Spring Awakening EN302: European Theatre Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) пЃ® Bertolt Brecht on Wedekind in 1918: пЃ® вЂ�His vitality was his finest characteristic. вЂ¦ A few weeks ago at the Bonbonniere he sang his songs to guitar accompaniment in a brittle voice, slightly monotonous and quite untrained. No singer ever gave me such a shock, such a thrill. It was the manвЂ™s intense aliveness, the energy which allowed him to defy sniggering ridicule and proclaim his brazen hymn to humanity, that also gave him this personal magic. He seemed indestructible.вЂ™ (1977: 3) Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® 1864: Born Benjamin Franklin Wedekind in Hanover. Parents both German: mother a singer, father a doctor. 1872: Family left Germany for Switzerland due to increasingly authoritarian and conservative German politics under Bismarck. 1886: Clashed with father, who wanted him to continue his legal studies, while Frank wanted to be a writer. Left for Zurich after a physical fight with his father. Worked as advertising manager for Maggi soup and as secretary to a circus. 1891: Published Spring Awakening (FrГјhlings Erwachen) at his own expense. 1899: Tried and imprisoned for nine months for вЂ�libelling the crownвЂ™, following anti-Government poems in the political satirical magazine Simplicissimus. 1901: Founded political cabaret troupe The Eleven Executioners in Munich. 1906: Married Tilly Newes, the 19-year-old star of his play PandoraвЂ™s Box, following her suicide attempt at the discovery that she was pregnant with his child. 1918: Died in Munich. Spring Awakening (FrГјhlings Erwachen) пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® 1891: Publication. 1906: Theatrical premiere of Spring Awakening in Berlin. 1908: Banned in Germany (ban subsequently revoked). 1910: Private performance in England by the Stage Society. 1912: First US production, given in German in New York. 1917: First full English-language production, also in New York. 1963: English Stage Society produce two Sunday night performances at the Royal Court Theatre. 1974: First uncensored English-language performance at the National Theatre, in a version by Edward Bond. 2006: Adapted into a rock musical on Broadway. Formal features пЃ® Structural features: пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Patterns and parallels: пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Moving from one mode (naturalism?) into another (expressionism?) Episodic form вЂ“ principle of montage and juxtaposition Act One: mostly outdoors; children dominate. Act Two: mostly indoors; moved towards monologues. Act Three: mostly institutions; adults dominate. Violent climax to each act (though the third, like the OresteiaвЂ™s, is averted by the intervention of a god-like figure). Moritz and MelchiorвЂ™s moments of choice. Typography (e.g. hayloft scene, MoritzвЂ™s suicide, graveyard scene) Symbolism: пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Movement through spring, summer and autumn. Woods (like fairy tales) Wind / storm Autobiographical elements пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�I began writing without any plan, intending to write what gave me pleasure. The plan came into being after the third scene and consisted of my own experiences or those of my school fellows. Almost every scene corresponds to an actual incident.вЂ™ (Wedekind, quoted in Bentley 2002: xxi) Wedekind, like Moritz, struggled at school and was held back a year. The young Wedekind came close to suicide himself after two classmates shot one another in a suicide pact in 1880. In 1881, another classmate killed himself: пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�Last Friday Frank Oberlin cut school. Saturday morning at 4 oвЂ™clock he took his history book and went to the embankment to review his history lessons. Two hours later at 6 oвЂ™clock his body was found washed up on the banks of the Aare River.вЂ™ (Wedekind, letter to Adolf VГ¶gtlin, quoted in Ham 2007: 52) A fourth classmate, Moritz DГјrr, killed himself in 1885. German schools пЃ® пЃ® Key question: вЂ�DonвЂ™t you agree, Melchior, that the sense of shame is simply a product of a personвЂ™s upbringing?