In Part Two of my interviews with cast members of The Keegan Theatre’s Spring Awakening, Lyndsay Rini talks about playing Anna.
Joel: Why did you want to appear in Spring Awakening?
Lyndsay: I’ve always loved the show, but a few years ago, I lost another opportunity to perform in Spring Awakening due to issues with the rights. Ever since then, I’ve been waiting for another chance to perform in the rock musical, so when the The Keegan Theatre invited me to audition, there was no question in my mind that I was going to do everything in my power to be involved. I was nervous that I was not going to be able to participate pending when the rehearsals were because I attend a conservatory in Philadelphia with a strict “no professional auditions before senior year” rule.
If you get cast in a show, you either have to get it approved by the head of the Theater program, or take a leave of absence. I was prepared to take a leave of absence, which is why I was completely thrilled when I got cast and one of the “conditions” was that I had to stay in school. I ran out of class crying I was so happy when I got the email. I was so anxious to be apart of Spring Awakening, and that I would also get to work with friends I have trained with over the years at several different venues like The Theatre Lab, Musical Theater Center (now Adventure Theatre MTC), and Overtures at Signature Theater.
Did you see the NYC production, and what moved you the most about it?
I saw it on the national tour twice at the Hippodrome, with Wendla being portrayed by Christy Altomare. I had onstage seating the first time I went, and it was a very emotional experience. What moved me most is that everyone can find a way to relate to every single character. Most of us probably have a friend who has been abused, whether you’re aware of it or not. We all have a friend who is sexually confused and easily manipulated, whether you’re aware of it or not, and we probably all have a friend who has suicidal tendencies – whether you’re aware of it or not. There is something for every audience member to relate with- or rather, who to relate with.
Tell me about the character you are playing and how you relate to her.
I’m playing Anna. I’m very similar to my character in several ways. Anna is very protective of her friends Marta and Thea, and looks up to Wendla as the leader of the girls. Over the course of the show, she gets more and more frustrated that she can’t fix her friends problems- Marta doesn’t want help, Moritz kills himself, and Wendla is gone.
What challenges have you faced playing Anna, and how have you overcome these challenges?
It was difficult to me to get the period body language of a 13 or 14 year old girl. I tend to walk in a more “contemporary” way, and so it was difficult to feel out how I was supposed to hold myself in a genuine way. To overcome this obstacle, I tried to just relax and tap into my body language when I was 10-12 years old. How I ran, walked, moved, and held myself before puberty. I had to focus on letting go of how Lyndsay holds herself, and to try and regress to how I used to walk when I was a pre-teen girl.
These are not happy people in this show. Have you ever faced similar situations in your own lives, and how have these experiences helped you prepare for your roles?
While I was still at Montgomery Blair High School, a boy in the grade below mine named Tai Lamwas shot dead on a Ride-On bus because an MS-13 member was upset when Tai accidentally scuffed the man’s sneakers. He died in his older brother’s lap. Our entire school was devastated. We had lost a such a joyful kid for no reason at all.
I will never forget his viewing. My best friend (very close to Tai) and I held each other as we looked at his still body. It was very hard for two 14 year olds to comprehend – he didn’t look the same. Tai was gone. Tai’s older brother walked over to my best friend and embraced her, and then another woman walked over to join in the embrace. I came to realize that that woman was Tai’s mother. I was so overwhelmed watching my best friend holding Tai’s mother and brother that I excused myself to the waiting room where other friends were waiting, and crying. The sadness turned into anger very quickly, and the students wanted to find someone to blame.
The song “Left Behind” followed by “Totally Fucked” reminds me of Tai’s funeral and all the riots that came afterward. This is probably one of the first funerals all the characters have attended together, and it is one of their own friends lying in that casket. It is very hard for young teenagers to lose someone, and they often do not know how to deal with the grief.
Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s score is so beautiful and powerful. What is it about the score that moves you?
The lyrics are pure poetry, which is something you don’t get out of the every day musical. It’s also a rock musical, which allows all the characters to release the inner rock star that all pubescent teens wish they could be. All that angst and emotion of growing up is poured into the music.
What has been some of the advice Directors Mark and Susan Rhea have given you that has helped you shape your performance.
Well first off, Mark and Susan, and also Kurt Boehm and Jake Null, have all been absolutely incredible throughout this entire process. They are always available for advice and questions and have really welcomed us all to the Keegan Theatre family. Them being so supportive of us while we rehearsed for SA made me a much more confident performer. The major piece of advice was to make sure we “tell the story” so the audience leaves fufilled and moved in their own personal way.
How can today’s audiences of all ages relate to the lessons and themes of Spring Awakening?
The most obvious answer is teen pregnancy. Wendla didn’t realize that sex is what creates a child, in fact, she didn’t even know what sex was. If her mother had told her what sex was and the consequences of having it, Wendla probably could’ve avoided getting pregnant.
What do you want audiences to take away with them after seeing Spring Awakening?
Never sing a ballad without hope.
Spring Awakening plays through July 8, 2012 at The Keegan Theatre at Church Street Theater – 1742 Church St, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (703) 892-0202, or order them online.