The Timeless Themes of Spring Awakening

Rikki Ziegelman

Everyone has one show that has stayed with them for years, and for years to come. Whether it was the first show you saw as a child, the first show you were in, or just a show that has the lyrics to explain how you feel, when you're at a loss for words. Theatre has a certain way of moving individuals by creating characters that can comprehend their surroundings, whenever we have trouble doing so. 

One show that holds a certain significance in my heart is Spring Awakening, for its immense impact on the theatre community as well as on my endeavor as a performer. Each lyric, each movement, and each line holds such symbolism. Albeit the show is set in Germany during the 1800’s, it's themes and motives still hold true in the 2015 technology-run society. The show recently announced its return to Broadway after Deaf West Theatre’s extremely successful run in California.. The show hasn't even been closed for a decade and yet theatre goers seem to be raving about its return. But what is it about Spring Awakening that is so appealing to audiences?

Spring Awakening is about rebellion, which is interesting because the show is so religion and authority based. It's about coming to terms with your motives and how they will further affect your family, your friends, and yourself. There is a constant mention of God and Christ; yet, Act I ends with a sex scene that is questionably considered a rape. So morally, are these kids obtaining to their religious standards by constantly praying? Or, are they “inept” and “degenerate” for experimenting with their innocence? Can prayer excuse your mistakes, or are these actions even considered mistakes at all?

Spring Awakening is about power and dominance. Power among peers, power among elders, and power among significant others. There is a reason why Wendla wants to know so much about her body and her sexuality, there's a reason why Moritz acts up during Latin class, there's a reason why Melchoir is so persistent when Wendla is just about to say yes to having sex. They yearn for power- both consciously and subconsciously. Which is why the finale, “Song of Purple Summer,” is so crucial to the shows ending. The color purple symbolizes royalty, and with royalty comes power. Power over others, power over situations, power to succeed. 

Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Spring Awakening is about innocence. These kids are so desperate to know more about themselves in terms of their sexuality. They know what they read in books, they know what they feel, and they know how they want to feel- but how to perform all of these actions and how to handle the sensation is what they struggle with. Some may argue that Melchoir raped Wendla, which is a valid accusation because of the play version and Wendla’s confusion and questioning. Others may argue that Melchoir was just as innocent as Wendla was- he knew how sex worked and that he wanted to release his “frustration,” but he had no idea what he was doing to the innocent lady lying before him. 

Spring Awakening is about change. Change within yourself, change within others, and change within time. “Purple Summer” is an important symbol for the allusion of time- for it is a flower that blossoms every summer. Time passes, flowers are planted, blossom, and then they fade away. No matter the weather or the time; just like us. We are born, we live, we die. We beat on no matter what because that is life. We have changes within ourselves, such as puberty, sexual awakening, or moving past your former mistakes. We change every single day whether we want to or not. 

So back to reality now- why is this 18th century show so important to us? Why do we adore it so much? Because we identify with the kids struggling with themselves. No matter what age you are or where you are in your life. Maybe you aren't right now, maybe not yesterday, and maybe not tomorrow. However at some point we all will struggle with a fight for power. At some point we will lose our innocence in some way, shape or form. At some point we have or have had a spring awakening, and we will chant our song of purple summer.