). 1908: Banned in Germany (ban subsequently revoked). 1910: Private performance in England by the Stage Society. 1910: Private performance in England by the Stage Society. 1912: First US production, given in German in New York. 1912: First US production, given in German in New York. 1917: First full English-language production, also in New York. 1917: First full English-language production, also in New York. 1963: English Stage Society produce two Sunday night performances at the Royal Court Theatre. 1963: English Stage Society produce two Sunday night performances at the Royal Court Theatre. 1974: First uncensored English-language performance at the National Theatre, in a version by Edward Bond. 1974: First uncensored English-language performance at the National Theatre, in a version by Edward Bond. 2006: Adapted into a rock musical on Broadway. 2006: Adapted into a rock musical on Broadway.

5 Formal features Structural features: Structural features: Moving from one mode (naturalism?) into another (expressionism?) Moving from one mode (naturalism?) into another (expressionism?) Episodic form – principle of montage and juxtaposition Episodic form – principle of montage and juxtaposition Patterns and parallels: Patterns and parallels: Act One: mostly outdoors; children dominate. Act One: mostly outdoors; children dominate. Act Two: mostly indoors; moved towards monologues. Act Two: mostly indoors; moved towards monologues. Act Three: mostly institutions; adults dominate. Act Three: mostly institutions; adults dominate. Violent climax to each act (though the third, like the Oresteia’s, is averted by the intervention of a god-like figure). Violent climax to each act (though the third, like the Oresteia’s, is averted by the intervention of a god-like figure). Moritz and Melchior’s moments of choice. Moritz and Melchior’s moments of choice. Typography (e.g. hayloft scene, Moritz’s suicide, graveyard scene) Typography (e.g. hayloft scene, Moritz’s suicide, graveyard scene) Symbolism: Symbolism: Movement through spring, summer and autumn. Movement through spring, summer and autumn. Woods (like fairy tales) Woods (like fairy tales) Wind / storm Wind / storm

6 Autobiographical elements ‘I began writing without any plan, intending to write what gave me pleasure. The plan came into being after the third scene and consisted of my own experiences or those of my school fellows. Almost every scene corresponds to an actual incident.’ (Wedekind, quoted in Bentley 2002: xxi) ‘I began writing without any plan, intending to write what gave me pleasure. The plan came into being after the third scene and consisted of my own experiences or those of my school fellows. Almost every scene corresponds to an actual incident.’ (Wedekind, quoted in Bentley 2002: xxi) Wedekind, like Moritz, struggled at school and was held back a year. Wedekind, like Moritz, struggled at school and was held back a year. The young Wedekind came close to suicide himself after two classmates shot one another in a suicide pact in The young Wedekind came close to suicide himself after two classmates shot one another in a suicide pact in In 1881, another classmate killed himself: In 1881, another classmate killed himself: ‘Last Friday Frank Oberlin cut school. Saturday morning at 4 o’clock he took his history book and went to the embankment to review his history lessons. Two hours later at 6 o’clock his body was found washed up on the banks of the Aare River.’ (Wedekind, letter to Adolf Vögtlin, quoted in Ham 2007: 52) ‘Last Friday Frank Oberlin cut school. Saturday morning at 4 o’clock he took his history book and went to the embankment to review his history lessons. Two hours later at 6 o’clock his body was found washed up on the banks of the Aare River.’ (Wedekind, letter to Adolf Vögtlin, quoted in Ham 2007: 52) A fourth classmate, Moritz Dürr, killed himself in A fourth classmate, Moritz Dürr, killed himself in 1885.

