Suicide. Abortion. Sexual repression. Abuse. It’s sobering to think about how relevant the issues at the core of Spring Awakening, playwright Frank Wedekind’s searing look at the oppressive culture of 19th century Germany, remain today— over a hundred years after the play was first written. That shocking contemporary feel makes the show perfect for Issue Box Theatre.
Issue Box will present a new production of Wedekind’s 1891 script (translated into English, of course) beginning June 21 at the Ohio Theatre and Event Center. Following the experiences of a group of teenagers, as they try to navigate their coming-of-age, this production is updated, taking place in a modern setting.
“That was my inspiration, to do it in a contemporary setting, because all of these topics are still extremely prevalent, unfortunately, in our society, in 2019, more than a hundred years (after this play was written),” said director Becca Martin.
The show is somewhat of a coming-of-age for Martin as well— it’s her first time directing an independent production since she graduated in May, 2018 from Kent State University, as well as the first time that Issue Box has worked with an outside director (Issue Box artistic director Rosie Best has helmed each of the company’s productions to date).
“The way that I learned to direct theater was through an educational approach, kind of using rehearsals as an opportunity to teach new things,” Martin said. “And I was lucky enough that when I joined Issue Box on this project that that message was also translating over.”
A focus on the themes and meaning behind the text of a piece is a guiding focus of Issue Box since its founding in 2015. With a goal to go beyond simply entertaining with each production— seeking also to educate and inspire dialogue about contemporary issues relevant to the audience. “The mission behind the company is basically to shed light on social issues that are happening through theater— to kind of use theater as a way to communicate those issues,” Martin explains.
In that vein, Issue Box has had representatives from the YWCA attend rehearsals of Spring Awakening to discuss sexual assault with the cast, as well as individuals representing The Cocoon in Bowling Green to talk about consent concerning intimacy, giving the actors additional framing for how to approach their characters and this story.
“A lot of people have taken (those lessons from those working day to day on these issues) and worked with that because, unfortunately, we see all these topics (recurring in modern society). It’s easily relatable in a contemporary setting.”
Issue Box has no dedicated theater space, instead occupying other available spaces for the company’s productions. The set design for Spring Awakening at the Ohio Theatre will be somewhat minimalist— a platform, some chairs, a projection screen. But, Martin said, that a reduced focus on the set design will allow the audience to focus even more clearly on the story at hand, and the issues at the play’s core.
“I don’t want the audience to be distracted by a beautiful set piece. That’s not the message that we, this company, is trying to send. We are focused on the topics and the material, rather than theatrical design.”
7:30pm, Friday and Saturday | 5pm, Sunday
Ohio Theatre and Event Center, 3112 Lagrange St.
419-720-8952 | 419-508-0797