Michael Arden to Helm Deaf West's SPRING AWAKENING with Choreographer Spencer Liff This Fall
The multiple Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Spring Awakening, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, is set to receive an innovative, immersive production performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English. Presented by Deaf West Theatre in association with The Forest of Arden, Spring Awakening opens Sept. 13 at Inner City Arts in downtown L.A.
Based on Frank Wedekind's controversial 1891 expressionist play of the same name and featuring an electrifying rock/pop score, Spring Awakening follows the lives of a group of adolescents as they navigate their entry into sexual awareness. An extraordinary creative team, including director Michael Arden (Patrick on the FX series Anger Management, Deaf West productions of Big River on Broadway and Pippin at the Mark Taper Forum), musical director Jared Stein (first National Tour of Spring Awakening as well as Broadway productions of American Idiot and Hair) and Emmy-nominated choreographer Spencer Liff (Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, Tony Award-winning revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris) reinvents the groundbreaking musical about lost innocence and the struggles of youth in true Deaf West style.
The cast of 25 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing actors and musicians includes Joey Antonio, Miles Barbee, Jimmy Bellinger, Katie Boeck, Joshua Castille, Julian Comeau, Daniel Durant, Treshelle Edmond, Max Fishman, Sandra Mae Frank, Kathryn Gallagher, Gabrielle Garza, Sean Grandillo, Karla Gutierrez, Joseph Haro, Amelia Hensley, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Marmion, Austin McKenzie, Lauren Patten, Natacha Roi, Rustin Cole Sailors, Daniel David Stewart, Ali Stroker and Alexandra Winter.
"The mix of sign language and choreography performed by this amazing young cast brings the songs to life in a completely new way," says Arden. "It's our hope that this reimagining will kindle a new connection between the hearing and deaf communities."
Deaf West artistic director David J. Kurs suggests that this production illuminates the divide between deaf children and their hearing parents who do not share their world. "The play is all about the fraught relationship between parent and child, about navigating the world without strong guidance," he explains. "The inability of the characters in Spring Awakening to connect to and communicate with their parents is similar to the experience of many deaf children."
Deaf West Theatre productions are renowned for weaving ASL with spoken English to create a seamless ballet of movement and voice, thereby creating a fully inclusive theatrical experience for deaf, hard of hearing and hearing audiences. Spring Awakening marks DWT's fifth musical production. The company's Big River received Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and Backstage Garland awards for Best Musical in its L.A. premiere, then went on to garner a Tony nomination and four Drama Desk Awards when it transferred to Broadway. Pippin was produced at the Mark Taper Forum in a co-production with Center Theatre Group, and Sleeping Beauty Wakes, also a co-production with CTG, was presented at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. DWT's production of Oliver! was honored with an Ovation Award for Best Musical. Other award-winning productions from Deaf West include Cyrano (a co-production with the Fountain Theatre - Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Production) and A Streetcar Named Desire (Ovation Award for Best Play). In 2005, DWT was selected to receive the Highest Recognition Award by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for its "distinguished contributions to improve and enrich the culture lives of deaf and hard of hearing actors and theater patrons."
The Forest of Arden is a collective of artists, designers, actors and writers who strive to create immersive, imaginative and provocative theatrical experiences in Los Angeles and beyond, with an emphasis on site-specific work. Their critically acclaimed production of La Ronde is currently being developed into a feature film.
Scenic and costume design duties for Spring Awakening are shared by Dane Laffrey and Christopher Scott Murillo; lighting design is by Travis Hagenbuch; sound design is by Philip G. Allen; projection design is by Brent Stewart; and hair design is by Carol Doran. ASL Masters are Anthony Natale, Elizabeth Greene and Shoshannah Stern. The production stage manager is T.J. Kearney and production manager is Frier McCollister. David J. Kurs, Christopher Sepulveda and Ann E. Wareham produce for Deaf West Theatre. The production was developed and previously workshopped with Deaf West by Michael Arden and Andy Mientus.
Spring Awakening runs Sept. 13 through Oct. 19, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Five preview performances take place Sunday, Sept. 7 at 3 p.m., and Tuesday, Sept. 9 through Friday, Sept. 12, all at 8 p.m. Performances take place in the Rosenthal Theater at Inner City Arts, 720 Kohler Street in downtown L.A. (just south of the Arts District). For reservations and information, call (818) 762-2998 (voice) or go to www.deafwest.org.