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BWW Interviews: Tony Gilkinson's SPRING AWAKENING at mad Theatre Of Tampa

There's a mere week left until mad Theatre of Tampa opens in their new space, unleashing the massive rock concert of Spring Awakening. Recently revived on Broadway after only a decade since its original cast (giving careers to Jonathan Groff, Lea Michelle, and Pitch Perfect's Skylar Astin), Spring Awakening has seen a lot of spotlight and fresh-takes.

mad Theatre is entering its 16th season, and continuing its partnership with the Straz Center by moving from black box Shimberg, to Straz's larger Jaeb Theater. The larger, cabaret styled venue will present its own challenges and advantages, of which Gilkinson is thrilled to work with. Having directed eight productions with mad Theatre since 2012, Gilkinson is ready to take things to the next level with Spring Awakening.

As he prepares for the load-in and tech week, director Tony Gilkinson sat down to tell me a bit about his production of the Broadway smash.

Trevor Durham (Broadway World): It must be exciting to get to open up and experiment with a new space. Is the change in venue space affecting the overall vision of the show? Will your space hold weight in how the audience interacts?

Tony Gilkinson: It definitely is exciting to be able to create in a new space. It does come with new levels of stress but it truly is fun and very rewarding for me as a director. This is our first time in the space and we do not have experience in the overall stage, lights, sound. Luckily, I was able to bring on board an Assistant Stage Manager for the Jaeb as my Stage Manager for this production. Jenn Davila knows the space like the back of her hand, so she has been a great resource for me. My lighting designer has used the space in the past, but because it is a union house, he only designs the overall lighting.

The Tampa cast of Spring Awakening

BWW: Is this a larger show than some of your past productions?

TG: My production of RENT was similar in size of cast and band... but I did that show at the Shimberg. So I had to think of a big show in a small space, where I have more room with Spring Awakening.

BWW: Have you been influenced by Michael Arden's recent revival of Spring Awakening at all? Is there more of the original 2006 production involved, or maybe this is a fresh look on the script?

TG: The recent revival inadvertently is an influence... Kristy Noel Carlson plays Anna in the show. Shortly after she joined the cast, she was in a terrible car accident and broke her leg. Instead of replacing her I decided to work around the injury. She was on board with the idea and so we found a wheelchair and she is now playing the role of Anna as a wheel chair bound character. In the revival they had hey wheelchair-bound actress in that production. The difference is that this is only temporary for Kristy.

Kristy Noel Carson as Anna

BWW: Is there anything you've done that audiences should look out for? Anything exciting about this production you're willing to share?

TG: Well, obviously this show deals with a lot of adult issues... Sex, abuse, death, suicide, and the show features brief nudity... I'm excited that I have a group of incredibly talented actors that have come together. As a community theatre, my actors all volunteer countless hours for the simple joy of performing.

BWW: What's something you hope your audiences of 2016 take away from this 1890s show? What's the message you want people to walk out with?

TG: Two things... The first I heard from the Deaf West production that resonated so much with the shows message. Often when children are crying for help and understanding the parents simply do not hear them. The second is simply to continue to support local community theatre. You will experience only top notch productions with mad Theatre of Tampa!

Spring Awakening opens September 8th and runs through September 18th at the Straz Center in the Jaeb. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

Nicolas Burgos as Melchior

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