Spring Awakening musical at the Paramount Theatre
|Spring Awakening musical at the Paramount Theatre|
|by Eric Andrews-Katz -
SGN Contributing Writer
Spring Awakening October 14-19 Paramount TheatrE Spring Awakening is the smash Broadway rock-musical that swept the 2007 Tony Awards despite explicit subject matters and great controversy. Based on the play of the same name - which was originally banned from the English stage for almost 100 years - it takes place in a provincial German town in the late 19th century and centers on a group of teenagers who discover their diverse sexual identities. The critical storm gathered around the play's dealing with adolescent sex, masturbation, incest, homosexuality, rape and abortion despite the honesty or reality in which the subject matters were originally written and presented in 1891.
The musical (adapted in 2006) is mostly a rock show with a storyline and boasts a book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik. The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2007 and won eight of them, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The cast album also went on to win a Grammy Award that same year.
The Seattle Gay News interviewed two members of the Spring Awakening touring production. The show is made up of mostly fresh, new and upcoming performers; for most of them, this is their first professional show. Claire Sparks and Lucas Wells both are "swing" members in the cast and understudy the majority of the female/male leads, respectively. Answering questions about the controversial show and the preparations for their performances, these two young actors seemed excited to share their enthusiasm for the musical.
Eric Andrews-Katz: Spring Awakening was originally written in 1891. How and why does it hold its relevance for today's audiences?
Claire Sparks: The message of the show is ageless in theme and relevance. The subjects are honest and still as prescient today as they were then.
Lucas Wells: People who watch the show find that they identify with at least one of the characters on stage. People are still dealing with the same subjects and struggling exactly the same ways.
Andrews-Katz: Do you ever get embarrassed about the subject matters of the storyline, especially if people you know are in the audience?
Sparks: No, because there's nothing in the show that isn't necessary. Everything is presented tastefully and it's something [audience members] have probably dealt with at one point or another.
Wells: No. I come from a conservative family. On the way home from my audition, I talked to my parents about the importance of the subject matters and the real emotions.
Andrews-Katz: What lessons does the show teach today's younger audiences?
Sparks: There are import themes in the show. It teaches kids about the downfall of ignorance and not talking when they have questions about importance issues.
Wells: It helps to shed light on these subjects so that children don't feel so alone. It's OK to be who you are and love whom you love.
Andrews-Katz: Do older audiences get upset or complain about the show?
Sparks: Some have walked out
Wells: One woman threw her playbill down, but at least she waited until intermission to do so and didn't walk out in the middle of the first act. A lot of the times we get a 'thank you' from parents who say that now they can talk to their kids in an easier way.
Andrews-Katz: Since the show deals with such intense subject matters, how do you get "in character"?
Sparks: Since I understudy so many different roles, I don't usually know which I'll be performing, so each show is a separate situational expression. I try to be alone and think about what's honest in the character.
Wells: I don't have any preshow rituals yet or anything. I try to find something to relate to in each character and that way I can make it personal.
Andrews-Katz: After a show, how do you unwind from intense performances?
Sparks: I listen to music a lot of the times. Lots of Aerosmith; I love Steve Tyler.
Wells: My roommate and I watch movies, usually anything with Kevin Spacey. The touring company of Spring Awakening started this year in San Diego. It will travel through San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and several cities in Arizona, all before the end of the year. While in Seattle, it will be playing at The Paramount Theater from October 14-19, playing Tuesday-Sunday. A matinee performance will be on both Saturday (October 18) and Sunday (October 19).
Tickets can be purchased either online at: http://www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com or by calling (206) 292-2787 (292-ARTS).
|Travel: South of France - Authentic & surprisingly Gay-friendly|
|by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
You've been to Paris and want a more authentic French experience? I don't blame you. The "City of Light" is my favorite place in the world, but with the addition of Starbucks, American Apparel, Subway, The Gap, McDonalds, Nike, KFC, and even a bar with female waitresses dressed in cowgirl attire, the country is beginning to resemble the red, white and blue on this side of the Atlantic. In the South of France, true French culture is everywhere and it's unlikely you'll find a hotel clerk or café server addressing you in semi-fluent English. The Languedoc-Roussillon region I recently visited is quite Gay-friendly; Montpellier touts the second largest Pride festivities in all of France and Nimes has Gay bars with chic ambiance, good dance music, and naughty backrooms. And, the Gay nudist beach in Grau du Roi is more tempting than an out-of-the-oven crème brûlée. Plus, three Gay-owned bed and breakfasts on my journey provided the comfortable atmosphere and upscale amenities international Gay travelers look for. In the week touring this area of France, I never once encountered glares, stares, or any forms of harassment - something I can't say about rural parts of the United States. So, visit Paris and marvel at the site of the Eiffel Tower or shop crazily along the Champs Elysees. But include a sidetrip to the Sud de France, where olive fields and medieval towns clash beautifully with cozy guesthouses and the aforementioned Gay nudist beaches. Let me guide you on a five-day trek of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, save room for endless amounts of wine and the sights of green, blue, and hazel-eyed Frenchmen.
