Monday, September 14, 2015

Spring Awakening and ASL

When I first became aware of Spring Awakening it was during the 2007 Tony Awards. I knew nothing about the show (it was before I dove head first into the world of theatre; back when I was mearly fond of theatre). I only knew that what I saw during the performance of that show was enough to intrigue me. I was hooked. I purchased the cast recording (back when there were still BMG music clubs and you could order CDs dirt cheap). I loved it even more. It was edgy. It was dark. It was the kind of thing that you didn’t really see in the theatre. I knew the Rent cast recording, but I had no experience with any other type of edgy musicals. My repertoire consisted of the classics like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, and Oklahoma!

When I saw Next to Normal in 2009, that was the tipping point for me. The point that took me over the edge to my theatre geekiness. But Spring Awakening was like the seed that was planted two years earlier. I never saw Spring Awakening on Broadway, but when the tour came to Atlanta, I took a trip and saw it for the first time. Later, the second tour would be in Nashville. I would see it a second time. So far I haven’t been lucky enough to see any other productions, but I know that Spring Awakening touched many lives and opened up so many conversations that changed lives. It would win 8 of the Tony Awards it was nominated for. It would propel some of the actors to stardom and it would open up opportunities for so many more.

There were so many special things about Spring Awakening. The topics were taboo, but were obviously something that needed to be talked about. The theme: communication. Between adult and child. Between people in general. That’s why, when I heard that DeafWest was doing a production of Spring Awakening, it seemed so perfect. I was curious, like most, how a Deaf company could put on a musical. I knew there would have to be some hearing actors and actresses, but I wondered how the show itself would translate.

I have been intrigued for many years about ASL as a language. I took some classes in college, thinking it was ASL, but finding out later they were Signed English courses. While I’m thankful that I took them, I was disappointed that they weren’t ASL. The ABC Family television show Switched at Birth also peaked by curiosity about ASL and Deaf culture. I loved learning about Deaf culture and the story of Deaf and hearing to learn to communicate and be together as family and friends.
Deaf West’s production of Spring Awakening just began previews on Broadway. That is kind of amazing. Just knowing that this production is so very different from the original, that there is already a buzz and an acceptance of the beloved musical only 9 years after its original conception. I love the fact that this show makes Broadway not only accessible to the Deaf community, but also relatable to the Deaf community.

For anyone who’s already seen this production (in New York or in California), let me know what you thought about it. And cross your fingers that I get the chance to see it as well. 

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