Editor’s note: Tessa Gaffney appears in the Millennial Theatre Project’s production of ‘Spring Awakening,” which takes place Jan. 9 through 11 at Akron Civic Theatre.
“The question is: shame. What is its origin? And why are we hounded by its miserable shadow?”Melchior asks in “Spring Awakening.” This is a central theme in this story written over 100 years ago, infused with modern rock music, an adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s German play of the same name. It is a timeless tale of rebellion and rage and raw sexuality, in other words: adolescence.
Shame is the overwhelming feeling of being wrong, being a bad person, unworthy of love, broken. It is debilitatingon a personal level, but is instrumental for control—after all, if someone can convince you that what you think and feel is inherently immoral, what choice do you have but to submit to the authority of the one that cares enough for your wicked soul to point out your flaws?
Shame is a tool wielded by the powerful to maintain their position: It is a product of white supremacy that disgraces those who don’t live up to the promise of “whiteness” and prevents important conversations about systemic racial disparities.
It is a result of religious sex-policing, purity culture and abstinence-only education.
It is a state of mind manipulated by the rich to keep poor people competing with each other rather than uniting against a common enemy.
It is a learned response to how a parent treats and/or speaks to their child.
Shame is I’m a piece of shit and everyone knows it or it’s only a matter of time until they find out. Shame is I should not exist. Shame is the chasm between who you are and who you think you should be.
Shame encourages isolation and idolatry, making true human connection nearly impossible. It expands exponentially in the presence of secrecy, silence, and judgment.
But, empathy and honesty are the antidotes to shame. Radical acceptance of self and others. Looking at things clearly, loving them in their current state not in their potential. Spreading information, far and wide, starting with the ugliest facts and histories.
Let us admit our mistakes, apologize for misdeeds, and strive for improvement. Soak up the lessons of the past, bathe in the light of the present, and grow towards a more fulfilling future. Remember what it was like to be a teenager, to scream and stomp, to become newly aware of the bitch of living, if you will.
Let us laugh and cry and comfort each other for the absurdity and horror of being alive.
Oh, and come see the Millennial Theatre Project’s “Spring Awakening” at Akron Civic Theatre Jan. 9 through 11 at 8 p.m. Bring your angst, you’ll be in good company. You can buy tickets, which are $20, online at akroncivic.com, over the phone by calling (330) 253-2488, or in person at the box office Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Akron Civic Theatre is located at 182 S. Main St. in downtown Akron.