7 German schools Key question: ‘Don’t you agree, Melchior, that the sense of shame is simply a product of a person’s upbringing?’ (Moritz) Key question: ‘Don’t you agree, Melchior, that the sense of shame is simply a product of a person’s upbringing?’ (Moritz) Industrialisation of Germany in late 19 th century resulted in a massive increase in the size of the middle class; knock-on effects included an increasingly authoritarian sense of morality, an expanding education system, and an ever-larger audience of readers and theatregoers. Industrialisation of Germany in late 19 th century resulted in a massive increase in the size of the middle class; knock-on effects included an increasingly authoritarian sense of morality, an expanding education system, and an ever-larger audience of readers and theatregoers. Aspects of schooling included attempts to instil unquestioning respect for authority (through discipline) and competition between pupils (through ensuring a set proportion of failures). Aspects of schooling included attempts to instil unquestioning respect for authority (through discipline) and competition between pupils (through ensuring a set proportion of failures). Sterling Fishman paraphrases an article by educational reformer Ludwig Gurlitt: Sterling Fishman paraphrases an article by educational reformer Ludwig Gurlitt: ‘The most vicious aspect of the German educational and bureaucratic system… is its impersonality. Every administrator, teacher, and student becomes part of a vast, impersonal apparatus. Each day students are herded into pedagogical barracks and disciplined by state pedants. No attempt is made to understand the nature and needs of young people.’ (Fishman 1970: 177) ‘The most vicious aspect of the German educational and bureaucratic system… is its impersonality. Every administrator, teacher, and student becomes part of a vast, impersonal apparatus. Each day students are herded into pedagogical barracks and disciplined by state pedants. No attempt is made to understand the nature and needs of young people.’ (Fishman 1970: 177)

8 Spring Awakening as social critcism The play gives a very satirical presentation of the German educational system and authority figures. The play gives a very satirical presentation of the German educational system and authority figures. Attempts to keep young people in ignorance about their sexualities leads to at least two tragic outcomes. Attempts to keep young people in ignorance about their sexualities leads to at least two tragic outcomes. Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of Modern Drama, 1914: Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of Modern Drama, 1914: ‘More boldly than any other dramatist Frank Wedekind has laid bare the shams of morality in reference to sex, especially attacking the ignorance surrounding the sex life of the child and its resultant tragedies. … Never was a more powerful indictment hurled against society, which out of sheer hypocrisy and cowardice persists that boys and girls must grow up in ignorance of their sex functions, that they must be sacrificed on the altar of stupidity and convention which taboo the enlightenment of the child in questions of such elemental importance to health and well-being.’ ‘More boldly than any other dramatist Frank Wedekind has laid bare the shams of morality in reference to sex, especially attacking the ignorance surrounding the sex life of the child and its resultant tragedies. … Never was a more powerful indictment hurled against society, which out of sheer hypocrisy and cowardice persists that boys and girls must grow up in ignorance of their sex functions, that they must be sacrificed on the altar of stupidity and convention which taboo the enlightenment of the child in questions of such elemental importance to health and well-being.’

9 Max Reinhardt’s production, 1906 First performance at the Berlin Kammerspiele, 20th November 1906, directed by Max Reinhardt. Reinhardt had opened the Kammerspiele earlier that year with a production of Ibsen’s Ghosts. J. L. Styan describes the production as ‘an historic event in the growth of expressionism’ (1982: 33). ‘His [Reinhardt’s] production, with its masterly use of the most up-to-date staging- techniques (revolving stage, no ‘realistic’ sets, gauzes) set a precedent for later productions of a work soon regarded in the German- speaking countries as the spearhead of a new concept of drama.’ (Skrine 1989: 77) Wedekind himself played the Man in the Mask (left).

10 Max Reinhardt’s production, 1906

11

12 ‘A Tragedy of Childhood’? Reinhardt discouraged Wedekind from attending rehearsals: Reinhardt discouraged Wedekind from attending rehearsals: ‘I wasn’t allowed to attend until the tenth day… What I found in preparation was a veritable tragedy in the grand dramatic style, without a trace of humour. I did my best to give the comedy its due, and tried to enhance the playful, intellectual elements and dampen the passionate elements, notable in the last scene in the cemetery. I believe the play is more moving the more harmlessly, sunnily and light-heartedly it is performed. If passion and tragedy are brought to the fore, I believe this play can seem slightly repellent.’ (quoted in Forsyth 2010: xxxi) ‘I wasn’t allowed to attend until the tenth day… What I found in preparation was a veritable tragedy in the grand dramatic style, without a trace of humour. I did my best to give the comedy its due, and tried to enhance the playful, intellectual elements and dampen the passionate elements, notable in the last scene in the cemetery. I believe the play is more moving the more harmlessly, sunnily and light-heartedly it is performed. If passion and tragedy are brought to the fore, I believe this play can seem slightly repellent.’ (quoted in Forsyth 2010: xxxi)

