Last night, I went to see a musical, "Spring Awakening", at a local college/university. I was shocked at the explicit nature of the play, written in Germany in 1891 and adapted to a successful Broadway musical in 2006. The musical, written by Duncan Sheik and Stephen Sater, won NewYork Critics' Circle Awards, several Tony Awards, and Laurence Olivier Awards and is currently being performed around the world. The student production that I saw was excellent.
The musical follows a group of 11 adolescent boys and girls dealing with sexual stirrings. Think Grade 9 kids. Considering that the original play was written in the 19th century, it is amazing that the issues and feelings were so relevant today. At the opening of the play, Wendla, the female lead, complains that her mother will not talk to her about reproduction. The other girls have the same complaint. The boys are having erotic dreams and believe that they must be going insane. The play deals with masturbation, sexual abuse, abortion, homosexuality and finally teen-age suicide. It is alternative-rock, loud and raunchy.
What is disturbing to me is the role of the adults in this play. The schoolteachers punish and humiliate the students in an attempt to control "the awakening experience." The pastor speaks of guilt, sin and shame. Parents who fear the judgement of the community end up losing their children to suicide and a botched abortion. None of the adults in the play is capable of understanding the suffering of these children.
I attended this play with a group from my Church at the suggestion of the minister. We will be having a discussion group next week. Adolescence is a time of uncertainty and vulnerability. What can we as individuals and as a society do to facilitate a smoother transition for our youth?