Though Bryn Mawr resident Dawn Morningstar has been a choreographer for most of her life, this summer's Philadelphia-based production of the rock musical Spring Awakening presented her new challenges.
"It's one of the most challenging shows I’ve ever done," said Morningstar, who loves the original choreography but feared imitation would not do it justice. "Some shows are outdated, but this one is not very old—it's from 2006."
The 42-year-old Morningstar said she worked organically with the actors to cater to their strengths and made adjustments to the choreography as needed.
"There's beautiful music, a really interesting concept, a lot of conflict—incest, adolescent suicide, depression and adolescent feelings coming out in different ways," she said.
Morningstar said she got involved with Philadelphia-based Mazeppa Productions through her friend Rob Henry, who started the company last year. Henry, interestingly, brought Spring Awakening—originally set in Germany in the 1800s—to 1950s America, she said.
"The reasoning for that is that the 1950s are seen as the last age of innocence in the U.S.," Morningstar said. "But sort of what people imagine the '50s to be like is not really how it was. Bad stuff happened."
In addition to her work at Mazeppa, Morningstar works part-time at Upper Darby Summer Stage, Bala Cynwyd Middle School, Lower Merion High School, Radnor High School and City Theater Company in Wilmington, DE. She also is a dance therapist part-time at Drexel University and at Philadelphia Family Court.
"Some people work full-time," Morningstar said. "I just work part-time at a lot of different things."
They've received mostly positive feedback from people who have seen the show, which debuted July 11, Morningstar said.
"I think the new concept throws people, especially people who are used to original Spring Awakening, but once they get over that, in a way, they really love it," Morningstar said. "Then there's the feedback from people who have never seen the show, older people, who say, 'that was my childhood experience. I remember we couldn’t talk about sex.' "
She's also gotten feedback about her choregraphy specifically, and some people interpreted it differently even than she imagined.
"I love artwork—that it speaks to people in different ways," she said. "One of the missions of Mazeppa is that we do it in a little bit of a different way and try something a little bit unique. I'm happy we’re getting that kind of feedback."
The show runs at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday, July 28 at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Philadelphia. Tickets are limited and are available here.