2/1/2023 0 Comments
Catherine Sullivan (she/her)
The rock musical “Spring Awakening” is not what most people would consider strong queer representation. Focusing on two heterosexual couples discovering their sexuality, the show only briefly includes scenes featuring a homosexual relationship. On the surface, the 2006 Broadway adaptation of an 1891 play seems like exactly that: the kind of queer representation we’ve moved on from since 2006. But In The Round, a new queer-focused student theatre group, proves that “Spring Awakening” is absolutely a queer story. In The Round is looking to tell stories that resonate with queer people, not just to feature queer characters, as Jack Rosenberg, president of In The Round and director of “Spring Awakening,” told us in an interview with the Gayly.
Watching their performance of “Spring Awakening,” I was skeptical at first. While the leading male duo seemed interested in each other as they shared their sexual discoveries, their relationship never grew past subtext as each took sole interest in a female character. None of the female characters explicitly took interest in each other. But by the end of the show, Rosenberg’s comment rang true in my mind.
The first act depicts early, naïve explorations of sexuality, heterosexual or otherwise, with choreography of undoubted passion that reads as familiarly queer. Moritz Stiefel’s fear of his growing feelings that he doesn’t understand resonates deeply with a community all too familiar with repression. Melchior Gabor’s realization that he had been caught exploring sexuality, that an admission would destroy him, and that he needed to make one anyway is practically a coming out. The admission’s tone, set to the unreserved song “Totally Fucked,” parallels the bittersweet experience of embracing yourself despite the consequences to come.
This is a story about navigating sexual discovery, featuring both terrifying confusion and raw joy. This is a story about how policing, shaming, and punishing sexuality can ruin something beautiful and tear lives apart. This is an emphatically queer story.
Looking back on the show, Rosenberg commented: “I really cannot stress enough how thankful we all are for the abundance of love, acceptance, and support that has been directed our way. We feel so beyond lucky and supported by everyone who trusted us as we built this organization and everyone who helped encourage our telling of these LGBTQIA+ stories."
Theatre holds a special place in queer art as a medium dedicated to choosing your own role. It provides a safe outlet to make your personality as big as you can and to step into a world where you set the rules. Seeing the passionate self-expression involved in “Spring Awakening” makes it clear why queer storytellers and audiences are drawn to the stage.
In The Round has two more shows planned for the 2022-2023 school year. Following their inaugural show of Spring Awakening in early December, they’ll next be performing “Boys in the Band” from March 31st to April 2nd. There’s still time to get involved with In The Round for both remaining productions this year. More information can be found at www.intheroundprod.com