вЂ™ (Moritz) Industrialisation of Germany in late 19th century resulted in a massive increase in the size of the middle class; knock-on effects included an increasingly authoritarian sense of morality, and expanding education system, and an ever-larger audience of readers and theatregoers. пЃ® вЂ�By the end of the centuryвЂ¦ an increasing number of young people remained in school for longer periods of time, during which they were expected to behave like children although their bodies and drives were fully developed. An increasing number of social disorders attended this peculiar custom, the most dramatic of which were student suicides. вЂ¦ Adolescent suicide soon became one of the leading subjects of German dramas and novels. And, as might be expected, the growing host of school reformers became preoccupied with this problem as well. They saw the increase in suicides as the direct result of an evil and outdated educational system.вЂ™ (Fishman 1970: 172) German schools пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Student suicide was a specifically middle-class problem (Fishman 1970: 176). вЂ�By WedekindвЂ™s day, an incredible forty percent of male adolescent suicides were attributed to undue stress and failure in schoolвЂ™ (Ham 2007: 51). Aspects of schooling included attempts to instil unquestioning respect for authority (through discipline) and competition between pupils (through ensuring a set proportion of failures). Fishman paraphrases an article by educational reformer Ludwig Gurlitt: пЃ® вЂ�The most vicious aspect of the German educational and bureaucratic systemвЂ¦ is its impersonality. Every administrator, teacher, and student becomes part of a vast, impersonal apparatus. Each day students are herded into pedagogical barracks and disciplined by state pedants. No attempt is made to understand the nature and needs of young people.вЂ™ (Fishman 1970: 177) Spring Awakening as social critcism пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® The play gives a very satirical presentation of the German educational system and authority figures. Attempts to keep young people in ignorance about their sexualities leads to at least two tragic outcomes. Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of Modern Drama, 1914: пЃ® вЂ�More boldly than any other dramatist Frank Wedekind has laid bare the shams of morality in reference to sex, especially attacking the ignorance surrounding the sex life of the child and its resultant tragedies. вЂ¦ Never was a more powerful indictment hurled against society, which out of sheer hypocrisy and cowardice persists that boys and girls must grow up in ignorance of their sex functions, that they must be sacrificed on the altar of stupidity and convention which taboo the enlightenment of the child in questions of such elemental importance to health and well-being.вЂ™ Max ReinhardtвЂ™s production, 1906 пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® First performance at the Berlin Kammerspiele, 20th November 1906, directed by Max Reinhardt. Reinhardt had opened the Kammerspiele earlier that year with a production of IbsenвЂ™s Ghosts. J. L. Styan describes the production as вЂ�an historic event in the growth of expressionismвЂ™ (1982: 33). вЂ�His [ReinhardtвЂ™s] production, with its masterly use of the most up-to-date stagingtechniques (revolving stage, no вЂ�realisticвЂ™ sets, gauzes) set a precedent for later productions of a work soon regarded in the Germanspeaking countries as the spearhead of a new concept of drama.вЂ™ (Skrine 1989: 77) Wedekind himself played the Man in the Mask (left). Max ReinhardtвЂ™s production, 1906 Max ReinhardtвЂ™s production, 1906 вЂ�A Tragedy of ChildhoodвЂ™? пЃ® Reinhardt discouraged Wedekind from attending rehearsals: пЃ® вЂ�I wasnвЂ™t allowed to attend until the tenth dayвЂ¦ What I found in preparation was a veritable tragedy in the grand dramatic style, without a trace of humour. I did my best to give the comedy its due, and tried to enhance the playful, intellectual elements and dampen the passionate elements, notable in the last scene in the cemetery. I believe the play is more moving the more harmlessly, sunnily and light-heartedly it is performed. If passion and tragedy are brought to the fore, I believe this play can seem slightly repellent.