I've done my time lookin' back on it all...man, it blows my mind.

Picture me, in the spring of 2007: a high school junior, I had just discovered a song called "The Bitch of Living" via an iTunes free download and a recommendation on Zach Braff's blog. Following the Tony Awards, most of my free time was spent on YouTube, finding out everything I could about this new musical.

Flash forward to me, in the spring of 2010: sitting in the front row of the Fisher Theater in Detroit, holding my breath as the a capella section of "The Song of Purple Summer" washed over me one last time.

At the beginning, living eight hours away from New York City did not work in favor of my burning need to see Spring Awakening. I had never experienced a connection as strong as what I felt to the music, the characters, and the cast members. The cast recording was put on permanent repeat on my iPod as soon as I purchased it. The summer after the Tony Awards, I almost convinced my mother to take me to see the show after strategically playing a few songs during the drive to a college visit. I got as far as outlining the various options to keep the cost of our trip low on numerous spreadsheets; in the end, though, our trip couldn't materialize.

In the fall, it came time to head off to college. On the third day of freshmen orientation, I ended up sitting next to my future roommate on the bus home from a Philly's game, and I knew we'd hit it off when we both revealed that we had looked up how to get to New York from Philadelphia. Our first Megabus trip was booked for November 22. I had only been to New York twice before in my life, and I will never forget turning the corner of 49th Street and seeing the marquee gracing the Eugene O'Neill Theater. The following experience was a complete blur. I remember putting my coat into the locker for BB5; I knew ahead of time that I was supposed to sit next to Eryn Murman, but she was on for Martha that day, so Jenna Ushkowitz, now of Glee fame, was in the onstage ensemble instead. I wish I could remember Ms. Murman's performance, or really anything about the show that day...before I knew it, we were applauding and the show was over.

When I found out the show was closing just two short months later, I quickly bought tickets to both matinees on closing weekend. On those two January days, I met a few Guilty Ones, didn't sleep a lot, went to the city by myself for the first time, and froze my butt off. I mourned the loss of a groundbreaking show on Broadway, just like every other fan of Spring Awakening. I was grateful to experience the intensity that the cast conveyed as they performed their show those last few times.

But when the first national tour of Spring Awakening was announced, I knew that the tour would become mine. After arriving fairly late in the game to the Broadway production, I was there to experience the excitement of tour casting announcements, cities, and changes. When Pittsburgh appeared on the map for the first leg, I did a happy dance and smiled for about a week and a half. When I became friends with a fellow fan who happened to live in the same area as me, we bonded over our mutual love of the show, and talked for hours about the show coming to our town.

Little did I know that our first show with the tour cast would be in Cleveland on a cold March night during spring break. When May arrived, we somehow ended up at Heinz Hall a record number of times, sitting onstage a record number of times, seeing a record number of understudies, and spending a record amount of time driving to and from the theater that week. I finally convinced my mother to see the show with me, and she loved it. July came, and we drove to Washington DC to see the new Melchior. Three days later, we returned to attend a cabaret that the cast put on, which culminated in driving home in the pouring rain at 4:00am and going to a full day of work on three hours of sleep. The following January, we drove through a blizzard to Hershey, Pennsylvania, where we enjoyed seeing a new Moritz and a new Ernst.

And this past Saturday, a cold, rainy May afternoon, we drove to Detroit to see this cast and this show one last time.

Many things have changed over my three-year journey with Spring Awakening. Convincing my parents that yet another roadtrip is necessary has become easier, for one thing. I now have two years of college under my belt. I am a more confident person than the seventeen-year-old who watched every cast interview and performance at least eight times. I have met my best friends because of my interest in the show and Broadway in general. But most of all, my journey with Spring Awakening has shown me the impact that art can have on a young person's life. Following the tour from its very beginning, while already familiar with the show itself, provided for a unique experience. At the risk of being cliche, I feel that I have gone on as much of a trip with the tour as its fantastic cast members have. Seeing the show over and over again may border on the obsessive, but there's something thrilling and yet comforting about the familiarity of it all. Live theater is never the same, and I remember each and every performance of the show that I've attended - the mishaps, the particularly moving portrayals of various characters that have evolved beautifully over time, and "catching up" with the cast members who recognize us. Knowing those moments that take my breath away - the lights descending in "Mirror Blue Night," the sheer chaos in "Totally Fucked," the drum beats that kick up in "Don't Do Sadness," the incredibly delicate and poignant lyrics of "Those You've Known" - and being just as moved by them every time.

In the past two years, the longest period of time I've gone without seeing Spring Awakening is six months. As I sat in my seat on Saturday and the a capella section of "Purple Summer" arrived, I thought about everything I've gained from this show, and about everything I'm going to miss - looking over the list of tour cities and figuring out which ones are within driving distance, road-tripping to places that are sometimes deserted and sketchy, the quest to sit in my favorite stage seat again, the feeling of the cast taking the stage and Wendla moving her hair from her shoulders to begin the show. The finality of the tour closing in two short weeks is imminent and weird, and I can't even imagine what emotions the cast is feeling as a huge chapter in their lives comes to a close. But I couldn't have asked for a more perfect final show, and I feel good about the way my journey with it has turned out. As the final chord sounded, I felt a chapter of my own life come to an end. Spring Awakening came along at the perfect time for me, and I will always look back at these years in my life with fondness and nostalgia.

So, thank you: to iTunes, for your free download. To Zach Braff, for the blog post that I happened to read. To the writers and creative team of Spring Awakening, who created a show that connected with me unlike anything else ever will. To the friends I've met, spent hours analyzing the show with, and drove a ridiculous number of miles with. (Yes, we've added up a total. It's a lot.) And thank you to the cast members who kept me coming back again and again. You are some of the most genuine people I've ever met, and I'm honored to have followed your careers from the beginning.

4 comments:

Dylan said...

Michelle,

Thank you for writing this. Although our journies with Spring Awakening were a little different, all of the emotions that you described mirror mine (and my brother's). In fact, I got a little teary-eyed thinking about my own memories of this brilliant tour cast. I'm so glad we met that night in Pittsburgh because it's nice to know other dedicated fans. Thanks!

Pun said...

Oh mi god, Michelle, that was beautiful. We love our fans dearly, and we're so happy that you've taken this journey with us. The show means just as much to us. The good news is that the tour is not ending, just the first national (union) tour. There will be new tour stops announced soon so Spring Awakening can continue to affect and change lives.
Thank you on behalf of the whole cast and creative team. We wouldn't be here without our fans who have helped to spread word of mouth.

Pun
(Blogmaster of the official Spring Awakening blog, http://www.totallytrucked.blogspot.com)

Irene from Guam said...

Michelle,
Thank you for writing this. I can relate. Although each fan has a different experience, we are all connected through the feelings we get from seeing, hearing or experiencing the show in any way. I even find it hard to explain how i feel about the show because there is just too much to say about it. Reading your blog has brought back all of those feelings: hearing about the show for the first time, searching for every video, interview etc, seeing the show for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd time, meeting the cast, and all of the other things too. The show is so incredible, and i agree with what you wrote that "Spring Awakening came along at the perfect time," and i couldn't wish for it to be any other way. This blog made me nostalgic too, reminding me of my journey with SA, and how close it has brought me to other people. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Oohh Irene from Guam!! How I love you!! You could've practically been a tour cast member yourself because of the number of times they mention you!!

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