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Interview: SPRING AWAKENING's Alex Wyse Talks 'An Autocorrect Nightmare' & More

The current revival of Spring Awakening by Deaf West Theatre has made its one year journey from a small theatre, to the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, and is now on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The year long experience has united the cast and their deep chemistry is apparent- both on and off the stage. Just one aspect that makes the show so magical is the coming together of the Deaf and hearing theatrical communities, and their endless creativity can be seen in everything they do. One recent example is the hilarious video An Autocorrect Nightmare directed, written, and produced by cast member, Alex Wyse.

Prior to Spring Awakening, Alex was in LYSISTRATA JONES on Broadway and worked on television in Los Angeles. His television credits include "Agent X", "Modern Family", "Switched at Birth", "A to Z", "Bad Judge", "Masters of Sex", and "Bored to Death." We had the wonderful opportunity to speak to the multi-talented actor to get the skinny on the great video, the behind the scenes creation, and the incredible production. Spring Awakening's limited run on Broadway ends January 24th.

We're all loving the Autocorrect Nightmare video here at BroadwayWorld, where did the original inspiration for the video come from?

It all started with a joke that Andy Mientus made while at a get-together... From there, we all kept adding to it and riffing off of it because it was something we could all relate to! The whole thing truly was a group effort. It kept growing and expanding, and I said "I really want to write this!"

My first task was to make sure that this wouldn't be offensive in any way, because it was really important to me that this would be funny without being derogatory. The cast's support was unanimous. The Deaf members of the cast all viewed it as another opportunity to own their deafness. Josh Castille and Alex Boniello were responsible for adding the end note regarding being careful with what you type and what you say. It was the perfect opportunity to get a point across in a silly, comedic manner.

With an eight show week, how did you find time for writing and shooting a film?

It was an absolutely crazy two days! I wrote the script on Saturday night and finished around three in the morning. What I was most nervous about was to get Marlee's stamp of approval on the script. Once that was achieved I was jumping up and down and ready to start filming!

I then brought the script to the theatre on Sunday morning and started filming before the matinee that afternoon. Filming continued during intermission, between shows, the next intermission, and after the show. Most of it was all done in single takes, while sneaking around backstage. I then edited all night until around seven in the morning. I slept for about three hours and began sending out the video to friends in the cast for their insights. They offered some ideas, so I edited it again and had it then sent out to different websites on Monday. It would not have happened so quickly if it was not for the huge group involvement. It was the fastest and wildest thing!

And it's become one of our favorite social media videos of the year... You have a phenomenal Twitter presence, how are you using social media to connect with your fans?

I really try to maintain a funny presence on social media. I do my best to never be cruel or rude towards any other person or show. Since many of my fans are teenagers, more often than not, I make the butt of the joke about myself. And, it is interesting to see how people react to that. I think a lot of them see if they can jump on and be funny with me, or if they just don't understand that kind of humor because they are actually fourteen years old! It's just a really an amusing thing, but mostly it has connected me to people. I get to hear how people were affected by the show, people who look up to me (just as I look up to so many other people!) and that is so important to me. Social media is a platform which has given me the opportunity to create and share my voice.

Now, onto the show! This production has moved so many people, what aspects of Spring Awakening have had the largest effect on you?

Well, first off, I learned a new language...but more importantly I have become part of this incredible community of actors that work so hard as a unit. I am so thankful for the way that we come together on stage in a very intense and focused way. That bond has changed my life. The show also brought me back to New York. I had left to do television in LA, where I got the call for the Beverly Hills production of Spring Awakening, and was a little unsure about it. I made the decision to do it, and that whole journey brought me right back to New York and I could not be more grateful!

Did you have any American Sign Language (ASL) background prior to Spring Awakening?

When I was younger, my school had a Deaf program so interpreters were always around, but I think I really only knew the alphabet, and the sign for "crocodile". I could never carry a conversation. I did not really know ASL until this whole process began.

And how did you simultaneously learn both this new language, and at the same time, integrate it into a full performance that combined both English and ASL?

In the beginning, I was learning it more as choreography; I learned the hand shapes, location and movement, but didn't necessarily know the actual meaning. I had to work with the ASL Masters that we had in the rehearsal room in order to get it right. It was a lot of consistent practice. As the whole process continued, I started to learn more ASL and began to understand it. It transitioned from a dance I was doing, to communicating my lines in a different way.

And why do you think that this new approach to the show has made it a unique and special experience both for those who loved the original production and for new fans?

I think the show tells a slightly different story, which makes it so special. We are using the same text, yet it is different. It is difficult to articulate that distinction, it just feels new. The focus of our production is a lack of communication...this concept existed in the original, but I do not feel it was as bold as in the current one. This is something that unfortunately Deaf people struggle quite a bit with in the hearing world. With this in mind, we were able to build a totally new show.

I've read that you recently turned down an audition to for a Deaf character. Can you expand upon this movement to spread Deaf talent?

I know it is not politically correct to cast a hearing person as a Deaf character, and here I was in the middle of Deaf West's Spring Awakening , surrounded by all of my Deaf friends, getting an audition to play a Deaf character. It was completely ludicrous!

I wrote them and said "please pass on these names," with names of my cast members, saying "make sure my cast members are the ones getting these auditions. I cannot be going in for this." I then Tweeted about it to inform people that this is a real thing that happens in the world. I had no idea it would become such a big deal. I honestly did not completely understand the movement until I found myself as an unlikely spokesperson. We should create roles for Deaf people -- we should take a role that was hearing and make it Deaf, not the other way around. This is a group of people that has so much to communicate, so much inside, so many stories, and they deserve as many opportunities as anybody else. I could not put myself in the way of them sharing their thoughts and talents.

Ok, last question - what is your favorite sign in ASL?

There's a sign we do in "Touch Me" and "The Song of Purple Summer" that translates to "awesome." I think it is such a fun sign to do. It feels awesome to do the sign for awesome!



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