Aaron Lai / Highlander
Aaron Lai / Highlander

“Spring Awakening” will be debuting for UCR’s department of Theatre, Film and Production this quarter. Directed by Matt Neves of Riverside’s Repertory Theater, the musical debuted in 2006 and is based off the famous 1891 German play of the same name. The piece concerns the sexual awakenings of several different teenagers and how their confused thoughts about sexuality and growing up are handled by their peers and society.

Khalif Gillett, a fourth-year theater major, will be playing George Zirschnitz, one of the children who lusts after his piano teacher. Gillett was drawn into Zirschnitz’s complex inner life. “George is the best friend to the main character,” Gillett explained. “George is in kind of a depressive state, he’s very down-on-his-luck kid where everything is getting to him at this point in life.” He explained how wild Zirschnitz gets in his musical numbers, “he goes into his alter ego where he’s really hot-headed and wild,” but he’s very different from classic angst-ridden teens of the American arts like Holden Caulfield “because he’s not as expressively angry about how he feels. He bottles it up until it explodes.”

For Gillett, the musical is all about the need for people to communicate and show affection toward each other. “A lot of adults lack that in this world.”

When asked what he wishes for students to take away from the musical, he replied “Just have a greater understanding of people and their stories, and that you never know what people are going through” and that both the silent and happy “could be going through the same types of heartaches, and you’d never know without asking.”

Haley Gaskin, a senior at UCR, will be playing Anna. In the musical, Anna is protective of her friends Marth and Thea, and slowly becomes more and more frustrated with her friends. For Gaskin, this is relatable for many people.

“This is a very complicated show,” she explained. “Many characters crumble under the weight of all the pressure that the adults and society throw onto these poor children. As Anna, it’s my role to try and be the voice of reason amidst all the chaos that’ll take place on stage.”

“Several times, different characters even fight, and with the few lines that I have, I try to point out and say, ‘hey, this is not ok.’ It’s tough trying to be the voice of reason in a really tough situation this musical presents on stage.”

Gaskin agreed with Gillett in that communication is one of the key problems the production addresses.

“A lack of communication is a cause for a lot of problems in society. ‘Spring Awakening’ is kind of like a presentation of the worst case scenario in terms of a lack of communication.”

Tony Baltierra, a production stage manager at UCR, addressed a few of the difficulties surrounding getting everything together.

“We’ve all been working on the choreography and the musical numbers for the last four weeks of rehearsal, Baltierra noted. “It could be really tough and demanding at different times, but everybody’s been working hard to make this great.”

The theme of communication became more and more clear as Baltierra expressed what he also wanted UCR students to take away from the production.

“The adults in this piece don’t communicate well with any of the children, and there’s just a general lack of communication in the story as a whole.” The story ends up being disastrous for many of the children “because many of them aren’t getting the right answers, or even just answers, to many of their important questions concerning how they feel.”

Ultimately, director Reves hopes that “Spring Awakening” resonates with the campus. “This piece is very moving,” he explained. “Lots of people can relate to it. So I really hope that people can watch it, and see it, and related to it to help them through emotional times.

“Spring Awakening” will be debuting at 8 p.m. this Thursday in UCR’s campus theatre.