The emotional roller coaster of adolescence

The Broadway musical version of Frank Wedekind's "Spring Awakening" earned eight Tony Awards this year. Not bad for a play that was first produced in 1906 and faced censorship in its initial decades of production.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival will present a reading of Douglas Langworthy's translation of the tale of irrepressible teenage emotions and passions at 10 a.m. Friday, June 29, in the Angus Bowmer Theatre in Ashland.

The frequent bans did nothing to quash the enduring popularity of the play, which is currently in its 26th edition. The New York Times said of the musical, "'Spring Awakening' lingers "¦ on those passages in youth when the discovery of sex temporarily disorders everything: relationships to family, friends and the piano teacher; the feel of your body; even the fabric of the world itself, which suddenly seems to shimmer before you like a mirage, alive with danger and promise."

Larissa Kokernot, the 2007 Phil Killian directing fellow at OSF, is directing the play. "It has been haunting me for a few years now, since I worked on the scene between Melchior and Wendla in the forest in graduate school," she says.

"At the time I was struck by the extraordinary mixture of fear and truth and imagination at work — the way Wedekind was able to capture the heightened state of the adolescent heart and mind, the sense of a single day or moment being epic and profound and ultimately poetic. And of course, the reason for all of this being the new and exciting but oh-so-terrifying fact of sexual awakening.

"I was struck, too, by the play's prescience (written more than 100 years ago) and timelessness, even though it is rooted very strongly in the morality of a Victorian-era Germany. There's no question, adolescence is a time unto itself and Wedekind has captured this with 'Spring Awakening.'"

"Spring Awakening" was Wedekind's (1864-1918) first major play (1891). His other, better-known plays are "Earth Spirit" (1895) and "Pandora's Box" (1904). The former play was the basis for Alban Berg's opera "Lulu," and the latter was the basis of the 1929 German silent film of the same name.

Translator Langworthy was formerly OSF's director of literary development and dramaturgy, and he has completed a number of translations including "The Visit" (adapted by Kenneth Albers), "The Good Person of Szechuan" and "Faust." He is one of the writers of this season's world premiere of "Tracy's Tiger."

Dramaturg on the project is Lue Morgan Douthit; stage manager is Erin E. Heare.

The cast of 13 features Nell Geisslinger, John Tufts, Tasso Feldman, Juan Rivera LeBron, John Michael Goodson, Kevin Kenerly, Mark Bedard, Emily Sophia Knapp, Kersti Bryan, Shona Tucker, Linda Alper, David Kelly and Brad Whitmore.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for members and youth aged 6-17, reserved seating only.

See or call 482-4331.

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