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Pauper Players’ “Spring Awakening” addresses controversial topics.

Russell Lamb, playing Melchoir, and Natalie Myrick, playing Wendla, perform in Spring Awakening Wednesday.

Russell Lamb, playing Melchoir, and Natalie Myrick, playing Wendla, perform in Spring Awakening Wednesday.

In Pauper Players’ newest production, “Spring Awakening,” the cast tackles the concept of growing up and addresses suicide, abortion, sexual abuse and sexuality.

Co-director Jackson Cooper said the play is relatable for young adults who are dealing with adult issues and figuring out who they are.

“It’s all about growing up and being stuck between being a child and being an adult and not knowing how to be either,” Cooper said.

Cooper said it was challenging for the actors to connect with their teenage characters.

“We are at this really weird place where we are 20 to 21 years old, and we are trying to be adults — or we are adults — so we forget what it means to be a child,” he said.

Senior Natalie Myrick, who plays Wendla, said reconnecting with her teenage memories was difficult but helped connect her to her character.

“A big challenge was thinking back to how I functioned as a early teenager — that was something we all had to explore and go back into the mind of a 13-year-old,” she said.

Mariah Barksdale, who plays Ilse, said the cast focused on how to convey the show’s message.

“It’s been one of the most involved processes that Paupers have ever done for a musical because this one is way more different than any other,” she said.

This prompted precautions.

“We have to be careful because there are all these triggers we have to be aware of and make sure we are not triggering the audience, cast or production staff members,” Barksdale said.

She also said the show opens up the conversation for people to talk about these issues. And even though the play takes place in 19th-century Germany, its issues resonate in today’s society.

“It’s so powerful because of the fact that the show’s issues very much parallel today’s society,” Barksdale said. “All of these issues are so unfortunately prevalent today in 2016, and this place takes place in 1890, and it kind of feels like nothing has changed.”

Myrick said the play showed that theater can be a mouthpiece.

“I think it is a really good testament to how art in general, specifically in this case musicals, do have the ability to speak to a larger social issue,” she said.

Cooper said although its subjects are heavy, the musical shows the importance of loving one another during tough times.

“It’s about these kids who are forced to grow up, and they don’t have any control over what is happening to them,” he said.

“So as a result, the only thing they can do is love each other and give love out and receive love from each other — and that seems to be enough.”


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