The MSU presidential debate on Monday, Jan. 27 marked the final opportunity for candidates to publicly present their case to voters and attempt to shift the balance.

No new promises were made, but the tone of the debate was more critical than last week's debate. While Brodka and Saull seemed to be frontrunners in the first debate on Thursday, Jan 23, some candidates emerged at Monday's debate as thoughtful and well-spoken contenders, particularly Russell.

Russell impressive

Of all candidates, Russell looked the most comfortable in front of viewers and, by far, sounded the least scripted.

When asked who they think deserves second place, every candidate, except herself, said that Russell would get their vote if they weren’t running.

Though Russell was personable, she had very little time to answer questions about her own platform and explain to voters they ought to support it. Most of her time was spent questioning other candidates and handing them a chance to elaborate on their own platforms.

Russell stayed poised as all of the candidates went after the early leaders—Saull and Brodka. While candidates interrogated Saull and Brodka, Russell shone as likeable and fairly unopposed. She closed saying "I'm asking for your vote if maybe you haven't felt heard before, if maybe you've felt that your lens doesn't matter. I'm asking for your vote if you've ever felt like you needed more support."

Ali and Wolwowicz improve

Israa Ali and Jason Wolwowicz both had their work cut out for them after an underwhelming performances in the first debate.

Ali clearly presented herself as the non-status-quo candidate. She also drew on personal experience while talking to the audience and spoke about being overlooked and underestimated as a Muslim women who wears a Hijab.

"It was brought to my attention that, because I wear the Hijab, or this head scarf, I'm not as appealing to the student population as the rest of the candidates are, and I may not even win or have a chance," said Ali. "I am a student just like you and I have struggles just like you."

Her confidence showed improvement and she referenced her MSU experience more heavily than before.

Wolwowicz was a strong speaking presence in this debate and was able to remain concise. Wolwowicz, in this debate, showed himself as researched and smart but still held on to his theme of leaving big decisions up to the student body.

"Engaging the student community more is key. Students have fantastic ideas. The MSU really only sees success because of student ideas...Services were implemented because they were student ideas at some point," said Wolwowicz.

Brodka and Saull staying afloat

Saull remained relatively likeable but did not improve much from the first debate and Brodka kept his remarks vague and wordy, trying to keep his reputation as the knowledgeable candidate.

Brodka and Saull politely battled each other for most of the debate, attempting to poke holes in the other’s platform. Neither of them was more impressive than the other and they both neglected to opportunity to criticize Russell or make any meaningful pleas to voters.

Brodka attacked Saull's off-campus security plan, citing redundancies or possible lack of demand.

"I just have a lot of questions about a variety of sub-points... if there's a demand for this," said Brodka. "For example, 'an increased police presence.' I know the University already pays up to $200,000* on specialized policing surrounding the University, so I just have a lot of questions."

Saull, again, was critical of Brodka's freedom credit point, saying it hadn't been researched properly.

"You had a consultation with a Dean, who said it worked. If you call a Dean and ask how his pilot project went, I think that that would be a biased sample," said Saull.

It seemed as though they were each just trying to hold on.

Voting time

Online voting opened Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 9 a.m. and will close on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 5 p.m. Students eligible to vote are registered in 18 units or more and should receive a code to vote at mcmaster.simplyvoting.com.

*number clarified later on Twitter

Silhouette editors interviewed each presidential candidate on camera about things you may not have known just by reading their platform. You can also find the videos on our YouTube channel, McMaster Silhouette.

An underwhelming MSU Presidential debate resulted in no clear winner and a missed opportunity for candidates to sway voters. The Silhouette hosted and live-streamed an hour-long debate on Jan. 23, allowing candidates to question and defend their platforms. Despite more than an hour of questions and answers candidates brought little to the table in terms of new messages or back-and-forth debate.

When given the chance to critique competitors' platforms, most of the panel questioned Jacob Brodka and, to a lesser extent, Teddy Saull. Brodka and Saull levied their harshest criticisms and most pointed questions at each other.

Candidates question Saull and Brodka 

Saull stood up well to the pressure. He knew his platform but had trouble remaining concise and getting his point across in a fixed amount of time. He also mixed in humour and light-heartedness with thoughtful comments.

Saull chose to focus his talking points on the pillar of his campaign—building community—along with touting his idea to freeze the MSU fee at its current rate.

“All of my platform points come down to community and how do we draw students in in a way that is easy and is exciting for them?” he said.

Saull demonstrated weakness, but also honesty, when he admitted to lacking in financial knowledge and experience. He made no mention as to how he could cope with that as the MSU President. He did, however, take to the opportunity to express pride in being out of the MSU and SRA bubble.

