Gustavus Students and Alumni Explore Identity in Spring Awakening Posted on February 15th, 2023 by

The Gustavus Adolphus College Theatre & Dance Department is performing the infamous musical Spring Awakening. Performances are February 23, 24, and 25 at 8 p.m., and February 25 and 26 at 2 p.m. in Anderson Theatre.

This musical is a coming-of-age story, following teenagers as they come to terms with their own sexualities and navigate society’s oppression of these newfound parts of themselves. Filled with turmoil, conflict, and tragedy, Spring Awakening highlights the work of multiple departments and disciplines on campus.

This production features the collaborative work of current Gustavus students and Gustavus alumni. The alumni and some of the students participating in the musical sat down with us for an interview about their views on the production, takeaways, and everything else they have to offer.

“I took spring awakening as a general, new coming-of-age type vibe,” said cast member Lily Roehrick ‘25. “When you sit down to watch it you will be able to find something to relate to which is what makes it so beautiful. It allows you to reflect on things in your life and shows you how to navigate the complicated world.”

This was a difficult musical to work through, as some of the subject matters are difficult to portray on stage, but the students were able to prioritize their safety while still maintaining the heart of the story.

“When originally written, it had a different purpose,” said Gustavus alum and set director Lydia Francis ‘11.  “We have been mindful about how we want to express the show and give the power back to the students.”

Gustavus alum and Spring Awakening music director Sam Grace ‘11 expands on Francis’ acknowledgement of how the play has had changing purposes and intentions throughout the years. “It was provocative for 2008, but with issues of queer studies and gender,” added Grace. “Our world has changed a lot, so we had to examine the text and figure out how we wanted to go about it.”

The students themselves highlight this sense of empowerment and respect within the rehearsals. “With this production we do not have to do anything that we do not want to,” said cast member Oaklee Ringeisen ‘23. “Having people come in who are trained on how to work around boundaries is something that is very new but extremely useful and something that I am very happy that Gustavus is implementing.”

Although the subject matter of this performance is by no means light, everyone working on Spring Awakening has a positive takeaway from their time spent on this.

“Find comfort in the fact that so many people experience trauma in so many different ways and that you are not alone and there are so many resources and ways that you can get help,” said Roehrick. “It is a way to see that you are not alone and there are other people to relate to and help you.”

Overall, the cast hopes the audience takes away a message of hope. ““No matter what happened in the past, it is eventually going to get better,” said cast member Julia Nelson ‘26. “Having the idea of people in the audience taking that into their own lives is something I want to happen.”


Tickets are available at and are free for Gustavus students.

[Content Advisory: Spring Awakening contains sexual content, incest, sexual assault, rape, child abuse, violence, weapons, running away from home, suicide, teen pregnancy, abortion, death, funeral/grief, child loss, explicit language, tobacco and drug use, and other potentially triggering material.]


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