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Baldwin Wallace To Premiere First-Ever Virtual College Production Of SPRING AWAKENING

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The show was shot guerilla film style on iPhones and at more than 40 locations throughout Northeast Ohio.

Baldwin Wallace To Premiere First-Ever Virtual College Production Of SPRING AWAKENING

What's it like to stage a musical in the midst of a pandemic? How do you perform group numbers when unmasked group singing is verboten? What about kissing?

This fall, Baldwin Wallace University's top-rated music theatre program pulls off the ultimate COVID-hack with the first virtual college production of "Spring Awakening," the eight-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical created by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik. But this is no coronavirus-era, pared down, Zoom table reading. The groundbreaking show - shot guerilla film style on iPhones and at more than 40 locations throughout Northeast Ohio - begins streaming November 19.

At the start of the school year, Victoria Bussert, head of BW's top-ranked music theatre program, considered her bad-to-worse choices: cancel the fall production of "Spring Awakening" or perform it under strict COVID-19 protocols. That meant nightly performances before a crowd of 50 rather than 500, with cast, crew and audience forced to vacate the theater every 30 minutes and loiter outside for another half hour before being allowed to return the air to exchange in the theater. Other colleges, faced with similar constraints, axed their fall shows or opted for static Zoomicals.

Not Bussert and her students at the small liberal arts college in Berea, some 30 minutes outside Cleveland. "Time to pivot!" Bussert announced. The result is a production of "Spring Awakening" like no other shot almost entirely on iPhones, on a mainstage turned soundstage and at dozens of outdoor locations in Berea and beyond. Students have invaded parks, cemeteries and rage rooms in pursuit of the perfect look and sound. Bussert and music director and director of photography Matthew Webb used a collision of lo-fi tricks and high-tech props to build the mother of all music videos - from backdrops fashioned from beach towels from Target to footage shot by a drone.

"Spring Awakening" is produced by Bryan Bowser and directed by Victoria Bussert. Matthew Webb serves as both music director and director of photography. The show is choregraphed by Gregory Daniels, with casting by Colleen Longshaw Jackson.

The production followed strict coronavirus safety precautions that went beyond those required on the University's campus. Students weren't allowed to remove their masks and sing as a group, so they recorded themselves performing their parts solo, often in their dorm room closets, then sent the clips to Webb, who meshed their voices using audio mixing software. Actors have mastered the art of lip syncing and holding their breaths in scenes where their characters are on the verge of a kiss. The BW creative team is determined to show that with a little ingenuity, high-quality music theatre can continue to be produced while keeping all involved safe and healthy. The proof is in teaser footage of the turbulent coming-of-age story that captures the high-voltage energy of live performance.

Set in late 19th-century Germany, "Spring Awakening" explores the turmoil of adolescent sexuality, its themes of isolation, control, trauma, identity and enlightenment more timely today than they were when the musical premiered on Broadway in 2006.

In a time of social distancing, constant masking and touching only with large amounts of hand sanitizer, the "college experience" has more in common with the repressive German society of the late 1800s than ever - including the raging hormones and inner Sturm und Drang that go with it.

Based on a controversial 1891 play by German playwright Frank Wedekind, the story also deals with heart wrenching and potentially triggering topics like suicide and incest.

Audiences for BW's "Spring Awakening" will be able to stream the event from the comfort of their own homes. Thursday through Saturday, November 19-21, streamed performances will be available beginning at 8 p.m. EST, with Sunday, November 22 streaming at 2 p.m. EST. Each show will feature a five-minute intermission.

Ticket purchase is required to receive unique access to the streamed performances and tickets will be available mid-October at at a cost of $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, and a $40 group viewing pack.

"Spring Awakening" is a collaboration between the BW Conservatory of Music's Music Theatre Program and BW's Department of Theatre and Dance and supported by a team of BW Arts Management & Entrepreneurship students.

"Spring Awakening" is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI, 423 West 55th Street, New York, NY10019.

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