вЂ™ (quoted in Forsyth 2010: xxxi) вЂ�A Tragedy of ChildhoodвЂ™? пЃ® In 1911, Wedekind wrote: пЃ® вЂ�Since about 1901, above all since Max Reinhardt put it on stage, it has been regarded as an angry, deadly earnest tragedy, as a thesis play, as a polemic in the service of sexual enlightenment вЂ“ or whatever the current slogans of the fussy, pedantic lower middle class may be. It makes me wonder if I shall live to see the book taken for what, twenty years ago, I wrote it as вЂ“ a sunny image of life in every scene of which I tried to exploit an unburdened humour for all it was worth.вЂ™ (quoted in Bermel 1993: 31) Naturalist or not? MELCHIOR: IвЂ™ll tell you everything. вЂ“ I got it partly from books, partly from pictures, partly from observing nature. YouвЂ™ll be surprised: it made an atheist of me for a time. пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�From the start, Wedekind rejected the NaturalistsвЂ™ aim of exact representation and their fatalistic theories of determinism by heredity and environment. His hostility was heightened by a quarrel with Gerhard Hauptmann, a leading Naturalist writer.вЂ™ (Boa 1987: 16) вЂ�When Naturalism has had its day, its practitioners can earn a living in the secret police.вЂ™ (Wedekind, The World of Youth, 1890) Naturalist or not? пЃ® Wedekind considered his plays a rejection of Naturalism: пЃ® вЂ�What my plays cannot stand is a naturalistic approach, with hands in pockets and the words sloppily mumbled so that nobody can catch them. And please spare me your psychological subtleties: there is no such thing as вЂњpsychologicalвЂќ style вЂ“ the psychological dimension goes without saying and will emerge of its own accord if my characters are presented consistently. Their psychology is my business, it is not the business of my characters, still less of the actors playing them.вЂ™ (quoted in Skrine 1989: 72) Naturalist or not? пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Many of the adult characters are grotesque, one-dimensional caricatures: the teachers have names like KnГјppeldick (Thickstick), Zungenschlag (Stickytongue) and Knockenbruch (Bonebreaker). вЂ�The outburst of furious indignation provoked by SpringвЂ™s Awakening was aggravated by its plan to have the audience sympathize with the moving scenes of the children, and then see themselves depicted on the stage as pompous fools.вЂ™ (Styan 1981: 19) The New York Times review of the first English-language production, though, points out that the play вЂ�calls for the service of players who can suggest childrenвЂ™, and that it was only partially successful in this respect (31 March 1917). Brechtian elements? пЃ® WedekindвЂ™s friend and biographer Artur Kutscher: пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�Unlike the naturalistic schoolвЂ¦ he does not want people to forget that they are in the theatre, but he emphasizes the theatre and always keeps the public and its reactions in mind.вЂ™ (quoted in Willet 1977: 106) Bertolt Brecht described Wedekind as вЂ�one of the great educators of modern EuropeвЂ™ (1977: 3-4). вЂ�Wedekind adopted the structure which Brecht would later call epic, and which was inherited from the Elizabethans via Goethe: it aims not at a single luminous image, but at varied perspectives.вЂ™ (Bentley 2002: xxv). Brechtian elements? пЃ® пЃ® In 1929, BrechtвЂ™s collaborators Peter Lorre, Carola Neher and Lotte Lenya played Moritz, Wendla and Ilse in a production at the Berlin VolksbГјhne. The production was updated and transposed to 1920s Berlin, and the pastoral setting replaced with a modern tenement block. Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Spring Awakening has been heavily censored for most of its theatrical life. Scenes 2.3, 3.4 and 3.6 were usually cut in their entirety, from the very first performances until the 1970s. Censored elements in ReinhardtвЂ™s production included the teachersвЂ™ names, MelchiorвЂ™s beating of Wendla, and the three scenes mentioned above (two of them removed by the censor, while Wedekind and Reinhardt chose to lose HГ¤nschenвЂ™s monologue after the censorвЂ™s cuts). Reinhardt wrote to the police appealing against the censorship of the play: пЃ® вЂ�In this work it is not merely a question of new material, but also of an original form of psychological presentation, and the theme (the mental and physical struggle of adolescent youth) is approached with such moral seriousness, honesty, sense of value and tragic weight, is so far removed from the frivolous, so entirely free from ugly suggestion, that the chance of giving any offence to a sensitive viewer seems quite out of the question.