By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter
When tickets went on sale for Billy Luce, Jr.’s production of “Spring Awakening,” all three shows sold out in four hours. Luce, a Needham native and senior at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has certainly made his mark on the UMass community - his show was so popular that people were upset and complaining that they weren’t given the chance to get tickets themselves.
Luce directed and produced the musical for his Capstone Honors Project, which was funded by the UMass Arts Council and an Honors Research Grant.
The musical is relatively new, with its Broadway premiere in 2006.
“I choose this show because I think the themes are very relevant, especially those of sexual education,” Luce explained. The show follows a group of 1890s provincial German adolescents and their struggle growing up in a time of sexual oppression. “I held auditions in December, and cast the show before December break,” Luce explained. “We started rehearsals the week after we came back from winter break. We’ve been rehearsing four to five times a week since then.”
Not only did Luce take on the role of director, but producer as well - a responsibility beyond what many understand. “I was in charge of also making sure everything came together,” he said. Luce watched over all of the logistical details, in addition to making sure the musical was put on in full.
The decision to direct was already a huge undertaking. Most students, as Luce explained, do research on a particular type of play or technique, which develops into a thesis. “Design people who are focused on that will create something, maybe a set design,” he elaborated. “One of my friends is doing an Honors Thesis Project and she’s doing a choreography piece called ‘The Body Project.’ I think it just so happens that there are two of us doing a show, but I think a lot more people do independent studies that grow into thesis projects instead of these entire blown out productions.”
In total, twenty-five people were involved in the show. “The cast is really talented - they’re all taking it so seriously and they’re all so committed and they’ve been so committed since the beginning of the show,” Luce said. “Sometimes, actors can take a while to warm up to the role and get into the mindset. These actors came in and completely embodied their characters, so that was a treat.”
After directing a show during his senior year of Needham High School, Luce felt that it was cyclical to do the same his last year at UMass. “It’s been a lot of work. I haven’t stopped since I began. I think I haven’t stopped thinking about it constantly since September.”
Despite all of that, however, Luce admits, “It’s been a lot of fun.”