Marriott Theatre’s current limited engagement production of “Spring Awakening” features Eliza Palasz and Adhana Reid, a Northwestern graduate and current student, respectively.

Eliza Palasz and Adhana Reid.

Palasz, who stars as Wendla, had an early connection with “Spring Awakening.” “From the moment my 14 year old co-actor left our show in Seattle to go do ‘Spring Awakening’ on Broadway, I’ve loved it,” she said. “It’s really important to my family, who a lot of them are sexual rights advocates.”

“My grandpa worked with Kinsey at the University of Colorado as a professor in sexual studies and, early on, taught classes in reproductive rights and religion, and other things,” Palasz continued. “’Spring Awakening’ deals with these things, with society holding back from children, and how sex is taboo in society.”

“It poses a lot of questions,” adds Reid. “It’s hard to be an actor and human in that show.” In reference to the show’s hay loft rape scene, Reid and Palasz discussed the ambiguities of rape and sexual assault, wondering if the audience sees the scene as what it is – assault. “I’m a sexual assault peer educator at Northwestern,” said Reid.

Patrick Rooney and Eliza Palasz. 

The material of “Spring Awakening” is extremely relevant to Reid and Palasz, as well as all other young people, because of its immediacy and questioning of societal conformity. “The author wrote a book on the lyrics of the musical, saying ‘we can’t keep things that are dark hidden. We have to turn the dark parts into light,’” said Palasz. “It’s about openness.”

“It’s a confusing time in everyone’s life,” Palasz continued. “It’s cool to have a show that pushes the envelope on being open about talking about these things.”

Both Palasz and Reid are extremely articulate in talking about the dramaturgy of the play; experiences at Northwestern and elsewhere have accustomed them to doing research on their own. “People come in prepared,” they said – and so do they!

Kevin Gudahl and Patrick Rooney in rehearsal for “Spring Awakening”.

Palasz has already been featured in “Carousel” at The Lyric Opera and “Pericles” at Chicago Shakespeare. “For ‘Pericles,’ the director, David Bell [director at Northwestern’s theatre program] just called me in for that,” said Palasz. She laughs and jokes with Reid about her auditions for various productions.

“I’d conditioned myself into Northwestern auditioning,” said Reid of her “Spring Awakening” audition. “I had a couple of snafus, so I didn’t get to print everything out. I felt like a child! I finally got in and they’d said, ‘Are you ready to go?’ I’d been practicing on my music app, and I started to go…and it didn’t come out quite right. But they gave me another shot. One of my professors [in the room] helped advocate for me, and I dug deep and gave a great performance.”

Balancing school and acting work is a new challenge for Reid, who received some sage advice from Palasz: “You regret the early stages of reading you didn’t do.”

“I did ‘Godspell’ at Marriott and ‘Carousel’ all while in school,” said Palasz. “I had to do makeup work, and it was a lot of work, but I was a history major too.”

“I’m trying to figure it out,” said Reid. “I’m doing musical theatre, and managing, so there’s a bunch of little things sprinkled around, little mini safety nets in case acting doesn’t work out,” she laughs.

As final bits of wisdom about “Spring Awakening” and their blossoming acting careers, both Palasz and Reid agreed that everyone connects viscerally to this material. “And with life in general, it’s about not taking what you see at face value; there are stories people don’t feel comfortable sharing, and you don’t know everything someone’s going through,” finished Reid.

“Spring Awakening” runs Jan. 14- 31st at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL. Tickets are available online.

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