I´ve been a busy bee this week – must be that spring fever. At what has become an often-visited place for me, the theatre space at WERK X-Petersplatz, the latest play to premiere is “FrühlingsNEUerwachen” (Spring REawakening). It is a modified version of the famous original “Frühlingserwachen” (“Spring Awakening”) by the German playwright Frank Wedekind, which was first performed in 1906. It caused a great deal of controversy at the time due to its frank depiction of themes of sexuality and its critique of the repressive social norms of the time.
I had the pleasure of photographing a rehearsal process at WERK X-Petersplatz. Unlike previous rehearsals I have photographed there, which were already final trial runs, in this instance I witnessed the interaction between actors and director, the work on the set still going on, the lighting parametres still being experimented with. This in itself was an interesting experience that I enjoyed, and with the theatre director´s permission I am able to share some behind the scenes photos from the rehearsal.
Wedekind´s play follows a group of adolescents as they navigate their way through the complexities of puberty and sexual awakening. Through its depiction of the struggles of adolescents to find their place in a society that values conformity above all else, “Frühlingserwachen” is considered a groundbreaking work of modern drama. The play’s themes of repression, sexual liberation, and the struggle for individual freedom continue to resonate with audiences today, and it remains one of the most enduring works of German literature.
In this adapted and slightly modernised version, the original characters of the young people are retained, but the adult characters are eliminated. So we meet Melchior, Wendla, Ilse, Moritz, Martha, Thea and Roberta, and only in these youngsters´ references do we meet their parents and teachers. The stage is sometimes tinged into red, green, blue or purple hues, an effect I quite enjoyed. I would be curious to see the end result – the premiere is tomorrow, Saturday, 1 April 2023.
The performers, who are of advanced age, re-enact scenes that may well have happened to them in their youth. Why stage a play about adolescence with seniors? Because even today, much as young people are often not fully understood or accepted by the adults in their lives, older adults are also sometimes overlooked, their feelings and loneliness underestimated.
A pervasive feeling of shame and silence can hinder human development at all ages. Young people may experience mental health challenges due to the pressures of school, peer relationships, and family dynamics. Meanwhile, older adults may experience physical and cognitive decline, isolation, and a lack of social support. Both youth and older adults can be excluded from social activities, community events, and decision-making processes due to stereotypes and ageist attitudes. Ageism affects both young and old, with stereotypes and biases shaping how society views and treats these groups.
The play´s director, Anna Erdeős, has worked on theatre projects in senior residences, often with people at various stages of dementia. Her original idea for staging this play was to recruit lay actors from retirement homes, but because of restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, this proved to difficult. The performances had to be postponed again and again. Eventually, Anna was able to recruit interested older adults for the stage from pensioners clubs. All are lay actors.
The format of this staging is a scenic reading with some acted out elements. Performig it this way facilitates the acting for inexperienced actors as they do not have to memorise large quantities of text. It is nice to see these amateur senior citizen actors putting so much dedication and passion into the project, making, I think, the point that you can take up a new hobby at any stage of life.
And dedicated they are, as I witnessed during this rehearsal – it went on for a good four hours, almost non-stop, though the actual staging will only take 50 minutes. There was even minor (self-inflicted) injury, promptly attended to by a multi-tasking sound technician. By the end, at 9 p.m., we were all tired!
Overall, the play offers a poignant and thought-provoking commentary on the challenges of growing up and the importance of empathy, understanding in a developmental process. Its implementation with actors of advanced age point to the difficulties being experienced by that age group as well. Of course, while there are some similarities between the challenges experienced by youth and older adults, the specifics and factors influencing their situations can differ significantly. It encourages us to consider the ways in which we can all work together to create a more compassionate and understanding society, where people of all ages can feel seen, heard, and valued.
I hope you enjoy my privileged behind the scenes impressions. It is something special that one normally does not get to see, and I am grateful to the team for letting me get a sneak peak.
The play is in German, it premieres 1 April 2023.
An eternal children’s tragedy freely adapted from Frank Wedekind
A production by MERT Theater in cooperation with WERK X-Petersplatz WERK X-Petersplatz.
Sun, April 2, 2023, 7 p.m
Sat, 08.02.2023, 7 p.m
Sun, April 9th, 2023, 7 p.m
Staging: Anna Erdeős
Music: Stefan Thaler
Stage: Mihály Taksás
Text editing: Florian Gantner
Direction and dramaturgy: Anna Erdeős
Cast: Beytur Deniz Borovali, Nilüfer Borovali, Inge Kolm, Elisabeth Tesch, Hannes Leo Wagner-Farber, Hildegard Zadrazill, Agnes Zaunegger
All photos © Karin Svadlenak-Gomez
P.S. I have to say it – “free advertising”, I am not getting paid by anybody to write this.
2 thoughts on “Spring REawakens on stage”
Ich bin wieder einmal schwer beeindruckt, wie aktiv du schon wieder bist! Wow! So viele interessante Kulturereignisse in Wien, da komme ich mit dem Lesen nicht nach! 😊
In drei Monaten werde ich nur mehr reduziert arbeiten (ein bis zwei Tage pro Woche) und ab November dann gar nicht mehr, da hoffe ich, dass wir uns, erstens, viel mehr sehen werden! Und zweitens, dass ich deine wunderbaren Tipps auch mehr annehmen kann! Ich freu mich darauf!
Liebe Renate, ich freue mich immer, dass du trotzdem die Zeit findest, meinen Blog zu lesen. Es stimmt, ich bin unheimlich viel unterwegs, manchmal wird es etwas stressig. Aber “Kulturstress” ist ja nicht wirklich Stress. Ich hoffe auch, dass wir einander dann öfter sehen werden! Vielleicht können wir dann ja auch mal gemeinsam zur ein oder anderen Ausstellung gehen. Oder ins Theater.