вЂ™ (Styan 1982: 35) Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history пЃ® American critic James Huneker: пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�The seduction scene is well managed at the Kammerspielhaus. We are not shown the room, but a curtain slightly divided allows the voices of the youthful lovers to be overheard. A truly moving effect is thereby produced.вЂ™ (1915: 63) English critic Austin Harrison: пЃ® вЂ�The inner thoughts of both the boy and girl are outspoken with a frankness positively embarrassing in a public place, and in the end the girl dies in childbirth, while the boy passes on triumphantly into life.вЂ™ (The Observer, 23 June 1907) Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history пЃ® Emma GoldmanвЂ™s account accidentally gives some intriguing insights into the effects of the playвЂ™s censorship upon its meanings: пЃ® вЂ�The Awakening of Spring is laid in three acts and fourteen scenes, consisting almost entirely of dialogues among the children. вЂ¦ Melchior, the innocent father of WendlaвЂ™s unborn baby, is a gifted boy whose thirst for knowledge leads him to inquire into the riddle of life, and to share his observations with his school chums. вЂ¦ Wendla and Melchior, overtaken by a storm, seek shelter in a haystack, and are drawn by what Melchior calls the вЂњfirst emotion of manhoodвЂќ and curiosity into each otherвЂ™s arms.вЂ™ (The Social Significance of Modern Drama, 1914) Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history пЃ® пЃ® The playвЂ™s first English-language performance was a single matinee in New York in 1917. The producers had to go to court to get an injunction to allow them to go ahead. Following this, a Supreme Court Justice declared that it had вЂ�no proper place on the stage of a public theatreвЂ™ and that it did вЂ�infinitely more than harm than goodвЂ™: пЃ® вЂ�Apparently the young are to be equally enlightened without giving the parents a prior choice of some less turgid channel of education. Some may find a beneficial moral in this play, but the majority, particularly the younger element, would find in the portrayal only what is portrayed вЂ“ a pruriency attributed as typical of youth вЂ“ to which type, happily, many do not conform.вЂ™ (New York Times, 3 May 1917) Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history пЃ® пЃ® The earliest uncensored performances were not given until 1958 in the US (Chicago), 1965 in Germany (Bremen), and 1974 in Britain and France (London and Paris respectively) In 1963, the English Stage Society staged two Sunday night performances at the Royal Court, in a version translated by Literary Manager Tom Osborn: пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�вЂ¦ after two years of negotiations with the Lord Chamberlain, the play was given a licence to be performed before the general public, but only providing вЂњthere was no kissing, embracing or caressingвЂќ between the two boys in the vineyard scene, the words вЂњpenisвЂќ and вЂњvaginaвЂќ were omitted and an alternative was found to the masturbation game in the reformatory.вЂ™ (Osborn 1969: 5) вЂ�Despite recommendations from [Kenneth] Tynan and Laurence Olivier, the National [Theatre] initially rejected the play, with Osborn quoting an NT spokesman as saying the play was вЂњall right for some poky experimental theatre in Sloane SquareвЂќ, and it was not until 1974 that the first complete uncensored performance in Britain was given in London by the NT at the Old VicвЂ™ (Forsyth 2010: xxxv). Spring Awakening and censorship: a brief history пЃ® пЃ® Even now, the homosexual elements tend to be played against the grain of the text; Bentley recalls a modern production in which HГ¤nschen and Ernst merely shared a cigarette rather than kissing (2002: xiv-xv). Stacy Wolf points out that even in the musical versionвЂ™s вЂ�seemingly progressive representation of homosexualityвЂ™, the gay scenes are вЂ�played for laughs, with HГ¤nschen a stereotype of a fey, arrogant cruiser. The presence of the gay couple effectively re-centres the straight couple as the normвЂ™ (2011: 217). Political theatre: Edward BondвЂ™s version, 1974 пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Edward BondвЂ™s вЂ�Note on the PlayвЂ™: вЂ�Spring Awakening is partly about the misuse of authority. All the adult men in the play work in the professionsвЂ¦ They are members of institutions that are part of the state, and they base their work on the stateвЂ™s ethos and teach its doctrines. вЂ¦ They are typical authoritarian men: sly, cringing, mindless zombies to those over them, and narrow, vindictive, unimaginative tyrants to those under them.вЂ™ (1980: xxv-xxvi) вЂ�Many of the young people in Spring Awakening are already like their elders. вЂ¦ All these boys will go to the trenches and die with the same obedience they learned at school and were rewarded for with exam passes.вЂ™ (1980: xxvii) Political theatre: Edward BondвЂ™s version, 1974 пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�The ineffectual pessimism which Moritz describes in the last scene вЂ“ sonorous, world weary, smiling serenely over the tragedies and absurdities of the world вЂ“ has great academic respectability. вЂ¦ It can immediately be seen to be a false attitude.вЂ™ (Bond 1980: xxviii) вЂ�The play isnвЂ™t out of date. It becomes more relevant as our armies get stronger, our schools, prisons and bombs bigger, our means of imposing discipline themselves more disciplined and more veiled, and our self-knowledge not much greater.вЂ™ (Bond 1980: xxix) Political theatre? пЃ® пЃ® But is the play so straightforwardly political? Eric Bentley argues that: пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�If we take the play as simply social-revolutionary, MoritzвЂ™s orientation is to be attributed to pressure from the school authorities. But none of the other boys respond as negatively as Moritz, though they all experience the pressures. His opposite pole in HГ¤nschen Rilow who responds with defiance, and lets himself fully enjoy the awakening of spring.вЂ™ (2002: xxxv) Is the play, perhaps, also exploring a more humanist idea about вЂ�alivenessвЂ™? вЂ�All shall know the wonder of purple summerвЂ¦вЂ™ пЃ® пЃ® The famous rock musical version, with a score by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, premiered in 2006. It won 7 awards, including Best Musical, at the 2007 Tony Awards. Some stylistic innovations included: пЃ® пЃ® Casting just two actors (one male, one female) as all the adult roles; The use of hand-held microphones for the charactersвЂ™ inner thoughts (contrasting with the 19th-century setting, which was retained). пЃ® пЃ® Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seQURhkc 8S4 вЂ�All shall know the wonder of purple summerвЂ¦вЂ™ пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Stacy Wolf has argued that the musical version вЂ�offers a tackedon celebrate-the-day ending that differs from its source material, even more jarring since it follows the suicide of one character and the death from a botched abortion of anotherвЂ™ (2011: 217). The вЂ�tidied-upвЂ™ ending is perhaps reminiscent of those of the musicals Les Miserables and Rent. Edward Bond wrote in 2009: пЃ® вЂ�Actors act onstage as if they were playing theatre in a TV studio but no drama school teaches them how to act in вЂњthe public place of dramaвЂќ. Designers decorate theatre spaces but no design school teaches them how to create вЂњthe public place of dramaвЂќ. And now Spring Awakening is made into a musical. Musicals are for those who are locked into the toyshop.вЂ™ (2009: xvi) A hymn to life? пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�Wedekind drew inspiration from the lower echelons of the theatrical world вЂ“ circus and music hall вЂ“ and from the outcasts of society вЂ“ the crooks, adventurers, acrobats and prostitutes who became his friends вЂ“ to develop his personal creed of resilience, sexual freedom and physical vitality.