13 ‘A Tragedy of Childhood’? In 1911, Wedekind wrote: In 1911, Wedekind wrote: ‘Since about 1901, above all since Max Reinhardt put it on stage, it has been regarded as an angry, deadly earnest tragedy, as a thesis play, as a polemic in the service of sexual enlightenment – or whatever the current slogans of the fussy, pedantic lower middle class may be. It makes me wonder if I shall live to see the book taken for what, twenty years ago, I wrote it as – a sunny image of life in every scene of which I tried to exploit an unburdened humour for all it was worth.’ (quoted in Bermel 1993: 31) ‘Since about 1901, above all since Max Reinhardt put it on stage, it has been regarded as an angry, deadly earnest tragedy, as a thesis play, as a polemic in the service of sexual enlightenment – or whatever the current slogans of the fussy, pedantic lower middle class may be. It makes me wonder if I shall live to see the book taken for what, twenty years ago, I wrote it as – a sunny image of life in every scene of which I tried to exploit an unburdened humour for all it was worth.’ (quoted in Bermel 1993: 31)

14 Naturalist or not? MELCHIOR: I’ll tell you everything. – I got it partly from books, partly from pictures, partly from observing nature. You’ll be surprised: it made an atheist of me for a time. ‘From the start, Wedekind rejected the Naturalists’ aim of exact representation and their fatalistic theories of determinism by heredity and environment. His hostility was heightened by a quarrel with Gerhard Hauptmann, a leading Naturalist writer.’ (Boa 1987: 16) ‘From the start, Wedekind rejected the Naturalists’ aim of exact representation and their fatalistic theories of determinism by heredity and environment. His hostility was heightened by a quarrel with Gerhard Hauptmann, a leading Naturalist writer.’ (Boa 1987: 16) ‘When Naturalism has had its day, its practitioners can earn a living in the secret police.’ (Wedekind, The World of Youth, 1890) ‘When Naturalism has had its day, its practitioners can earn a living in the secret police.’ (Wedekind, The World of Youth, 1890)

15 Naturalist or not? Wedekind considered his plays a rejection of Naturalism: Wedekind considered his plays a rejection of Naturalism: ‘What my plays cannot stand is a naturalistic approach, with hands in pockets and the words sloppily mumbled so that nobody can catch them. And please spare me your psychological subtleties: there is no such thing as “psychological” style – the psychological dimension goes without saying and will emerge of its own accord if my characters are presented consistently. Their psychology is my business, it is not the business of my characters, still less of the actors playing them.’ (quoted in Skrine 1989: 72) ‘What my plays cannot stand is a naturalistic approach, with hands in pockets and the words sloppily mumbled so that nobody can catch them. And please spare me your psychological subtleties: there is no such thing as “psychological” style – the psychological dimension goes without saying and will emerge of its own accord if my characters are presented consistently. Their psychology is my business, it is not the business of my characters, still less of the actors playing them.’ (quoted in Skrine 1989: 72)

