We start our interviews with the cast of Olney Theatre Center’s Spring Awakening with Matthew Kacergis.
Joel: Why did you want to be part of this production of Spring Awakening at Olney Theatre Center?
Matthew: Olney Theatre Center is by far one of my favorite places to perform. They have really given me some wonderful opportunities. I’ve been familiar with Spring Awakening since it first opened Off-Broadway, and have been dying to play this role ever since!
Have you worked with any of your fellow actors before and what do you admire the most about their performances in this production?
I’ve worked with Parker and Austin before, and produced a show that starred Tim Rogan and Ali Hoxie. One of the greatest things about doing shows in this community is getting to see your colleagues and friends spread their wings and really shine in a variety of different roles.
Introduce us to the character you play and tell us why you wanted to play this role. How did you prepare for your role?
I play Melchior. This role is immensely challenging for me intellectually, vocally, and emotionally – not to mention physically! I was very, very excited at the prospect of getting to play a role that was going to push me to my limits every night. It has done just that. More than ever, I have to make sure that I am stretching, eating well, staying hydrated, and finding a way to decompress at the end of each evening.
How do you relate to Melchior?
Melchior is a radical young student trying desperately to break free of the constraints placed upon him by the elders in his community and his culture. He rejects the idea of religion at a young age and is convinced that there has to be a deeper truth out there then what the adults in his life are telling him. I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office as a kid, and found myself in trouble quite a bit for being a little too outspoken. I had a similar experience with religion as a teenager. Although I have thankfully been spared some of the more horrific traumas that Melchior experiences in the play, let’s just say that I understand the kid!
How has Steve Cosson helped you to shape your performance?
One of my peskier habits as an actor is being too heavy-handed in approaching the script. It is a very easy trap to fall into with a piece like this, and Steve did a wonderful job of always checking in with me to make sure that I approached the process with a sense of lightness. The issues tackled in this play are controversial and sometimes uncomfortable, but Steve’s frankness and honesty helped us shed the discomfort as a very early stage of rehearsal.
Talk about your ‘big numbers.’ What is happening in the story to your character when the songs are being sung?
My two personal favorite moments in the show are “All That’s Known” and “Totally Fucked.” The first number is the audience’s first introduction to Melchior, and he sets the tone for the journey he is about to take. I like the energy of the song, and it also happens to be one of my favorites musically. “Totally Fucked” is an absolute beast of a musical number! In the story Melchior has just learned that he will be expelled from school, and the rest of the students join him to rage against the teacher machine. It is one of the only times that the entire cast gets to be on stage together, the choreography is incredible, and getting to perform it is just plain fun!
What scene that you are not in do you enjoy watching? And what is your favorite song that someone else sings?
Well, I’m usually changing clothes during any scene I’m not in, but occasionally I do get the chance to watch. I always make it a point to catch as much of the “Blue Wind/Don’t Do Sadness” scene between Moritz and Ilse as I can; It helps keep me in the story for the rest of the play, and the two actors do a beautiful job every night.
What it about the show’s design that thrills you when you perform the show?
Lights, lights, lights! They move, they flash! This is one of the most exciting lighting designs I’ve ever gotten to work with. We are also enjoying the freedom we are afforded by the open set design.
What does Spring Awakening have to say to 2013 audiences?
It says: PARENTS! Don’t avoid the difficult conversations with your kids. They need you there to share what you know and to support them as they try to understand this crazy world.
What advice would you give to a high school student who is about to play Melchior in his high school production of Spring Awakening?
Breathe, drink water, stretch, don’t take the role too seriously at first, find the lightness and humor. Take time at the beginning of each performance and rehearsal to relax into the world of the play. Take time at the end of each night to decompress and leave the play behind. It’s a tough, tough piece but a beautiful and relevant story that needs to be shared. We are lucky to get the chance to do it!
If you had a chance to write a happy ending for the show, what would happen to your character?
Melchior and Wendla move to New York where Melchior attends Columbia University, but later opens a coffee shop in the East Village. ;-)
What are you doing next on the stage after this show?
After this show I head to New York City for a bit and then travel to my hometown of Marietta, GA to play Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the Atlanta Lyric Theatre.
Spring Awakening plays through March 10, 2013 at Olney Theatre Center’s Main Stage — 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. For tickets call (301) 924-3400, or purchase them online. Running Time: Approximately two hours with one intermission.
Part 1: ‘Whisperings’: Behind the Scenes at Olney Theatre Center’s ‘Spring Awakening’: Director Steve Cosson.
Amanda Gunther’s review of Spring Awakening on DCMetroTheaterArts.