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Spring Awakening: A Children's Tragedy

Spring Awakening: A Children's Tragedy
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Frank Wedekind
Translated by: Jonathan Franzen
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 80
Pub. Date: 2008
ISBN-10: 0822222817
ISBN-13: 9780822222811
Cast Size: 7 women, 30 men (doubling)

About the Play:

Spring Awakening is a full-length drama by Frank Wedekind, translated by award-winning author Jonathan Franzen. This famously banned German play focuses on a group of late 19th century German classmates and explores adolescent sexuality and the emotional consequences if suppressed. The play occupies a special place in modern theatrical history as a key work of the naturalist school and the principal precursor of German Expressionism.

Spring Awakening is set in a small German town in the 1890s, where adolescent boys and girls grope their way towards knowledge and maturity against the blocks set up by parents and teachers in the name of "morality". First performed in Germany in 1906, the play has often been censored and banned. Yet the play's subject matter – teenage desire, suicide, abortion, and homosexuality – is as explosive and important today as it was a century ago. But even more radical was the unsentimental and brutally authentic comedy with which Wedekind treated it. The story traces the dawning sexual awareness of four teenagers, Melchior, Moritz, Wendla, and Hansy, who, in their painfully funny contradictions – they are at once too innocent and not remotely innocent at all – remain fresh and unsettling even in our own sex-saturated culture. Unlike so many works that claim to tell the truth of adolescence, Jonathan Franzen's definitive translation of Spring Awakening offers no easy answers or redemption.

Fruhlings Erwachen was written in 1891 and first performed under heavy censorship in Germany in 1906. Spring Awakening premiered briefly in New York in 1917, but had an injunction brought against it and didn't resurface until 1955 in an off-Broadway production; it then arrived on the British stage in 1963 for two nights only in a heavily censored version. Jonathan Franzen's version of the text – for so long poorly served in English – is unique in capturing the bizarre and inimitable comic spirit that animates almost every line of this unrelentingly tragic play. While the play is rarely performed professionally, this translation has been mounted by fringe festival and college theatre groups.

Cast: 7 women, 30 men (doubling)

What people say:

"By turns hilarious and chilling… the culmination of this playwright's work to date…. Riveting theater." — New York Times

"Excellent translation." — Stage Directions

"It's a great play to shock the adults with on parents' weekend." — Library Journal

"Spring Awakening is the best play ever written about teenagers, and Jonathan Franzen's fraught yet buoyant translation is the best I've ever read. In a culture where lies about adolescence prevail, this funny and honest play is more relevant than ever." — Christopher Shinn, playwright

"Franzen here has navigated his way between the viciously comic satire and puling lachrymose melodrama (this latter quite deliberate on Wedekind's part, reflecting the puling lachrymose self-regard of arrogant adolescence) quite well, even brilliantly at times, and his grasp of the play's comedy, particularly in Act 3 Scene 1, is exquisite." — George Hunka, playwright

About the Playwright:

Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) was a journalist and later secretary of a circus before forming his own theatrical company and producing and acting in his own plays. He was the author of twenty-one plays, many of which reflect aspects of his extraordinary career. Fruhlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening) is perhaps his best known work. He himself paid for the publication in 1891, though it was not staged till 1906, and like all his plays aroused great controversy for its sexual outspokenness.

Jonathan Franzen is an American novelist and essayist. He is the author of five novels, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.