Despite the pandemic and recent winter storm, Austin Eyer, director and theater arts assistant professor, found ways to get his newest play to its full potential. But it wasn’t easy.

Even with his 30 years of musical experience, the play presented challenges for Eyer, from scheduling to casting to social distancing.

“This is the most complicated show I've ever worked on,” he said.

Spring Awakening is a rock musical based on the play by Frank Wedekind, telling the story of three teenagers discovering their sexuality in the latter half of the 19th century.

Eyer will be bringing his own take on Spring Awakening to life through on-demand streaming this year, but filming the show looked more like filming a movie than a play, he said.

He started planning the show last November, Eyer said, and cast 28 people instead of the usual 14 to ensure that graduating seniors and as many actors as possible got a chance to perform.

Another challenge of filming a play during the COVID-19 pandemic was due to social distancing, Eyer had to make a ground plan for every single moment in the show.

If someone was on stage and speaking or singing, they had to be 18 feet apart, Eyer said. If they’re in a mask but not speaking or singing, they still had to be eight feet apart.

Eyer said spacing the stage out was his first plan, but when he found out their singing couldn’t be for a live audience, he developed a schedule for rehearsals.

“We went into a studio and recorded every single song,” he said.

February’s winter storm also set filming back. The show was supposed to begin streaming the first week of March, but now they have to delay the stream so they can film instead.

Eyer said he likes shows that take the character on a journey and see them come through to the other side. Spring Awakening also has LGBTQ+ representation, and the importance of individual expression in youth is at the forefront.

“Theater for social justice is another area that I’m really interested in, so I try to look for themes that I think are important,” Eyer said.

There’s this sense of rebellion against the status quo, he said. Conservative adults are running the show, and the younger generation is struggling to meet their expectations, but also trying to break them.

Eyer said 80% of his work on the show had been scheduling, rescheduling and measuring distance between actors to ensure their safety.

Musical theater senior Martina Manguerra plays the lead female role in the show, but said she had little knowledge of the play when it was announced last summer.

When the play was announced last semester, Manguerra assumed she wouldn’t get a part. However, once she started auditioning and got called back for certain roles, she invested more time into learning about the show and practicing her parts.

Musical theater sophomore Edward Escamilla also had little knowledge of the play beforehand but said he had heard of its reputation.

“I just knew that this show was known for being very real, for being very honest and very truthful,” he said.

Escamilla said he auditioned because the play showed the audience what happened behind closed doors in the lives of teenagers and young adults from an older time period.

The winter storm made things challenging, and one of the biggest things it caused was losing their momentum, he said.

“It’s almost like seeing the finish line right there and having it be moved another 10 miles back,” Escamilla said.

But the actors, creative team and director each had their job to tell this story, Escamilla said, and they’re seeing it through.

The UTA Theatre Department’s performance of  Spring Awakening will be available on Video on Demand April 9 through April 11.


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