16 Naturalist or not? Many of the adult characters are grotesque, one-dimensional caricatures: the teachers have names like Knüppeldick (Thickstick), Zungenschlag (Stickytongue) and Knochenbruch (Bonebreaker). Many of the adult characters are grotesque, one-dimensional caricatures: the teachers have names like Knüppeldick (Thickstick), Zungenschlag (Stickytongue) and Knochenbruch (Bonebreaker). ‘The outburst of furious indignation provoked by Spring’s Awakening was aggravated by its plan to have the audience sympathize with the moving scenes of the children, and then see themselves depicted on the stage as pompous fools.’ (Styan 1981: 19) ‘The outburst of furious indignation provoked by Spring’s Awakening was aggravated by its plan to have the audience sympathize with the moving scenes of the children, and then see themselves depicted on the stage as pompous fools.’ (Styan 1981: 19) The New York Times review of the first English-language production, though, points out that the play ‘calls for the service of players who can suggest children’, and that it was only partially successful in this respect (31 March 1917). The New York Times review of the first English-language production, though, points out that the play ‘calls for the service of players who can suggest children’, and that it was only partially successful in this respect (31 March 1917).

17 Brechtian elements? Wedekind’s friend and biographer Artur Kutscher: Wedekind’s friend and biographer Artur Kutscher: ‘Unlike the naturalistic school… he does not want people to forget that they are in the theatre, but he emphasizes the theatre and always keeps the public and its reactions in mind.’ (quoted in Willet 1977: 106) ‘Unlike the naturalistic school… he does not want people to forget that they are in the theatre, but he emphasizes the theatre and always keeps the public and its reactions in mind.’ (quoted in Willet 1977: 106) Bertolt Brecht described Wedekind as ‘one of the great educators of modern Europe’ (1977: 3-4). Bertolt Brecht described Wedekind as ‘one of the great educators of modern Europe’ (1977: 3-4). ‘Wedekind adopted the structure which Brecht would later call epic, and which was inherited from the Elizabethans via Goethe: it aims not at a single luminous image, but at varied perspectives.’ (Bentley 2002: xxv). ‘Wedekind adopted the structure which Brecht would later call epic, and which was inherited from the Elizabethans via Goethe: it aims not at a single luminous image, but at varied perspectives.’ (Bentley 2002: xxv).

18 Brechtian elements? In 1929, Brecht’s collaborators Peter Lorre, Carola Neher and Lotte Lenya played Moritz, Wendla and Ilse in a production at the Berlin Volksbühne. The production was updated and transposed to 1920s Berlin, and the pastoral setting replaced with a modern tenement block.

19 Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history Spring Awakening has been heavily censored for most of its theatrical life. Spring Awakening has been heavily censored for most of its theatrical life. Scenes 2.3, 3.4 and 3.6 were usually cut in their entirety, from the very first performances until the 1970s. Scenes 2.3, 3.4 and 3.6 were usually cut in their entirety, from the very first performances until the 1970s. Censored elements in Reinhardt’s production included the teachers’ names, Melchior’s beating of Wendla, and the three scenes mentioned above (two of them removed by the censor, while Wedekind and Reinhardt chose to lose Hänschen’s monologue after the censor’s cuts). Censored elements in Reinhardt’s production included the teachers’ names, Melchior’s beating of Wendla, and the three scenes mentioned above (two of them removed by the censor, while Wedekind and Reinhardt chose to lose Hänschen’s monologue after the censor’s cuts).

20 Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history American critic James Huneker: American critic James Huneker: ‘The seduction scene is well managed at the Kammerspielhaus. We are not shown the room, but a curtain slightly divided allows the voices of the youthful lovers to be overheard. A truly moving effect is thereby produced.’ (1915: 63) ‘The seduction scene is well managed at the Kammerspielhaus. We are not shown the room, but a curtain slightly divided allows the voices of the youthful lovers to be overheard. A truly moving effect is thereby produced.’ (1915: 63) English critic Austin Harrison: English critic Austin Harrison: ‘The inner thoughts of both the boy and girl are outspoken with a frankness positively embarrassing in a public place, and in the end the girl dies in childbirth, while the boy passes on triumphantly into life.’ (The Observer, 23 June 1907) ‘The inner thoughts of both the boy and girl are outspoken with a frankness positively embarrassing in a public place, and in the end the girl dies in childbirth, while the boy passes on triumphantly into life.’ (The Observer, 23 June 1907)

