BWW Interview: Director Taibi Magar Talks SPRING AWAKENING at TUTS
The first thing I noticed about Taibi Magar is how young she sounds. I was amazed that such a young director was presiding over a production for the theater major leagues, the team Theatre Under the Stars, for such a big game, SPRING AWAKENING. In addition to a plethora of themes, including religion and mental illness, SPRING AWAKENING tackles the complex subject of teenage sexuality.
But Magar is a seasoned director. The Obie-winning director is perennial New York Times critics pick and has worked with another Houston powerhouse, The Alley Theatre. And her youthful spirit has proved advantageous.
Magar believes SPRING AWAKENING introduces one of society's most important pedagogical questions--how best to teach children. The system we have set up is broken, centered around a pass/fail mentality, she says. "I felt like a total failure in [high]school because I didn't excel in math and science. I would go and vomit before a math test."
It was only when she encountered theater did she realize her aptitude and her understanding of intelligence increased. That Magar can remember her teenage years with such detail has helped her portray her young characters with accuracy.
It also means she knows not to talk down to teens. At a public Q&A, an audience member asked Magar if the play was appropriate for teens, a question that highlights how scared we are to talk to our teens about what Magar calls the tough issues.
In the case of SPRING AWAKENING, the tough issue is sex. "It's hard to grasp your head around [sex] when you're a kid," says Magar. "Understanding sex and sexual impulses and attraction and desire, they're just really confusing feelings."
Sexual needs are different from other physiological needs, like food, Magar explains. "[It's] very different from hunger and [from saying], 'I want food.' This is an action with another person. It's both a physical experience but also maybe a spiritual, mental and emotional one. It's an incredibly complex act."
It's not conflict free, Magar says. "I think the impossible question is how can we best talk to our children about difficult situations and emotions and challenges. I think each kid is different and it's also about the adults getting a level of comfort with themselves, which feels almost impossible in a culture so deeply repressed."
The solution? The director believe SPRING AWAKENING gives the solution: "There's a part in the musical, the last song/coda actually addresses the parents and says, 'Listen to your children. Listen.'"
SPRING AWAKENING. Through October 20, 2019. Remaining performances are at 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby Street. For information, please call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com. $40-$129.