Following innovative productions of musicals like "Pippin" and "Big River" that were performed simultaneously in English and American Sign Language, Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles has set its sights on a more contemporary theatrical crowdpleaser: "Spring Awakening," the Tony Award-winning rock musical with a score by Duncan Sheik.
Deaf West announced on Monday that it is planning to produce "Spring Awakening" in September at Inner-City Arts in downtown L.A. An opening date of Sept. 13 has been set, though the production is still looking to raise money through a Kickstarter campaign.
Michael Arden, the actor who starred in Deaf West's productions of "Pippin" and "Big River," is directing "Spring Awakening" for the company. Arden said in a phone interview that rehearsals are already underway and that the fundraising campaign was launched in part because Deaf West isn't partnering with any big theater companies on the musical.
Both "Pippin" and "Big River" ran at the Mark Taper Forum, with the latter transferring to Broadway in 2003. (They were both directed by Jeff Calhoun.) Deaf West's production of "Sleeping Beauty Wakes" ran at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2007.
"Spring Awakening" opened on Broadway in 2006, running for more than two years and spawning a national tour. The rock musical, adapted from the play by Frank Wedekind, opened earlier that year at the off-Broadway Atlantic Theater Company.
Arden said that Inner-City Arts was chosen as a venue after a venue in Silver Lake fell through. He said that residents in Silver Lake objected to the production taking place at a nearby church.
Deaf West has traditionally presented plays and musicals in English and American Sign Language, with actors talking and signing at the same time. Casts have tended to be a mix of hearing and hearing-impaired actors.