21 Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history Emma Goldman’s account accidentally gives some intriguing insights into the effects of the play’s censorship upon its meanings: Emma Goldman’s account accidentally gives some intriguing insights into the effects of the play’s censorship upon its meanings: ‘The Awakening of Spring is laid in three acts and fourteen scenes, consisting almost entirely of dialogues among the children. … Melchior, the innocent father of Wendla’s unborn baby, is a gifted boy whose thirst for knowledge leads him to inquire into the riddle of life, and to share his observations with his school chums. … Wendla and Melchior, overtaken by a storm, seek shelter in a haystack, and are drawn by what Melchior calls the “first emotion of manhood” and curiosity into each other’s arms.’ (The Social Significance of Modern Drama, 1914) ‘The Awakening of Spring is laid in three acts and fourteen scenes, consisting almost entirely of dialogues among the children. … Melchior, the innocent father of Wendla’s unborn baby, is a gifted boy whose thirst for knowledge leads him to inquire into the riddle of life, and to share his observations with his school chums. … Wendla and Melchior, overtaken by a storm, seek shelter in a haystack, and are drawn by what Melchior calls the “first emotion of manhood” and curiosity into each other’s arms.’ (The Social Significance of Modern Drama, 1914)

22 Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history The play’s first English-language performance was a single matinee in New York in The producers had to go to court to get an injunction to allow them to go ahead. The play’s first English-language performance was a single matinee in New York in The producers had to go to court to get an injunction to allow them to go ahead. Following this, a Supreme Court Justice declared that it had ‘no proper place on the stage of a public theatre’ and that it did ‘infinitely more than harm than good’: Following this, a Supreme Court Justice declared that it had ‘no proper place on the stage of a public theatre’ and that it did ‘infinitely more than harm than good’: ‘Apparently the young are to be equally enlightened without giving the parents a prior choice of some less turgid channel of education. Some may find a beneficial moral in this play, but the majority, particularly the younger element, would find in the portrayal only what is portrayed – a pruriency attributed as typical of youth – to which type, happily, many do not conform.’ (New York Times, 3 May 1917) ‘Apparently the young are to be equally enlightened without giving the parents a prior choice of some less turgid channel of education. Some may find a beneficial moral in this play, but the majority, particularly the younger element, would find in the portrayal only what is portrayed – a pruriency attributed as typical of youth – to which type, happily, many do not conform.’ (New York Times, 3 May 1917)

23 Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history The earliest uncensored performances were not given until 1958 in the US (Chicago), 1965 in Germany (Bremen), and 1974 in Britain and France (London and Paris respectively) The earliest uncensored performances were not given until 1958 in the US (Chicago), 1965 in Germany (Bremen), and 1974 in Britain and France (London and Paris respectively) In 1963, the English Stage Society staged two Sunday night performances at the Royal Court, in a version translated by Literary Manager Tom Osborn: In 1963, the English Stage Society staged two Sunday night performances at the Royal Court, in a version translated by Literary Manager Tom Osborn: ‘… after two years of negotiations with the Lord Chamberlain, the play was given a licence to be performed before the general public, but only providing “there was no kissing, embracing or caressing” between the two boys in the vineyard scene, the words “penis” and “vagina” were omitted and an alternative was found to the masturbation game in the reformatory.’ (Osborn 1969: 5) ‘… after two years of negotiations with the Lord Chamberlain, the play was given a licence to be performed before the general public, but only providing “there was no kissing, embracing or caressing” between the two boys in the vineyard scene, the words “penis” and “vagina” were omitted and an alternative was found to the masturbation game in the reformatory.’ (Osborn 1969: 5)

24 Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history Even now, the homosexual elements tend to be played against the grain of the text; Bentley recalls a modern production in which Hänschen and Ernst merely shared a cigarette rather than kissing (2002: xiv-xv). Even now, the homosexual elements tend to be played against the grain of the text; Bentley recalls a modern production in which Hänschen and Ernst merely shared a cigarette rather than kissing (2002: xiv-xv). Stacy Wolf points out that even in the musical version’s ‘seemingly progressive representation of homosexuality’, the gay scenes are ‘played for laughs, with Hänschen a stereotype of a fey, arrogant cruiser. The presence of the gay couple effectively re-centres the straight couple as the norm’ (2011: 217). Stacy Wolf points out that even in the musical version’s ‘seemingly progressive representation of homosexuality’, the gay scenes are ‘played for laughs, with Hänschen a stereotype of a fey, arrogant cruiser. The presence of the gay couple effectively re-centres the straight couple as the norm’ (2011: 217).

