In Part 6 of our series of interviews with the director and cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s Spring Awakening, meet David Tuttle, who is playing Hanschen.
Joel: Why did you want to appear in Spring Awakening at Kensington Arts Theatre?
David: I’ve wanted to be a part of Spring Awakening since it was still playing on Broadway. Years ago when the New York production was looking for its first slew of replacement contracts, I actually got an opportunity to be seen and attended a workshop with a few of the show’s original cast members, which was an overwhelming prospect for my 16 year-old self. As a result, Spring Awakening became the first Broadway musical I ever saw and, naturally, my teenage obsession for the next couple months. Seven years later, it’s exciting to finally be a part of the full production.
Tell me a little bit about Hanschen.
Back when I first saw Spring Awakening, Hanschen was the only character who didn’t sit quite right with me. He had an ambitious quality that, at times, vibrated to me as sort of sinister and scheming. This made his romance with the Ernst seem somewhat less genuine and more like the product of his manipulative influence on an impressionable mind. I’m happy to say that the Hanschen Emily and I want to deliver is a much more approachable character: just that easy-going guy we all knew in High School who coasts through life and happens to excel at everything he tries. His philosophy is a simple one: relax, breathe, and let the world of people grasping for control sort itself out around you, and eventually an opportunity to come out on top will become clear; it’s worked pretty well for him so far.
How is Hanschen similar to yourself?
In a lot of ways, I feel like I was that guy in high school. Without too much effort, I managed to balance pretty successful social and academic lives while still taking a very active role in the theatre department. I wouldn’t say I was quite as laid back and securely on top of it all as Hanschen is, but I did find that by not stressing too much, I was able to accomplish most of what I set out to do.
What has been your greatest challenge in portraying Hanschen? How did you overcome these challenges?
Well anybody who knows the show is well aware that it addresses some pretty adult themes. At one point Hanschen actually masturbates (no full-frontal nudity) on stage for almost a whole scene. I went into the production feeling pretty confident, I’d performed in similarly challenging scenes before, but once it really sank in that my friends… co-workers… my mother would be watching, it suddenly became a more daunting task to dive into those scenes. Even more difficult than the masturbation scene, however, was tackling the romantic scene between Hanschen and his sweetheart, Ernst. It’s always a challenge to get to a place where you can allow yourself to be vulnerable with another person, even in real life, but especially with a near stranger on stage. I think before we first rehearsed the scene, Riley (Ernst) and I had only really spoken a handful of times, but with Emily’s delicate handling of the material, and Riley’s impressive willingness to jump into a difficult scene, we’ve managed to pull together some great and affecting moments that I am very proud to be a part of.
Are there any life experiences you have faced that have helped you prepare for this role?
Well, according to Emily’s vision, which I very much agree with, Hanschen is a guy who’s figured out the secret of life and has always just sort of kept it to himself. In Ersnt, however, Hanschen sees something special that intrigues and attracts him. He sees potential in his sincere, determined young classmate that Ernst might not even see within himself, and so he decides to finally share his secret. I won’t claim to know the secret to life or anything, but I definitely find that I like to be a bit of a teacher in my personal life when I can be. The best relationships for me are when I feel like I am learning from a person and at the same time I have something to offer that they can learn from me, so I can definitely identify with that attraction.
What is it about Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s score that most moves you?
Oh, those beautifully dissonant harmonies in songs like “Touch Me,” and even in the angstier songs like “Bitch of Living”. Being on stage and hearing them happen around you, they just give this electric feeling of unity. It’s like, even with all the confusion and emotional turmoil going on in the characters’ world, when everyone can feel isolated in their own off-pitch sort of way, at least we all experience it together, even if we don’t always realize it.
Is there any particular moment or number in the show in which you feel you’re most able to express your inner feelings?
There are so many numbers in the show that speak to feelings I think everyone can identify with, it’s hard to pin down just one. We’ve all felt that chilling fascination that comes with new intimate experience like in “The Word of Your Body” and the frustration of life spinning out of control and aligning against you for no logical reason like in “Totally Fucked.” I have to say, though, that some of my favorite moments are during “My Junk,” which captures that giddy, foolish feeling of being hopelessly attracted to someone you admire from a far, and the private pleasure that comes from those little daydreams that flit through your head when you think of them. I’m sure it will make everyone feel a little nostalgic for that grade-school crush feeling.
Spring Awakening plays through March 15, 2015 at Kensington Arts Theatre performing at Kensington Town Hall/Town Center (formerly the Armory)-3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.
New Whisperings: Meet KAT’s Director and Cast of ‘Spring Awakening’: Part 1: Joanna Frezzo (Ilse) by Joel Markowitz.