Spring Awakening Director Freddie Ashley shares with us why he chose the show to kick off Actor’s Express’ 24th season, some of his favorite characters and moments, and what he hopes audiences take away from his production.
Tell me a little about Spring Awakening, why did you select it to kick off your 24th season?
I fell in love with Spring Awakening the first time I ever heard the cast recording, and I saw a production of it on the national tour. And I thought, it would work so well in an intimate space. And when we looked at planning this season, knowing we had been in this big financial emergency and that things had been really dire. I was looking for a way to say, “Actor’s Express is back!” And this show has such a bold imprint that it leaves on the audience, I thought what better show to announce our emergence from this campaign than a show like Spring Awakening.
What do you connect with most in the show?
I think it’s one of those things that everybody’s been there. We’ve all been a teenager and we’ve all gone through those awkward moments, and some of us had healthier teenage years than others. Some of us had traumatic teenage experiences, some of us had ideal teenage experiences, but we’ve all been there and we know what it’s like to have those questions and those anxieties and those discoveries. I think it’s something everyone can identify with.
Do you have a particular character that you identify with most or who is your pet favorite?
I shouldn’t choose, but I love the characters of Moritz and Ilse. Mortiz, who is the sort of doomed character who’s full of angst, he can’t seem to get anything right and he’s under a tremendous amount of pressure to excel at school. Ilse is a young woman who has escaped an abusive household and gone to an artist colony, but who is living this sort of dangerous and fast life now. There’s something about those two characters who have lost their innocence before it was time for them to lose their innocence that I find really heartbreaking and beautiful. And there is a scene between the two of them in Act Two that is one of the most tender, sweet and heartbreaking scenes that I’ve ever directed in any show. I just loved getting to that scene every night in rehearsal. Yeah, those were the two characters that I just loved so much.
What’s your favorite song?
Oh gosh, I don’t know if I can even answer that! I have different favorites for different reasons. There’s no number like the song “Totally Fucked” it’s an amazing, energetic explosion of a big ol’ number — the dancing, the music, the movement — it’s a great song. But there’s also the “Song of Purple Summer” at the end of the show that’s so sweet and tender and beautiful and uplifting. I love the “Bitch of Living” in Act One. It’s hard to choose just one because the score is so rich. You have these songs that rock out and then these songs that are very tender, sweet ballads, it’s hard to choose which ones you love the most. Or it’s hard for me, at least.
What do you hope the audience takes away from your production?
Well, I hope that people, first and foremost, have a really rich emotional experience. I think this show is such a roller coaster ride. There are really really funny parts of the show and there are really really tragic parts of this show. And I want people to walk out of this show feeling like they just experienced something significant. I think the show has the power to do that. I also sort of hope that people think about the world that they’re living in and the world that they’re giving the young people who will take our places. You know, there’s something of a cautionary tale in Spring Awakening. It’s about what happens when you don’t talk to your kids and you don’t listen to your kids. And I think that’s a responsibility we all shoulder to make sure that we leave the world a better place for the people coming along after us.
Can you give us a little preview of what’s coming up after Spring Awakening?
We have a beautiful new play called Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them. It’s a rolling world premiere through the new play network that started at the Humana Festival in Louisville, Ky. And it opens in late October, just an unbelievable coming of age story about a young brother and sister who have been abandoned by their father and form a new kind of family for themselves. And it’s just fantastic writing. We’re falling that with a big Broadway hit, Next Fall. Then we’re doing a co-production with Theater Emory of Night of the Iguana in the spring and we’re ending the season with Xanadu and we also have Libby Whitmore with Libby’s at the Express.
Where can people go for more information?
People can absolutely go to http://www.actors-express.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.