DAY 1 VOYAGE AND ARRIVAL
For the second time, I took advantage of Air France's (www.airfrance.us) direct service from Seattle to Paris. Again, my flight was exceptional and the relief of landing at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport without connecting through London, Amsterdam or the US East Coast made my voyage that much more enjoyable. I flew business-class, highly recommended for a more pleasant nine-hour flight across the Atlantic (check with your airline prior to departure for possible upgrade specials). I've never flown an airline that feeds you so much, from a steak and potatoes dinner to a choice of four desserts to multiple pours of French wines. Pre-departure champagne, full reclining seats with built-in massage, abundant leg room, global reading material, amenities kit, espresso service at your leisure, easily accessible restrooms, throw blanket and medium-sized pillow, and unlimited self-serve beverages and snack counter leads me to believe that heaven exists at 39,000 feet.
At CDG, your flight de-boards at Terminal 2 that is conveniently located for rail connections or regional transit. If headed to Paris, proceed to the lower level and catch the RER into the city (5.30 euros), then get off at Gare du Nord or Chatelet stations to connect to your hotel on the Metro (1.60 euros). Upon arrival, I had to meet my travel companions at Gare de Lyon and got from the airport to the train station in about an hour. You can purchase RER and Metro passes prior to your trip by visiting www.paris.org/Metro. At Gare de Lyon, we boarded a TGV (www.raileurope.com) with first-class seating (inexpensive, preferred) and began our three-hour trek to Montpellier. Here's where my five-day journey in the South of France began.
We arrived at Montpellier in time for dinner at our hotel, Gay-owned Le Lodge (www.lelodge.fr), on the perimeter of the city. The motel-like property is a popular choice for Gay males who enjoy a centralized pool and deli counter-style café. I wouldn't describe Le Lodge as comfy; it's very basic, and the low-lying tub allowed water from my morning shower to spill onto the bathroom floor. Instead, I suggest the Gay-owned guesthouse Les 4 etoiles (www.les4etoiles.com), a stylish in-city bed and breakfast with all the bells and whistles Gay tourists expect on holiday. Each of the four rooms is contemporarily designed with hand-picked lamps, armchairs, wall prints, and color schemes, and a side-door patio and living room with piano add to the amenities, as well a home-cooked dinner if requested the night before. Another option is the art deco Suite Hotel (www.suitehotel.com), close to the waterfront and airport. If you're looking for action, head to Gay bar Cafe de la Mer (5 Place Marches aux Fleurs) and the just-opened sauna Le 36 (36 rue Bourrely).
DAY 2 MONTPELLIER AND AIGUES-MORTES
Nearly every hotel in France will include breakfast in your stay. However, cheaper accommodations won't, and will add it to your bill. Ask your hotel clerk if breakfast is included and until what time it's served. Accessing smaller towns in France is best done by car rental, and it's neither pricey nor difficult with proper documentation and proof of insurance. Make sure to have euros on hand in case a fuel station doesn't accept your American bankcard. The first half of this day was spent walking through Montpellier, the eighth-largest city in France with over 70,000 college students, some at the Faculty of Medicine - the oldest medical school in the Western world, founded in the 13th century. La Place de la Comedie is a great place to watch locals dine, sip coffee, play chess, and in my case get propositioned by a male prostitute (I told you Southern France is Gay-friendly). A terrific sightseeing excursion is to stroll through the Place Royal de Peyrou and pay for a guided tour atop the Arc de Triomphe for a panoramic view of Montpellier. Our lunch at Le Carre (3 Place St. Ravy) was marvelous, if not heavy - eggplant torte, lamb with couscous, cheese, and coffee.
