photo collage from Annie, Fantastics, and Chicago of characters reading news

Director’s Notes

Why Spring Awakening?

In years previous, we have been inundated with sorrow and despair, so why do a musical which perpetuates those feelings? Don’t we need a show filled with light rather than darkness? Laughs rather than tears?

When I watch our wonderful actors tell the story of Spring Awakening, I am struck not by the sorrow…but by the hope. At first glance, it’s a show about the infantilization of the disabled community and the dangers of un-shepherded sexual discovery. Sure…there are many tears to be shed in it, but it contains an overall message of communal hope. When this provincial town in 19th century Germany fails its youth, these children answer by picking up the pieces and creating a community of love, support and most importantly, hope.

34 years ago, Phamaly was born from a place of pain. A group of actors were literally shut out of an artistic community because of the way they looked. It would have been very easy for these actors to say, “Oh well, guess this whole acting thing isn’t for people like me.” But they didn’t. They took the shit that the world had placed in front of them and they created a community based around the principles of love, acceptance, and hope.  A community that was endlessly devoted to the joys of humanity rather than the struggle to survive.

The fact that Phamaly has thrived throughout those 34 years is a testament to just how important this institution is. And while many of the artists you are about to see are part of a new wave of Phamaly actors, the founders’ mission remains at the core of our values. Watching a new swath of Phamaly actors acting alongside one of the original founders, Kathleen Traylor, and sharing in that founding message of this company has been an immeasurable joy. When everywhere you turn you see is junk…you have two choices: you can build a trash heap or you can create something beautiful.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope you take in the beauty and majesty of Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s Spring Awakening. Enjoy the show.


Ben Raanan, Director & Artistic Director