Tony Award Winner Helps Students Prepare Spring Awakening

As Castleton Theater Arts and Music students prepare for their final major musical production of the spring semester, Spring Awakening, they were given a little extra inspiration after a campus visit from a fellow theater enthusiast.

Two-time Tony Award winner Duncan Sheik spent the day on campus on Friday, March 13 conducting an interactive workshop with students, lending guidance and production critiques.

“It’s really freeing to be able to write for a different persona other than yourself,” explained Sheik of his song writing experience to the crowd of students before lending them a small piece of performing advice. “Don't be afraid to be a little bit larger than life. Sing it as if you are in your bedroom singing to yourself.”

The American singer and songwriter, best known for his 1996 debut single, Barely Breathing, has gone on to an incredibly successful career as a composer for motion pictures and Broadway musicals such as the critically acclaimed Spring Awakening.

During his scheduled workshop, arranged by Director of the Castleton Fine Arts Center, Rich Cowden and Paramount Theater Programming Director Eric Malette, Duncan was able to give direction and play insight to the group of theater and music students.

“It’s a great experience to have him here giving us guidance,” said first-year student Garrett Robin, a cast member in the upcoming musical.

The cast was able to perform several scenes as Sheik watched on from the audience of Casella Theater. Robin explained that his presence while they performed was both nerve-wracking and exciting.

“We are performing a musical for a guy who wrote the music for it, that's a really big deal for us,” he said.

Spring Awakening won Tony Awards for “Best Orchestration” and “Best Original Score” (Music), as well as “Best Musical.” The original cast recording album received the Grammy Award in 2008 for “Best Musical Show Album,” and the guitar that Sheik used to compose songs for Spring Awakening is currently on display at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center.

Castleton’s presentation of Spring Awakening begins at 7 p.m. in the Casella Theater Wednesday, March 18 and runs through Saturday, March 21 with additional performances on Saturday March 21 and Sunday, March 22 at 2 p.m.

“Since it’s so close to opening night it was a great opportunity to show an almost-finished product to the person who wrote the very songs the students will perform next week,” Cowden said, adding that the department hopes to continue hosting such events to help further connect students with working professionals in the field.

“Having a two-time Tony winner on campus working with our theater and music students is our equivalent of the football team hosting an NFL quarterback at the stadium for a two-hour throwing clinic.”

Spring Awakening cast and band with composer Duncan Sheik.