After lunch, we drove a half-hour to the fortified medieval town of Aigues-Mortes. This adorable village was busy with tourists riding mini choo-choo trains and circling its 14th-century limestone wall. Aigues-Mortes is known for its historical landmarks, like the Constance Tower built during King St. Louis' reign in the mid-1200s, though also for its 26,000-acre salt beds - salt containers by Fleur de Sel de Camargue make wonderful gifts for friends and family. We stopped for pre-dinner drinks at Gay-owned bar and restaurant L'Essentiel (19 rue Amiral Courbet), where we nibbled on a tray of cured meats and where the town's first-term mayor dropped by to welcome us personally to Aigues-Mortes. Dinner was at La Guinguette de la Republique (25 rue de la Republique), a feast of seafood, steaks, and a pasta dish with crème fraiche, bacon, and locally grown vegetables. It's customary to have a three-course meal in France, for dinner and sometimes for lunch, and most restaurants promote a fixed priced menu that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert of which can be substituted by fromage (cheese). The French always enjoy their coffee after dessert, not with, and will eye you strangely if you request it before its appropriate time. We stayed overnight at La Villa Mazarin (www.villamazarin.com), an elegant hotel with a center courtyard, garden, and Victorian-style lobby. If you desire modern lodging - spacious rooms, premiere bath products, cushy slippers and king size beds - stay here. My travel companions and I frolicked in the indoor pool and hot tub with a bottle of wine until 3 a.m.
DAY 3 GRAU DU ROI AND PORT CAMARGUE
Our drive to Grau du Roi was barely long enough for me to catch a wink. We arrived at this seaside town and immediately sat down to coffee and glasses of Orangina, a favorite beverage of the French, and then walked to a crowded street to watch cowboys herd bulls to a local arena, which I found disappointedly boring. We ventured to Yelloh Village's Secrets de Camargue (www.yellohvillage.com), a campsite/playground for adults offering a pool, sleeping hammocks, and a patio cafe that served a delicious chicken curry with jasmine rice. This was a relaxing way to spend a muggy afternoon, as we quickly fell asleep in our hammocks. Minutes away is L'Espiguette Beach, famous for its clothing-optional turfs for straights and Gays. As we approached the Gay section of the beach, we saw one guy humping another guy, as his friends read their newspapers without paying notice or even flinching at this open display of lovemaking. Its seductive beaches, heated summers, mild winters, and fresh seafood makes Grau du Roi a welcome getaway for Gay men from Northern France and Barcelona, which is three hours away.
For dinner, we ate at a kitschy restaurant feet away from the Mediterranean Sea called l'Aigo boulido (Avenue de docteur Jean Bastide). The decor ranged from wacky to wackier, all pasted on the ceiling, like vinyl records, women's underwear, fashion catalogs, old magazines, and gardening equipment. The food, on the other hand, was anything but strange - the presentation of dishes such as whole crab, warm chevre salad, red fish, and vanilla-nugget ice cream was inventive. I sampled bull steak for the first time, a delicacy in these parts and a flavorful, tender meat served with the thickest, crispiest, and tastiest pomme frites I've ever slid in my mouth. We stayed overnight at Oustau Camarguen (www.oustaucamarguen.com), a roadside property in Port Camargue that required a special key to access the gate during late hours. I slept through a thunderstorm, and awoke the following morning to a beautiful sunrise and a breakfast of croissants, pains au chocolat, baguettes, fruit, juice and coffee on my individual patio.
DAY 4 NIMES
The drive to Nimes was 45 minutes, and it exposed us to some of the country's lush green forests with indicated hiking trails and viewpoints for visitors. Nimes is a Roman-influenced city with several historical remains spread throughout, and its streets were energized by busy cafes, nightlife and art galleries. Whereas Montpellier seemed a tad sleepy, Nimes was wide awake and bustling with a good dose of mojo. We toured the Amphitheatre, a star attraction worth a half-hour of your time. This well-preserved, elliptically shaped arena was once home to fierce gladiators and skilled artisans, and these days it seats over 20,000 spectators for bullfighting contests and special events like a sold-out Elton John concert and the annual Feria celebration. The city's public market featured rows and rows of local cheese, produce, meat, bread, and seafood vendors. I made a delightful meal from a slice of bread, Roquefort cheese, and plump grapes. Even on a half-full stomach, I made room for lunch at 9 (9 rue de L'Etoile). This trendy bistro with an outdoor patio served a terrific lunch of pureed avocado inside rolled red peppers, tuna fillet, and chocolate cake.