25 Political theatre: Edward Bond’s version, 1974 Edward Bond’s ‘Note on the Play’: ‘Spring Awakening is partly about the misuse of authority. All the adult men in the play work in the professions… They are members of institutions that are part of the state, and they base their work on the state’s ethos and teach its doctrines. … They are typical authoritarian men: sly, cringing, mindless zombies to those over them, and narrow, vindictive, unimaginative tyrants to those under them.’ (1980: xxv-xxvi) ‘Many of the young people in Spring Awakening are already like their elders. … All these boys will go to the trenches and die with the same obedience they learned at school and were rewarded for with exam passes.’ (1980: xxvii)

26 Political theatre? But is the play so straightforwardly political? But is the play so straightforwardly political? Eric Bentley argues that: Eric Bentley argues that: ‘If we take the play as simply social-revolutionary, Moritz’s orientation is to be attributed to pressure from the school authorities. But none of the other boys respond as negatively as Moritz, though they all experience the pressures. His opposite pole in Hänschen Rilow who responds with defiance, and lets himself fully enjoy the awakening of spring.’ (2002: xxxv) ‘If we take the play as simply social-revolutionary, Moritz’s orientation is to be attributed to pressure from the school authorities. But none of the other boys respond as negatively as Moritz, though they all experience the pressures. His opposite pole in Hänschen Rilow who responds with defiance, and lets himself fully enjoy the awakening of spring.’ (2002: xxxv) Is the play, perhaps, also exploring a more humanist idea about ‘aliveness’? Is the play, perhaps, also exploring a more humanist idea about ‘aliveness’?

27 ‘All shall know the wonder of purple summer…’ The famous rock musical version, with a score by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, premiered in It won 7 awards, including Best Musical, at the 2007 Tony Awards. The famous rock musical version, with a score by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, premiered in It won 7 awards, including Best Musical, at the 2007 Tony Awards. Some stylistic innovations included: Some stylistic innovations included: Casting just two actors (one male, one female) as all the adult roles; Casting just two actors (one male, one female) as all the adult roles; The use of hand-held microphones for the characters’ inner thoughts (contrasting with the 19 th -century setting, which was retained). The use of hand-held microphones for the characters’ inner thoughts (contrasting with the 19 th -century setting, which was retained).

28 ‘All shall know the wonder of purple summer…’ Stacy Wolf has argued that the musical version ‘offers a tacked- on celebrate-the-day ending that differs from its source material, even more jarring since it follows the suicide of one character and the death from a botched abortion of another’ (2011: 217). Stacy Wolf has argued that the musical version ‘offers a tacked- on celebrate-the-day ending that differs from its source material, even more jarring since it follows the suicide of one character and the death from a botched abortion of another’ (2011: 217). The ‘tidied-up’ ending is perhaps reminiscent of those of the musicals Les Miserables and Rent. The ‘tidied-up’ ending is perhaps reminiscent of those of the musicals Les Miserables and Rent. Edward Bond wrote in 2009: Edward Bond wrote in 2009: ‘Actors act onstage as if they were playing theatre in a TV studio but no drama school teaches them how to act in “the public place of drama”. Designers decorate theatre spaces but no design school teaches them how to create “the public place of drama”. And now Spring Awakening is made into a musical. Musicals are for those who are locked into the toyshop.’ (2009: xvi) ‘Actors act onstage as if they were playing theatre in a TV studio but no drama school teaches them how to act in “the public place of drama”. Designers decorate theatre spaces but no design school teaches them how to create “the public place of drama”. And now Spring Awakening is made into a musical. Musicals are for those who are locked into the toyshop.’ (2009: xvi)

