Students Launch New Theater Group, Donate First Ticket Sales to Local Nonprofits

IMG_2775This weekend Beyond the Proscenium premiered its first production: Spring Awakening, a German rock musical based on Frank Wedekind’s eponymous 1891 play.

Beyond the Proscenium — founded earlier this year and led by Emily Bungert ’15, Sarah Guilbault ’18, Cordelia Orbach ’17 and Jae Yeon Yoo ’18 — is a site-specific theatre group. This means that its productions are staged in spaces that are not typically used for theatre. Spring Awakening takes place in Chase Barn. Normally, this location serves as a classroom.

“When Spring Awakening was done originally on Broadway, people sat on stage with the actors. We thought that kind of intimate feeling was really cool so we wanted to replicate it somehow,” said Orbach, the show’s producer. With actors only a few feet away from the audience, “everything is heightened.”

The show portrays the “worst things teenagers have to deal with as they’re moving into adulthood,” said Chase Gladden ’17, who plays Moritz in the show. “There’s teenage pregnancy and abortion and rape and suicide. It’s very difficult subject matter.” Even if audience members have not experienced these things personally, they are likely to know others who have.

All proceeds from the $5 tickets will be donated to Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine and a local suicide prevention center. “A really important part of doing art is giving back,” said Orbach. “The cast and production team thought it was really important that there was social change coming from what we were doing to make sure that people have the resources they need, unlike the characters in the show.”

The cast and production team discussed the show’s themes with Benje Douglas, Bowdoin’s director of gender violence prevention and education, and with Visiting Assistant Professor of English Sarah Braunstein. “We’ve talked a lot about how important it is to make sure that audience members have space to have their own reactions,” said Orbach. However, she noted that the production is not without the more lighthearted moments of adolescence. “You can be in the darkest moment of the show and then the next moment is the most fun. I think you heal by the end,” she said.

Staging the show in a barn also presented some logistical challenges. The orchestra, for instance, sat in a kitchen behind the performers.

The actors, too, faced challenges. “We are all on stage at all times. You don’t really get a chance to rest or go out of character,” said Gladden.

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