July 26, 2012

Teen Sexuality through the Tragedies of Spring Awakening

In this entry, I'd like to change it up a little and talk about a theatrical production. When I entered college in 2008, I was randomly put in a peer group of theater majors and had a theater professor for an academic adviser (I later realize it was a mistake because I failed to "officially" declare the major I wanted - Communication - prior to entering).

Anyway, I had the opportunity to see the musical at the Ahmanson theater in downtown LA. I have to admit that I had never been a theater fan or known much about the productions, but I remember enjoying the show a great deal. The emotions were so raw, and I absorbed the energy even though I was sitting from very far away (discount tickets!). After four years, I don't remember the story very well so I did some research to joggle my memory.

Spring Awakening is a rock musical adaptation of the 1892 German play by Frank Wedekin. Taken the time period into context, you can understand why the topic of teen sexuality is so controversial. The whole musical is strung with tensions. The main characters, the teenagers, are growing out of childhood and into puberty. They develop strong sexual desires but are often in the dark about sexual anatomy, how to express the feelings or the consequences of acting them out. The matters are worsened because the adults refuse to give them information to make wise decisions.

Wendla & Melchior
- The female lead Wendla (played by Lea Michele), for example, doesn't know where babies come from, and her mother is intent on keeping it from her. Later, Wendla ends up having sex with Melchior despite her initial reluctance and lack of knowledge on the matter. She is astonished to find out that she's pregnant. The abortion that her mother forces her to get results in her death. (In the play version, there is a clear indication that she is raped by Melchior).

- Moritz is an intense and nervous young man because he can't make sense of the erotic dreams he has. After being educated by Melchior's essay with illustrations, his dreams become even more vivid, which Moritz believes is a sign of insanity. Later, he is unfairly failed by teachers and resorts to suicide because he has no way out. The teachers blame this death on Melchior's sex essay.

- The musical also deals with homosexuality/bisexuality in a scene where a student, Hanschen, seduces a delicate classmate, Ernst.

This musical is a frank and intense critique of a dogmatic society that inhibits sexuality. It has some graphic scenes and sexual content, and is recommended for older teenagers.

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