Impact’s Head of Entertainment, Cora-Laine, met with the producer of Musicality’s Spring Awakening, Cat New, to discuss the society’s Summer production. Discussing the themes, rehearsals, and decisions behind the performance, Cora shares their chat.
Hopping onto Zoom, the first thing I did rather than the typical small talk greeting was apologise about the very random Aurora Borealis virtual background that hid my living room from Cat New – the producer and, more recently, cast member of Musicality’s Summer production Spring Awakening. After a few giggles and messing around with Zoom’s new avatar feature, we dove straight into our chat about the University of Nottingham society’s version of Steven Sater’s musical.
Proposed by another member of the musical theatre group, Cat described Spring Awakening as a story that follows “the sexual awakening of a group of teens in the span of a year” during the 1880/90s. It is an extremely vulnerable yet beautiful performance sharing the characters’ different experiences with shame, whether that be from “experiencing abuse, acknowledging desires, struggling in school, or accepting their sexuality”.
Asking why they chose such a hard-hitting musical for their Summer production, I was curious what made this dark, emotional piece stand out from other proposals.
Back in February 2022, Musicality performed Urinetown at the Nottingham Arts Theatre. The musical by Greg Kotis was a satirical comedy that did not take itself seriously. While fun and entertaining to produce and perform, Cat explained that the group wanted to create “something more different and challenging” for their Summer show. They wanted to choose a musical that contrasted Urinetown, one that had much more emotional depth and poignancy. Further to this, moving away from comedy gave the opportunity for different people with different talents to get involved.
The cast and crew shared an eagerness to maintain openness
Only a few days away from the first show out of three of Spring Awakening, Cat and I discussed behind-the-scenes and the thinking behind their version of Sater’s award-winning musical.
Considering many sensitive subjects are addressed throughout the story, such as abuse and suicide, I wanted to know how Cat and her company approached these issues, to which she responded with great care and thought. When it came to rehearsals, the cast and crew shared an eagerness to maintain openness and to keep their creative space as a safe one. Welfare was the utmost priority since they were addressing “difficult topics that people have personal experiences with.” From wellbeing circles at the end of each rehearsal to forms to check-in on members, Cat and her team emphasised the positive and safe environment they were creating in.
This thoughtfulness towards the cast was also extended to the audience and the show itself. In other professional productions worldwide, a common creative element was nudity. Many actors would perform entirely nude in front of the audience to create a sense of vulnerability. However, for Musicality’s production, the group chose to cut the nudity out. Without the immediate vulnerability formed by actors performing naked, Cat outlined how they addressed this defencelessness, without saying too much as to spoil the show.
“Intimate moments were turned into choreography. Made less graphic and more beautiful” so as to not make the audience feel too uncomfortable while still experiencing the same level of vulnerability and shame the characters are in the scenes.
Touching upon the mention of shame again, I drew our discussion back to the emphasis of the theme and wondered how it influenced the show.
Musicality has constructed a beautiful and powerful production
“Shame is always damaging.” Cat said without a second thought. She then explained how she wanted to explore the emotion throughout the performance, particularly since it was a musical about puberty, sex, and the trials of adolescence. All subjects teenagers feel embarrassed to talk about. But before they could present an intricate, emotional piece to an audience, they needed to break through their own anxieties and apprehension about the subjects.
Recounting one of her most memorable moments throughout the rehearsals, Cat shared the very first one, where for an icebreaker they labelled genitalia. “It was the first weekend. There were a lot of new faces and we had never worked together in this group before. Our director printed large drawings of vulvas and penises and as mini teams we had to label the parts.” Like kids back in secondary school, the two of us had a giggle about the drawings. But, Cat stands by that this particular icebreaker worked wonders for the group as “nothing felt awkward after that.” Considering Spring Awakening is a musical about a group of young people uneducated about sex and ignorance, the activity fit in with what the cast and crew were creating.
Free from embarrassment and able to talk freely, unafraid to be themselves after that first weekend, Musicality has constructed a beautiful and powerful production that will resonate with all who sees it.
Performances of Musicality’s Summer production, Spring Awakening, at Djanogly Recital Hall are on the following days and times:
- Friday 10th June 2022: 7:30pm
- Saturday 11th June 2022: 2:30pm
- Saturday 11th June 2022: 7:30pm
- Students: £5
- Public: £8
Please be aware that this is a show with mature themes and may not be suitable for children under 14.
Buy your tickets here: https://su.nottingham.ac.uk/events/products/3597
Featured Image courtesy of Musicality. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
All in-article images courtesy of Musicality. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to these image.
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