The idea for this international project was born as a direct response to the global pandemic. Unable to safely create in-person performing arts, Broadway Across Borders wanted to figure out a way for artists from around the world to safely connect, create art and share their talents and culture. The brilliant and inspiring musical SPRING AWAKENING seemed like the perfect vehicle to do that.
An International Collaboration
With support from the US Department of State’s Arts Envoy program, we were able to include performers from Poland, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in the project. We knew from the start we didn’t want this to be a traditional “zoom” presentation of the show. We approached this project knowing we needed to find a cast of 13 amazing actor/singers/directors/cinematographers/scenic, lighting, costume designers and technology savvy self-starters.
With the use of their smart phones, the company was responsible for creating all of the content.
Aaron Thielen (Director) would rehearse the scenes online with the actors just as you would in a regular rehearsal process, but then they would talk through the specific staging, the type location, what they should wear, the time of day, explain the multiple takes needed and from what various camera angles and any extra footage needed for the final edit. For the songs, they would lip sync to their own audio recordings that they created with the Music Director Ryan T. Nelson.
We wanted the artists to film their own content from their own Point of View.
We knew the big-picture type of story we wanted to tell, but artists themselves were in charge of the lens through which their character’s story was being told. We thought about this production like a 13-character multi-verse where each of them is telling the story of Spring Awakening in the places where they live and with their own local company. What we are seeing in the final version is just one actor from each of those 13 different versions of the story. So, our Mortiz in Berlin is speaking to his German Melchior on the other side of his camera and not the Melchior the audience is seeing in Warsaw.
The themes of this musical are universal and happening right now in every corner of humanity. We are hoping to show that.
Another unique element to this production is all the scenes are spoken in the actor’s native language while all the songs are sung in English. There are four-person scenes where no one is speaking the same language. We rehearsed in English and when everyone was ready, we switched to their individual languages. The performances suddenly had so much more depth, emotion and honesty. Nothing is lost in the translation. You forget that two actors are pouring their hearts out to each other and neither speak the others language, and it completely works!
This linguistic-centric style of storytelling is exactly the type of cultural exchange Broadway Across Borders is trying to cultivate.
Rehearsal / Production
Aaron Thielen (Director) and Ryan T. Nelson (Music Director) and the cast of thirteen international actors began rehearsals on July 13, 2020. We rehearsed on Zoom three days a week for 6 weeks. We collected video and audio content from day one and by the beginning of September we had almost everything recorded. Tony Churchill (Media Designer) began the arduous process of piecing the videos together and for the next month and a half Ryan, Aaron and Tony completed the edit and it was ready to premiere.
Thanks to the support of Music Theatre International, the U.S. State Department and the incredible writers of Spring Awakening, Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, we are excited to be able to present this truly unique and exciting version of Spring Awakening.