Director of NUstage’s Spring Awakening Shares On The Creative Process

March 24, 2019 | By Isabella LoNigro, Photos by Nadia Naeem

This March, the NUstage production staff and student director Hayden Graham (pictured below) will be presenting “Spring Awakening” on the main stage. With two weeks less rehearsal time than a normal main stage production, the “Spring Awakening” cast and staff are working five days a week (yes, even Friday’s) to perfect their vision. Artistry Magazine had the pleasure of sitting down with fourth-year finance major Hayden Graham and his assistant director Ben Barber, a second-year electrical engineering major, to talk about the creative, casting, and production processes.

Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus


“Spring Awakening” is a “very unique” show that “touches on a lot of controversial topics that other shows tend to tip-toe around,” says Graham. Graham was voted director by the rest of the NUstage production staff, but really believes that a “mixture of numerous ideas is a lot more interesting than one person’s opinion on something.” After getting the rights to the show, the creative team spent three weeks memorizing the show front to back and watching as many versions as possible. “I could practically recite all the songs from memory,” Barber said. The team then gets in a room and works out costumes, choreography, and the overall vision of the show. To Graham, the job of the director is to create a “cohesive vision form a bunch of different ideas,” and that is what this production is all about.


Next, Graham and his team set out to find the people who can bring their vision to life. This began the casting process, which is strenuous on both the actors and the directors. Graham and Barber say they were looking for people that took criticism well, were easy to work with, and felt comfortable portraying the sensitive topics and scenes in this show. They landed on first-year Syra Mehdi and third-year Bobby Giosia to embody the leading roles. Hayden puts the actors’ comfort above everything and thinks that building trust between these two is the first step. One night, he had them come in for two and a half hours for just character work and trust-building activities. In this time “they went from being practically strangers to having a lot of trust in each other,” Graham said. 


Photo Courtesy of NUStage // Claire Pettit

The whole team commits a lot of time to the show, and with only eight weeks of rehearsal for the main stage, it seems very daunting. “Initially, to an unfamiliar eye, it seems very hectic,” Graham said. His solution is planning. Ben and Hayden created a strategy and stuck to it. Rehearsals are from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weeknights and include running songs, blocking scenes, and learning choreography.


When asked what is going to set his production of “Spring Awakening” apart from the rest, Hayden was quick to respond. “It is more theatrical,” he explained, also noting that their ensemble is much bigger than the usual size. “This allows for bigger dance numbers and more intricate scenes.” Hayden felt it was important not to censor the script as other schools tend to do, something that would be pretty counterintuitive because the show itself is about the consequences of censoring. The show also focuses on the internal struggle or as Ben puts it: “what’s happening in someone’s head versus what’s happening on the outside world.” That’s something we can all relate to. 


“Spring Awakening” will run from March 23 and 24 in Blackman Auditorium, tickets available on MyNortheastern!