29 A hymn to life? ‘Wedekind drew inspiration from the lower echelons of the theatrical world – circus and music hall – and from the outcasts of society – the crooks, adventurers, acrobats and prostitutes who became his friends – to develop his personal creed of resilience, sexual freedom and physical vitality.’ (Forsyth 2010: xvi) ‘Wedekind drew inspiration from the lower echelons of the theatrical world – circus and music hall – and from the outcasts of society – the crooks, adventurers, acrobats and prostitutes who became his friends – to develop his personal creed of resilience, sexual freedom and physical vitality.’ (Forsyth 2010: xvi) Wedekind dedicated the play to the Man in the Mask. Wedekind dedicated the play to the Man in the Mask. Symbolism of becoming headless: the dangerous consequences of separating body and head, mind and instinct. Symbolism of becoming headless: the dangerous consequences of separating body and head, mind and instinct. Think about Melchior’s choice in the final scene. Think about Melchior’s choice in the final scene.

30 A hymn to life? But as Elizabeth Boa points out, But as Elizabeth Boa points out, ‘Spring Awakening connotes not just meadow flowers, but involuntary erections. In this context at least, two voices sound in the title and the subtitle. … Sex, the fertile source of life and pleasure, is also potentially deadly: like the river, it threatens to overwhelm and extinguish the individual. Only those strong enough to swim, to explore their sexuality and survive, enjoy a truly full life.’ (Boa 1987: 27-8) ‘Spring Awakening connotes not just meadow flowers, but involuntary erections. In this context at least, two voices sound in the title and the subtitle. … Sex, the fertile source of life and pleasure, is also potentially deadly: like the river, it threatens to overwhelm and extinguish the individual. Only those strong enough to swim, to explore their sexuality and survive, enjoy a truly full life.’ (Boa 1987: 27-8) We might reflect on Wedekind’s play in light of the victory of the Dionysian in The Bacchae… We might reflect on Wedekind’s play in light of the victory of the Dionysian in The Bacchae…

31 A hymn to life? Alan Best argues that Alan Best argues that ‘The case for accepting the masked gentleman as the positive figure some critics have suggested is far from conclusive. While he certainly rescues Melchior from Moritz and death, the life offered by the masked gentleman has little to recommend it. … There is very little difference between this and Melchior’s own patronising statements to Moritz in the first two acts. Melchior began the play as a brash adolescent whose desire to patronise concealed a deep insecurity.’ (1975: 80) ‘The case for accepting the masked gentleman as the positive figure some critics have suggested is far from conclusive. While he certainly rescues Melchior from Moritz and death, the life offered by the masked gentleman has little to recommend it. … There is very little difference between this and Melchior’s own patronising statements to Moritz in the first two acts. Melchior began the play as a brash adolescent whose desire to patronise concealed a deep insecurity.’ (1975: 80) ‘…when life appeared to Moritz as Ilse it was as overpowering sexuality, the Achilles’ heel in Moritz’s character; now, to Melchior too, life appears as an exaggerated form of his own failings.’ (1975: 81) ‘…when life appeared to Moritz as Ilse it was as overpowering sexuality, the Achilles’ heel in Moritz’s character; now, to Melchior too, life appears as an exaggerated form of his own failings.’ (1975: 81)

