by Danielle Lemon
With the opening of our production of Spring Awakening just hours away, we sat down with some of our stars to discuss their characters (confused!), the show (life-changing!), and the FCP rehearsal process (frantic!). Sarah Smith plays the naïve heroine Wendla, Chris Carson plays the rebellious and magnetic Melchior, and Myles McCarthy plays Melchior’s nervous and moody best friend, Moritz.
Sarah Smith (Wendla), Chris Carson (Melchior) and Myles McCarthy (Moritz) rehearse Spring Awakening.
Sarah Smith (Wendla) and Chris Carson (Moritz).
A very moody Chris Carson (Melchior) rehearses with Myles McCarthy (Moritz).
Myles McCarthy gets sulky as Moritz, with Chris Carson (Melchior) brooding in the background.
FCP: Sarah, tell us about Wendla. What kind of a person is she?
SS: Like all teenage girls Wendla is starting to notice the opposite sex. She’s very, very curious, and she’s very brave. I find that she is very outspoken and not necessarily tough, but brave – when she knows she needs something, she’s willing to do what she needs to get it. To say she is very sheltered would be an understatement. She’s received no guidance from her parents, in terms of puberty, at all. No help. In a lot of ways she’s a little girl still, in a woman’s body. It’s frustrating, as you can imagine.
FCP: Chris, you play Melchior, Wendla’s love interest…
CC: Yes – Melchior is a very intellectual individual. He loves to read books and loves to learn. He doesn’t like the world he’s living in. He doesn’t like how contained it is or how obedient everyone is. He wants to be free. He wants to change his world, and have everyone see what he has to offer, his vision of what things should be like. Sometimes he loses control of who he is, a part of growing up and not really knowing who exactly he is yet. Wendla is his first love. He likes to go out of the box and break the rules.
FCP: He’s the golden boy who doesn’t want to be the golden boy.
CC: Yes, everyone loves Melchior, but he doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. He wants to change the world but he doesn’t want to be seen as some star that everyone can look up to, because he’s not perfect, and he knows that.
FCP: And Myles, you play Melchior’s best friend, Moritz.
MM: In the Bible Belt Box that Spring Awakening is, Moritz is kind of the pebble rattling around. He’s a very curious individual, and he’d like to come out of the box, for lack of a better term, but every time he’s curious he’s shot down, so he’s developed this security blanket to not be curious. So when he finds himself really attaching himself to things and ideas, he shies away because he knows he’s going to be hurt.
FCP: This show has had such a following and people connect with it in a very visceral way, despite the fact that the lives these characters are leading are very far from the reality of modern life. We live in the Twitter/Facebook universe. How do you as actors try to connect to that innocence and sheltered life that these characters live?
SS: Actually, this sits very close to home for me. I was raised in a very strict Christian family. And when I came to an age that (sex) was something that was a part of my life, this was extremely frowned upon. I still struggle with feeling ashamed, and it’s a very taboo subject. I was just raised in a much more conservative way. I was very sheltered. To look back, the feelings Wendla feels are all feelings I felt. This is stuff my girlfriends and I talked about in private school. Obviously we had more information available to us about what was going on with our bodies, but the attitudes around sex in the show were definitely similar to what I experienced in terms of the messages I received from adults.
FCP: So these are universal themes that you’re tapping into?
MM: Yes, absolutely. I come from a very liberal family – but everybody grows up. Everybody feels the moment in which they experience these first things. Whether or not you learn or grow from those situations is really personal to the individual. And I think that’s what Spring Awakening is about more than anything, it’s about individual experiences. We all experience similar things and whether or not we go for it is a personal choice. When I look at this show I don’t look at it as being about a society that traps people, it’s about individuals struggling in different ways through the same dilemma.
FCP: How much is this show about rebelling?
CC: I think everyone’s rebelling in this show. The kids are looking to Melchior to lead this rebellion outwards at school and they are also rebelling in their families as well. Melchior goes from the top of the class to being expelled because he wants change and isn’t going to get it until he does something drastic.
FCP: We have a very particular way of working at Fighting Chance – we move very fast in terms of the rehearsal process. How has that been for you guys?
SS: I have worked with FCP before, and with Sideshow we rehearsed for two weeks, so this is luxurious for me. I like working fast, it gets people to focus in. I love it because you’re not working anything twice, you move quickly, you just keep moving forward. So it’s exciting to be so immersed in the show all at once. I love it.
CC: I feel so passionate about the show I feel like I’m always working on it. Even though we have a short amount of time, I’m working on it 24 hours a day. At the end of the run it’s going to be devastating because I’m already so emotionally attached to the character and the show.
SS: By the third rehearsal, we were all best friends. We have grown unbelievably close – we’re just so in love with each other as people.
FCP: We’ve had a really short amount of time to rehearse, as usual, but are you still finding there is room to play, and experiment?
SS: In the last few rehearsals people have really started to play.
CC: Ryan (Mooney, Director) gives us a structure in terms of what he would like the show to look like, but then you get opportunity to play with it yourself. It’ll be a masterpiece of Ryan’s work and our collaboration.
SS: Ryan likes to give endpoints. “You guys figure it out, but you have to end up here.”
MM: Reiterating what Chris said, Ryan gives you the blueprint of what he wants beforehand. And then he steps back, and lets you experiment. It’s unique for me. I’ve noticed other directors are the complete opposite and get super-involved in the process – but especially for this group of people and this show, a lot of self-discovery needs to happen. And that is happening.
SS: Ryan is very good at making people tick and can relate to them and get through to them.
CC: It is great to watch people come out of their shell. Do something outside their comfort zone. Ryan sees what we’re capable of and pushes for that. It’s up to the actor to make that discovery, and that’s what we’re going.
Spring Awakening runs April 30 – May 17, 2014 at the Jericho Arts Centre. Tickets are available at http://www.ticketstonight.ca.