With “Spring Awakening,” this might be director Dominic Grijalva’s final opening weekend at the Selma Arts Center. Which is a sad thing for Selma, but a great opportunity for wherever his new adventures might take him. Over the last few years, the talented Grijalva has done much to raise the profile and level of productions in Selma. He’s even gotten some big-name help from a friend of his — none other than “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda — to help make “Spring Awakening” happen.
In my main preview piece about the show, I talk with Grijalva and actor Kindle Cowger about a specific theme: how the provocative sexual storyline fits in with the current #MeToo movement. But I also want to share with you some of the other interesting topics I covered with Grijalva about “Spring Awakening,” including getting down to the bottom of the story of that very famous sponsor.
Q: Books and knowledge play a fascinating role in your concept for the show. Tell me how they fit in.
A: A lot of the misfortunes that come to each character in the play steam from a lack of exposure, and some from the overwhelming presence and dictatorship-like control the grownups have over the children. In developing a concept for this production, the one image that kept coming to mind was that of a huge library where the kids felt prisoner to the rules and regulations that the adults force upon them.
Unable to think for themselves and explore the wonders of the world of adulthood (the library is sectioned off in such a way that you never see the children head upstairs into the second level unless for specific purposes, think of it as the “restricted section”), they turn to the books they are surrounded by for any scraps of information to enlighten them about how to navigate this crazy period of our lives known as adolescence. Some are more successful than others.
Q: You see a connection between books and cell phones. How?
I wanted to explore the parallel between books and smartphones. Today, everyone’s got one. It’s this little thing in the palm of our hands which holds the key to endless information and yet the biggest thrill of our day is checking Facebook with it, leaving so much of its potential untapped. I strived to connect that back to a time where the latest book was the hot item. Everyone in the show carries a book that reflects their personality and acts as their companion, much like our smartphones. Certain books do special things, and where the book is in proximity to the actor says a lot, but I’ll let our guests figure out all these Easter eggs for themselves.
Q: Tell me about the sponsors of “Spring Awakening.” There’s one who’s quite famous. How did that happen?
A: We were fortunate enough to acquire three sponsors for Spring Awakening, two of which have been longtime supporters of the Selma Arts Center. This time around we are sponsored by local favorites Max’s Brunch Bistro and Martin’s Jewelry. We also welcome newcomer sponsor TeeRico, an online store owned by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who famously penned “Hamilton,” “In the Heights,” and the music for “Moana.”
Win two tickets to the second weekend of Selma’s “Spring Awakening”: To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling us why you’d like to go. Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Monday. If you win, you can choose from any of the following four performances: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3; or 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4. Only those 18 and older can enter.
Miranda is a friend of mine, and I design T-shirts for the merchandise line. When I reached out to TeeRico, Miranda and his family (who run the business) were more than happy to support our production. They’re wonderful people who believe in fostering the arts on any level from Broadway to a small theater in a tiny city in California. I’m very grateful that they decided to support our show! I’ll be seeing them fairly soon and plan on delivering a present to them from the cast, who are equally as excited, grateful, and floored that someone as influential as Miranda has extended such generosity to them. It’s truly a unique and special gesture that we are all very thankful for.
Q: Finally, you performed in ‘Spring Awakening” a few years ago. How much do you think you’ve changed during that time? Do you approach the show a different way?
A: I was just thinking about this the other day on the way to rehearsal.
From my time in that show to today things have changed, and I’ve experienced a few of the topics that are tackled in the show. I’ve been in love, I’ve been faced with the loss of loved ones and have felt intense grief over it. I’ve been met with failure, and have enjoyed success. Going through those trials of young adulthood have leveled me a bit, thus preparing me to be on the other side of the equation and direct this show.
I can look my back on my performance in 2012, and think “Oh, Dom, you were so naive”, but also take a step back and admire that childlike wonder that got me through the pain and hardships. “Spring Awakening” is a coming of age story at its heart, and since my time with the “Purple Summer” I’ve grown from a young adult into a man with “the heart of a child.” I’ve always been a bit on the childish side, which is where I believe most of my creativity stems from. I’m thankful for not having lost that.
“Spring Awakening,” through Feb. 10, Selma Arts Center, 1935 High St., Selma. Tickets are $19 adults, $17 students and seniors. Must be 18 or older to purchase a ticket. Under the age of 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
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