5 LESSONS ACTORS CAN LEARN FROM BROADWAY’S SPELLBINDING SPRING AWAKENING REVIVAL
All that’s known is that I was not totally f’ed last night because I had the opportunity to see Spring Awakening on Broadway (so punny, I know). This stunning rendition of the Tony Award winning musical is truly one of the most rewarding and imaginative works I have ever experienced.
As an audience member, I was left pretty speechless. However, looking through the lense of an actor, here are some lessons I took away:
1. Shining A Light Through the Text. Breaking down character dialogue can be a tough process. The cast of Spring Awakening had to double their efforts with not only perfecting the text, but also knowing the sign language that goes along with each phrase. This added layer must have made each actor look into every single word more carefully. Performers should learn from this deep delving of textual analysis. Actors all must know (the wonder… jk) exactly what is coming out of their mouths to the point where it feels spontaneous. You have to understand your character’s intent in relation to the context of the play. There is a clear understanding for the Spring company.
2. The World of Your Body Movement. ASL is a huge part of this production and perhaps utilized most deftly with the actor’s movement. There are beautiful stage moments when the actors will be singing a song while simultaneously signing the lyrics, and also moving in a specific way that embodies the word. As actors, every single movement made should have a purpose. Perhaps, it varies from performance to performance, but it must be rooted in the reality of your character’s world.
3. Secondary business. As you know, this revival is exceptional due to the incredible incorporation of sign language. All of the actors on stage sign throughout the show (even if they are hearing performers – FUN FACT: Krysta Rodriguez (Isle) did not know a stitch of sign language prior to being cast in the show). As an actor, sometimes it can be useful to give your character “secondary business.” Not everyone is fluent in sign language, but using that as an inspiration, pick a specific action to be doing while you are saying your lines – even if your character is supposed to be lying down in bed. Secondary business cannot only make you reach more interesting choices, but alleviate your mind from nerves. You will be shocked at the difference it makes.
4. On Stage relationships. Bonding comes natural with being a theatre kid in any show, but Spring Awakening is the type of show that requires of all its’ cast members to be extremely close. With heavy themes and intimate scenes, everyone must trust each other on stage. The love between this cast is evident with the entire company breathing in unison at moments. The thing is, though, comradery and communal belief should ring true (to some extent) with any show - whether it’s Spring Awakening or Shrek the Musical. You must give your all to your scene partner and they must give it back. Even if you are in a fighting scene and totally pitted against each other, there should be a foundation of trust. Acting is an exchange of love.
5. Deafening Silence. I’m not in favor of spoiler alerts, so without saying much I will write that there is a brilliant use of silence in this production. It made me realize that being quiet is nothing to be afraid of while on stage. The power of silence is incredibly poignant. There is something to be said by the fact that an entire Broadway house can be filled with the absence of sound. So, if you feel as though a character is thinking, or stunned, or zoning out or whatever, maybe taking a long pause is the right choice. Don't be afraid to do nothing.
Don't miss this very limited engangment of Spring Awakening now running on Broadway! It's not only widely entertaining, but a true master class for any performer.