In the program I'll be listed as “Adult Male.” In fact, I play all of the adult males in the show; I think there are about nine of them in total. I play the fathers in the story, the teachers, the doctors, the priests. As brought to life by Steven Sater’s script, Duncan Sheik’s music, and the direction of Chris Moore and Gabrielle Soskin, the world of Spring Awakening is one in which every grownup has the same face, the same voice. The young people are all different: dynamic, lively, beautiful, expressing through movement and song the thoughts and emotions that cannot be contained in mere words. The grownups do not dance. They do not sing.
This should tell you a bit about what this show has to say about the relationship between young people and adults.
It makes good sense to cast a play this way: it lets you populate your story with a variety of minor characters without needing to cast dozens of actors. It lets you introduce characters while keeping the focus where it belongs, on the young people and their stories. Naturally, though, playing nine different people presents some interesting challenges as well (such as, say, remembering who wears which pair of pants).
Since I’m playing so many different people it’s important that the audience is able to tell them apart, so the main goal for me in rehearsal has been finding ways of making each character a distinct, whole person, even if you’re only seeing them for a few minutes. As actors, we try to give each character an inner life, a personality and motivations that give them purpose and dimension. It can be both the most difficult and the most enjoyable part of being an actor, and in this show, I get to do it several times over. The goal isn't to fool you into thinking I'm nine different people, so much as just to make you believe in each of them as you encounter them.
The other big challenge this show has presented me is that, as the adults, I’m often playing the “villains” of the story. This is a play about the conflicts that arise between younger and older generations, about the ways in which adults can mislead, repress, stifle and abuse the young, and about the terrible damage that can be done to young people’s lives when those they turn to for guidance, knowledge and safety, have none to offer. You will see the story through the eyes of the young, so much so that, at times, the adults are perhaps more projections of the younger characters' perceptions than they are actual people. As such the adults may appear as caricatures, and their actions may seem exaggeratedly uncaring or cruel – as indeed at times they are – but my hope is that there will also be a hint at something beneath the surface of each of them. Each of the adults has, I hope, a humanity and a desire to do what’s right, even when what’s right is not at all simple or clear.
Which, I guess, means they’re not so completely different from the younger generation, or from you or me.