32 A hymn to life? As Boa points out, ‘[t]he focus in the play is masculine desire’: As Boa points out, ‘[t]he focus in the play is masculine desire’: ‘…both sexes are induced to feel guilt or shame. … The boys project their guilt on the object which arouses sexual desire – Melchior beating Satan out of Wendla – while the girls helplessly accept their own guilt as grounds for punishment.’ (Boa 1987: 41) ‘…both sexes are induced to feel guilt or shame. … The boys project their guilt on the object which arouses sexual desire – Melchior beating Satan out of Wendla – while the girls helplessly accept their own guilt as grounds for punishment.’ (Boa 1987: 41) Think about the contrasting presentations of the ‘life spirit’ in Ilse and the Man in the Mask. Think about the contrasting presentations of the ‘life spirit’ in Ilse and the Man in the Mask. Think, too, about the associations between sexuality and cruelty in the play. Think, too, about the associations between sexuality and cruelty in the play. ‘Whatever Wedekind may have intended, Spring Awakening promises freedom of sorts for men but not for women.’ (Boa 1987: 46) ‘Whatever Wedekind may have intended, Spring Awakening promises freedom of sorts for men but not for women.’ (Boa 1987: 46)

33 References Bentley, Eric (2002) [trans. & ed.] Spring’s Awakening, New York: Applause. Bentley, Eric (2002) [trans. & ed.] Spring’s Awakening, New York: Applause. Bermel, Albert (1993) Comic Agony, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. Bermel, Albert (1993) Comic Agony, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. Best, Alan (1975) Frank Wedekind, London: Wolff. Best, Alan (1975) Frank Wedekind, London: Wolff. Boa, Elizabeth (1987) The Sexual Circus: Wedekind’s Theatre of Subversion, Oxford: Blackwell. Boa, Elizabeth (1987) The Sexual Circus: Wedekind’s Theatre of Subversion, Oxford: Blackwell. Bond, Edward (1980) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Methuen. Bond, Edward (1980) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Methuen. Bond, Edward (2009) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Methuen. Bond, Edward (2009) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Methuen. Brecht, Bertolt (1977) Brecht on Theatre, ed. John Willet, London: Methuen. Brecht, Bertolt (1977) Brecht on Theatre, ed. John Willet, London: Methuen. Fishman, Sterling (1970) ‘Suicide, Sex, and the Discovery of the German Adolescent’, History of Education Quarterly, 10: 2, pp Fishman, Sterling (1970) ‘Suicide, Sex, and the Discovery of the German Adolescent’, History of Education Quarterly, 10: 2, pp Forsyth, Julian & Margaret (2010) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Nick Hern Books. Forsyth, Julian & Margaret (2010) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Nick Hern Books. Ham, Jennifer (2007) ‘Unlearning the Lesson: Wedekind, Nietzsche, and Educational Reform at the Turn of the Century’, The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 40: 1, pp Ham, Jennifer (2007) ‘Unlearning the Lesson: Wedekind, Nietzsche, and Educational Reform at the Turn of the Century’, The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 40: 1, pp

34 References Huneker, James (1915) Ivory Apes and Peacocks, Fairford: Echo Library. Huneker, James (1915) Ivory Apes and Peacocks, Fairford: Echo Library. Osborn, Tom (1969) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Calder and Boyars. Osborn, Tom (1969) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Calder and Boyars. Skrine, Peter N. (1989) Hauptmann, Wedekind and Schnitzler, Basingstoke: Macmillan. Skrine, Peter N. (1989) Hauptmann, Wedekind and Schnitzler, Basingstoke: Macmillan. Styan, J. L. (1981) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 3: Expressionism and Epic Theatre, Cambridge: C. U. P. Styan, J. L. (1981) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 3: Expressionism and Epic Theatre, Cambridge: C. U. P. Styan, J. L. (1982) Directors in Perspective: Max Reinhardt, Cambridge: C. U. P. Styan, J. L. (1982) Directors in Perspective: Max Reinhardt, Cambridge: C. U. P. Willet, John (1977) The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht, London: Methuen. Willet, John (1977) The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht, London: Methuen. Wolf, Stacy (2011) ‘Gender and Sexuality’, in Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris and Stacy Wolf [eds] The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical, Oxford: O. U. P., pp Wolf, Stacy (2011) ‘Gender and Sexuality’, in Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris and Stacy Wolf [eds] The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical, Oxford: O. U. P., pp


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