There isn't a Gay district in Nimes, but there are nightlife options for non-hetero tourists. Le Dip (www.ledip-lounge.fr) is a polished, Gay-owned lounge on a calm, residential street that plays club music to a loyal clientele, who mingle over cocktails at one of the many tables positioned neatly in two sections of a medium-sized room. Like many Euro-Gay bars, Le Dip has a "backroom" that is pitch dark and where anything, and probably everything, happens. On the night we dropped in, a gentleman celebrated his 35th birthday by dressing up as a horrible drag queen and made the rounds, stopping at each table to receive kisses by well-wishers. Who were we to deny him a peck on the cheek, and perhaps a tug on an oversized bra? Another Gay bar, a 10-minute walk from Le Dip, is La Cathedral (www.lacathedral-bar.com). This intimate boutique lounge is chic, yet in a retro sort of way. The building is old, couches and seats inside are vintage, and the walls are adorned with art pieces instead of strobe lights and flatscreens. Whether it's modern or antiquated sophistication you seek, both Le Dip and La Cathedral deliver on comfortable ambiance, uppity moods, and cute Frenchmen. Overnight was at Le Cheval Blanc (1 place des Arenes), a hotel across the street from the amphitheatre that appeared plucked from an IKEA showroom. The simplicity of it was nice, though with no phone and a toilet across the corridor from the sink and shower, it left me with an odd impression.
DAY 5 UZES AND DEPARTURE
The short journey to Uzes was right out of a travel brochure, and one of the most enjoyable road trips I've been on. The French countryside is dotted with olive fields, vineyards, hillside chateaus, and charming French villages, one of which was the focal point of our day, Uzes. Everything was pleasant in this town, from the duke palace to the open-air weekend market, and from its cobblestone streets to fine antiques, pottery, and clothing shops. This was the France I came to see - people lugging armloads of baguettes, sipping beer at an outdoor cafe while puffing suavely on a cigarette, and the smell of cheese permeating the air, not to mention scarf-wrapped men eating salads with forks, knives, and proper table manners. A side trip to Pont du Gard, 20 minutes from Uzes, gave us a gorgeous look at a historical aqueduct. We got exclusive access to the top level, which treated us to a panoramic view of the exquisitely picturesque valley around us. Lunch was outdoors at Terroirs (5 Place aux Herbes), which also sells cooking oils, honeys, jams, condiments, spices and wines from the region. A first-rate dinner was devoured at the rather cozy la Parenthese (1-3 rue Grand Bourgade) that included rondettes of sole, pork medallions in savory sauce, fromage, and a plate of miniature tarts, tiramisus, and sorbets.
My favorite part of Uzes - and maybe this entire trip to France - was a Gay-owned bed and breakfast that left me speechless. Le Clos du Lethe (www.closdulethe.com) is a stunning, renovated chateau nestled amongst fruit crops and robust olive trees in nearby St. Mediers. Thoughtful, detailed décor raises the bar for sophistication, from pure white-matted pool chairs to a chef's kitchen that would make any Food Channel personality envious. Upscale amenities, like flatscreen computers in each of the five rooms, trough-style washbasins, two-person bathtubs, sauna, and individual libraries for every guest wowed me - soon thereafter I imagined winning the lottery and bringing my closest friends here for a perfect French excursion. A stay at Le Clos du Lethe is an absolute must in Southern France, and because its owners/partners are so incredibly sweet and accommodating, it receives my top recommendation for a same-sex honeymoon. Another Gay-owned bed and breakfast with strong approval is Le Maison (Place de l'Eglise), in the town of Blauzac. This rustic home, next to an actual church, is inviting and unforgettable with an upstairs room terrace looking out to gorgeous scenery, a common area with full dining table and computer station, and a garden often used in the morning for meals.
My travel companions ended their trips here in Uzes, St. Mediers, and Blauzac. But I flew from Montpellier to Paris, and my window seat aboard the hour and 20-minute Air France flight afforded me an unbeatable view of the Languedoc-Roussillon region I'd just visited below. As someone from my tour group noted, the colors are much more vibrant here than anywhere else. Indeed, coloring books and crayons would do this place no justice.