E-Newsletter | Spring Awakening | Alumni Spotlight

Dear alumni, supporters, and friends,

German playwright Frank Wedekind, who was frequently hounded by censors, used a mask of immorality and the grotesque to promote a progressive ethical standpoint. As a youth, Wedekind was already writing and performing scenes, poems, and songs in his school’s literary society. Those, and his lively letters and diaries, are amusing keys to his personality and the influences in his life. As a teen, his writings dealt with the central topics of love, sexual desire, egotism, society, education, music, religion, and death, outlining the questions, problems, and views that later took shape in Spring Awakening.

Wedekind’s provocative play retains its relevance and power to shock over a century after its original production. Playwright and lyricist Steven Sater states that he and composer Duncan Sheik were inspired to adapt the play into a musical in part by the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School. Says Sater, “What I felt in the wake of those terrible shootings was how little we had learned, and how much we were still failing to listen to what was going on in the hearts of our children.” Sater and Sheik’s musical adaptation of the play adheres to the original drama while amplifying its emotional expressiveness through a pop-rock idiom. Friends as well as collaborators, Shiek and Sater consider themselves to be odd and eccentric, writing songs that express the aspirations, frustrations, and longings of being young.

Spring Awakening exemplifies this year’s theme of Illusion vs. Reality: What’s Next? by interrogating the parental desire to shelter youth, and their responsibility to prepare children to be independent. Damage is done when parents insist that they can keep children innocent, obedient, and free from negative influences. When society itself gives cause for youthful activism, protests, and even lawsuits, then it is clear that the reality our children desire is more than just an adolescent illusion.

I'll see you in the theatre!
Erica Hoelscher
Chair and Professor of Theatre

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Spring Awakening rehearsal

Marc Falato '87, member of The Friends of Zoellner and co-owner of ZenDog Productions, visited with the cast and crew of the Department of Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening on March 3, 2019.

One of ZenDog Productions’s greatest successes was the 2006 Tony Award-winning Broadway production of Spring Awakening, a rock musical that won eight Tony Awards, among many other accolades. With book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, and direction and music direction by Bill Whitney, the Department of Theatre’s production of Spring Awakening explores the archetypical theme of the journey from adolescence to adulthood with poignancy and passion.

Before creating a production company with partner Pun Bandhu, Falato's experience with the theatre was limited to working backstage in high school. At Lehigh, Falato majored in Foreign Careers, a combination of economics and global studies. Today, Falato’s involvement with the plays that he produces ideally includes having a voice at the artistic table, weighing in on decisions from a point of view that represents his investors and potential audience members. During his visit to Zoellner Arts Center in March, Falato responded to student questions about his experiences with Spring Awakening and producing in general, including reflecting upon New York City’s theatre industry. Falato attended rehearsal, provided feedback and encouragement to the design team, and gave insight to students about how learning opportunities like Spring Awakening can inspire them to pursue their passions, take meaningful risks, and challenge themselves to think beyond the norm.

Join us for a post-show discussion following the Thursday, April 11 performance of Spring Awakening, featuring Marc Falato, Bill Whitney, Professor Olivia Landry, and members of the cast and crew.


Jill Harrison ‘05
Theatre major

I chose to attend Lehigh University because of its comprehensive liberal arts community dedicated to multi-faceted living and learning, where I could study cross-disciplinarily, serve as a Gryphon, and elevate the arts on campus. I combined my theatre studies with political science and business administration, an experience that greatly influences my current work as a freelance director, producer, educator, and the Founder and Executive Director of Directors Gathering (DG). 

The Department of Theatre ignited my love for teaching by giving me the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant. At Lehigh, I directed and produced for the first time, and developed my dedication to high-level community-based endeavors through creating and directing Lehigh Life Guides, an orientation program through the Department of Theatre and the Dean of Students Office. I would consider my biggest professional success since graduation to be creating and running Directors Gathering (DG), a service and membership organization based in Philadelphia that develops and elevates theatre directors. (DG) is an organization based on community, awareness, inclusivity, and connectivity in support of the visionaries that render every piece of theatre.
In the Department of 
Theatre I learned skills of collaboration, connection, and community. I learned how to spin a narrative with a point of view, and to have empathy for varying perspectives. I also learned effective tools for deeply listening and responding. Every one of these skills enhance my daily life. No matter your focus or future, practicing theatre professionally or as a hobby opens you to a creative, inclusive, and inspirational community like none other.
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Department of Theatre | Zoellner Arts Center, Room 301 | 420 East Packer Avenue
Bethlehem, PA 18015 | Phone: 610-758-3640 | Fax: 610-758-6543

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