вЂ™ (Forsyth 2010: xvi) Wedekind dedicated the play to the Man in the Mask. Symbolism of becoming headless: the dangerous consequences of separating body and head, mind and instinct. Think about MelchiorвЂ™s choice in the final scene. A hymn to life? пЃ® But as Elizabeth Boa points out, пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�Spring Awakening connotes not just meadow flowers, but involuntary erections. In this context at least, two voices sound in the title and the subtitle. вЂ¦ Sex, the fertile source of life and pleasure, is also potentially deadly: like the river, it threatens to overwhelm and extinguish the individual. Only those strong enough to swim, to explore their sexuality and survive, enjoy a truly full life.вЂ™ (Boa 1987: 27-8) We might reflect on WedekindвЂ™s play in light of the victory of the Dionysian in The BacchaeвЂ¦ A hymn to life? пЃ® Alan Best argues that пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�The case for accepting the masked gentleman as the positive figure some critics have suggested is far from conclusive. While he certainly rescues Melchior from Moritz and death, the life offered by the masked gentleman has little to recommend it. вЂ¦ There is very little difference between this and MelchiorвЂ™s own patronising statements to Moritz in the first two acts. Melchior began the play as a brash adolescent whose desire to patronise concealed a deep insecurity.вЂ™ (1975: 80) вЂ�вЂ¦when life appeared to Moritz as Ilse it was as overpowering sexuality, the AchillesвЂ™ heel in MoritzвЂ™s character; now, to Melchior too, life appears as an exaggerated form of his own failings.вЂ™ (1975: 81) A hymn to life? пЃ® As Boa points out, вЂ�[t]he focus in the play is masculine desireвЂ™: пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® вЂ�вЂ¦both sexes are induced to feel guilt or shame. вЂ¦ The boys project their guilt on the object which arouses sexual desire вЂ“ Melchior beating Satan out of Wendla вЂ“ while the girls helplessly accept their own guilt as grounds for punishment.вЂ™ (Boa 1987: 41) Think about the contrasting presentations of the вЂ�life spiritвЂ™ in Ilse and the Man in the Mask. Think, too, about the associations between sexuality and cruelty in the play. вЂ�Whatever Wedekind may have intended, Spring Awakening promises freedom of sorts for men but not for women.вЂ™ (Boa 1987: 46) References пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Bentley, Eric (2002) [trans. & ed.] SpringвЂ™s Awakening, New York: Applause. Bermel, Albert (1993) Comic Agony, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. Best, Alan (1975) Frank Wedekind, London: Wolff. Boa, Elizabeth (1987) The Sexual Circus: WedekindвЂ™s Theatre of Subversion, Oxford: Blackwell. Bond, Edward (1980) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Methuen. Bond, Edward (2009) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Methuen. Brecht, Bertolt (1977) Brecht on Theatre, ed. John Willet, London: Methuen. Fishman, Sterling (1970) вЂ�Suicide, Sex, and the Discovery of the German AdolescentвЂ™, History of Education Quarterly, 10: 2, pp. 170-188. Forsyth, Julian & Margaret (2010) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Nick Hern Books. Ham, Jennifer (2007) вЂ�Unlearning the Lesson: Wedekind, Nietzsche, and Educational Reform at the Turn of the CenturyвЂ™, The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 40: 1, pp. 49-63. References пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® пЃ® Huneker, James (1915) Ivory Apes and Peacocks, Fairford: Echo Library. Osborn, Tom (1969) [trans. & ed.] Spring Awakening, London: Calder and Boyars. Skrine, Peter N. (1989) Hauptmann, Wedekind and Schnitzler, Basingstoke: Macmillan. Styan, J. L. (1981) Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 3: Expressionism and Epic Theatre, Cambridge: C. U. P. Styan, J. L. (1982) Directors in Perspective: Max Reinhardt, Cambridge: C. U. P. Willet, John (1977) The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht, London: Methuen. Wolf, Stacy (2011) вЂ�Gender and SexualityвЂ™, in Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris and Stacy Wolf [eds] The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical, Oxford: O. U. P., pp. 210-24.