Five Questions with Actor Schyler Conaway of Media's "Spring Awakening"
| | | After a trial run at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Alejandro Morales moved from New York to Philadelphia in 2003 to attend the University of the Arts, where he learned how to write real good. Currently he co-hosts Camp Tabu, a comedy showcase, every second Friday of the month at Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, as well as the Rant-O-Wheel, an improvised storytelling competition, every first Monday of the month at the Shubin Theatre. He blogs culture, politics, and entertainment for PhillyGayCalendar because he loves you.
posted by Alejandro Morales
on May 10, 2012 10:00am | comments
The Media Theatre is one of the region's most LGBTQ-friendly producers, and on May 10th they have chosen to host a special night for the gay community to see the Tony award-winning rock musical Spring Awakening. For the ticket price of $40 bucks (enter promo code: JUNKBUS after selecting Thursday night's show) you receive:
1 Ticket to the show 1 seat on the bus, serving complimentary beer, soda and snacks A LGBTQ reception with COMPLIMENTARY nibbles and CASH bar, meet'n greet with the cast! 1 seat on the bus back home!
In advance of this event, PGC talked to one of the leads of Media's Production of Spring Awakening, Schyler Conaway, who plays "Melchior."
PGC: What's your character like? Is he very different from you?
SCHYLER CONAWAY:To quote the show, for the time period (1891), Melchior is
certainly a "radical." He has taken it upon himself to be "educated" on
as much as possible-from human sexuality to the existence of God. His
confidence in his knowledge is both attractive and dangerous. Looking
back at when I was 15 years old (the age of Melchior), I was ENTIRELY
different. Where as Melchior is confident in who he is and what he
believes, I was not. At 15, I identified more with the character of
Moritz. I was naive, believing "what my parents told me," and was
uncertain as to who I was or who I would become. To play the role now
is a breath of fresh air. Being 2012, and having a few years on the
character, I, as an actor, am equipped with the same knowledge that
Melchior had. The flip side is that I don't allow this knowledge to
define who I am. I am smart, I am confident, and I am cautious. The
latter is something that Melchior could have been more conscious of.
PGC: How did you get into theater? SC: As a kid, I spent my youth trying every single sport/hobby/organization
you could think of to find a "passion." You name it, I probably did it
for a period of time before growing bored and realizing that "this isn't
fun anymore." It wasn't until I was 13 years old, entering high school,
that my mother suggested I try theatre. A local community theatre was
offering a week long theatre intensive that my mother enrolled me in,
against my consent. I agreed, knowing that a certain girl would be at
the same camp, and was surprised to find two things: 1. I enjoyed this.
2. I was kinda good at it. As the week came to a close, I had worked my
way into being a part of the ensemble of that theatre's Summer show, Grease. I was hooked.
I continued to do theatre as a hobby, but the shift of
"wanting to do this for a living" happened during my sophomore year of
High School. I was playing "Jack" in a production of Into the Woods at a local theatre. During the final week of rehearsals before the
show was to open, my grandfather passed away. It was the first time
that I had lost someone close to me. I missed about three nights of
rehearsal and finally returned to the show during the final dress
rehearsal. Throughout the rehearsal, I felt distracted and it wasn't
until the end of Act 2 when a song called, "No One is Alone" began to
play. The song deals directly with the pain of losing a loved one and
moving on. The song hit me right to the core and I realized that theatre
would be a therapy for me as much as an enjoyable hobby. The next
night, we opened the show and I remember at curtain call looking out at
the audience to see the audience moved to tears. I realized that theatre
could be therapy not just for myself, but for others. I made the
decision then that I would do this for as long as I could.
PGC: What do you think sets Spring Awakening apart from other musicals?
SC: First and foremost, there's this incredible
pop/rock score. Broadway is certainly shifting its tune to include
space for many more pop/rock scores (American Idiot, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, Once, SpiderMan, etc.) but
I definitely think that SA kicked that door wide open to allow the way
for this new sound for Broadway. Even if you look at the nominees from 2007, the
year SA swept the Tony Awards (Mary Poppins, Curtains, Grey Gardens, Spring Awakening), Broadway had returned to a much more "safe" sound (RENT was
11 years prior in 1996). So, for that year in particular, SA
definitely brought a new life and sound to Broadway.
Duncan Sheik, the
composer, we know from his '97 hit, "Barely Breathing," which totally
gives some insight to the sound you can expect. The
music in SA is something that could easily translate to the radio. How many Broadway shows can say that?
The musical, based on the 1891 play, Spring's Awakening,
was produced on Broadway 100+ years after the play was written and
what's so fascinating is that very little of the story has changed.
These are themes that were difficult to discuss then (the play was
originally banned upon publication) and are still difficult to discuss
now. People just don't want to talk about it. But the thing is, we have to talk about it. We have to talk
about teen suicide. We have to talk about sexual abuse. We have to talk
about abortion. If we continue to shield our eyes and close our ears, we
continue to brush these issues to the side. And that's what sets Spring Awakening apart
from other musicals. It throws these issues into your face and you, as
an audience member, have to address them. It's a very haunting,
beautiful, and IMPORTANT piece.
PGC: Spring Awakening explores themes of emerging sexuality. What was it like when you got the "birds and bees" talk?
SC: You know, I don't ever remember actually having the formal "birds and
bees" talk. I remember knowing at an early age that "when mommy and
daddy loved each other, daddy would plant a seed into mommy and it would
grow into a baby." And that was pretty much it. The thing is, in 2012,
that "talk" is almost becoming obsolete. In a world so run by
technology and where everything we ever wanted to know can just be Googled, I feel that teens are now in a place that if they have
questions about any of those things, they will just find it out for
themselves and avoid asking their parents. I also had a big brother who
was eager to share all of his thoughts regarding the "birds and the
bees" to me, so that could have something to do with a lack of that talk
happening. Regardless, I still think that there is a moment in every
person's life when talking no longer suffices and the curiosity takes
hold. We see that happen in Spring Awakening.
PGC:What's your experience working on this musical been like?
SC: Working on Spring Awakening has been just awesome. I remember
seeing the show on Broadway back in 2007 and saying, "I MUST be in it!" I
finally got the chance to do the show/role last June with Maine State
Music Theatre and it was a dream come true. To re-approach the show with
Media has been incredible. A whole new cast and
creative team changes everything. I knew there was no way I could take
the Melchior from last June and plug him into this production. Working
with Jack Raymond (Moritz) and Erin Burniston (Wendla), specifically,
has really made me readdress the show all over again and it was nice to
just start all over. They're both making such interesting and
different choices and so it's refreshing to be
able to react accordingly and create a whole new Melchior. Sharing the
stage with them is definitely one of the best parts about doing this