“I’ve spent my time at McMaster on the ground with students: as a CA, as a TA, and I think that will allow me to be sitting in that seat and to always be thinking ‘how does this come back to the student population,’” said Saull.

Jacob Brodka, composed and prepared, dealt with criticism with more tact than Saull, but perhaps in a less charming way. His statements never felt rushed and he consistently made his point within small windows of time.

As a panelist, Brodka seemed experienced, well-versed in the operation of the MSU, and comfortable on camera, but was less adept at engaging viewers and maintaining charisma.

Brodka’s message centred on his freedom credit platform point, participatory budgeting and allowing students to drive positive change.

“I want students to submit their concepts and ideas…I want them to share with us how we can improve campus…I think that’d be a great way to improve student life,” said Brodka.

When candidates pointed out what they believed were holes in his platform, such as the lack of a mental health platform point, Brodka responded strongly.

“Despite the fact that certain things may not appear in a candidates platform, that doesn’t mean that you’re not consciously aware of the efforts that are currently being put forward…The MSU is currently working on a mental health policy,” Brodka said.

Russell appeals to students

Jyssika Russell proved to be down-to-earth and personable in the debate. Though her platform faced criticism, she addressed students more personally and sounded less scripted than other candidates.

While most candidates address concerns that cater to the “involved” student, Russell made a concerted effort to appeal to those outside the MSU bubble.

“We need to be making sure that we have places where we can also make a lot of meaningful contact,” said Russell.

That proved to be a poignant statement, as both Wolwowicz and Saull jumped on board and agreed.

Russell’s most significant criticisms centred on plans that candidates saw as redundant. Other candidates pointed to her inclusion council and Art Crawl bus ideas as unnecessary, saying these needs can be met by other MSU bodies and the HSR.

Ali and Wolwowicz miss opportunity to make an impact

Israa Ali and Jason Wolwowicz each got their campaigns off to a slower start than other candidates and did not effectively use the debate to catch up.

Ali was, at times, lost in the speed of the debate and seemed the least confident of the candidates. Her speaking tone was professional but seemed stiff and rehearsed at times.

Ali was, however, the only candidate to address concerns of spiritual groups on campus, especially with regards to creating a spirituality centre.

“The spirituality centre has been a conversation starter ever since 2004 and it’s been needed for a lot of different faith groups on campus, even for those without faith,” said Ali.

Wolwowicz demonstrated confidence and charm but relied heavily on his notes, anecdotes and elaboration. He also tended to be long-winded in his answers.

His “Bright Idea” program fell under the radar among candidates at the debate. Brodka’s and Saull’s similar platform points saw much more talk time.

Wolwowicz's strongest moment came when lobbing criticism against the peer tutoring proposals put forward by Brodka and Saull.

“I understand we have a surplus, and we have money to spare right now. However, I don’t see how that’s affordable,” said Wolwowicz.

For both Ali and Wolwowicz equal speaking time did not result in equal impact.

Candidates address audience questions

To close the debate, candidates took questions from the live-streaming audience (beginning at 00:52:40 in the video). Many viewers wanted to hear the candidates weigh in on the scandal surrounding McMaster's engineering Redsuits organization and their "songbook."

The candidates agreed that the words found in the cheers are inappropriate but not representative of the engineering community as a whole.

Saull, Brodka and Ali supported the University's decision given the information that was available at the time of the debate. Russell denounced the songbook but did not directly comment on the decision to suspend the Redsuits.

Wolwowicz denounced the songbook but added, "having been a welcome week representative as well, I think we should have a little more discussion before condemning all engineering students who might be reps as well."

Going forward

An MSU-sponsored debate will take place on Monday, Jan 27 at 12:00 p.m. and take place in the atrium of the McMaster University Student Centre.

Online polling will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 28, Wednesday, Jan 28 and Thursday, Jan 30.

We live streamed and hosted an all-candidate MSU presidential debate on Jan. 23. Find our analysis here and the full video below.

The candidates sat down with the Silhouette to talk platform, criticisms and why they're fit for the job.

Click on a candidate's photo or name to take you to our analysis of their campaign so far.

 

 

 

 

Israa Ali
Jacob Brodka
Jyssika Russell
Teddy Saull
Jason Wolwowicz

Click on a candidate's name to jump to their submissions to the Sil. Each candidate was given a 600-word limit to express why McMaster students should vote for them.

Israa Ali
Jacob Brodka
Jyssika Russell
Teddy Saull
Jason Wolwowicz

Israa Ali

Creating spaces for equity, enhancement, engagement and in essence everyone to not only be heard but recognized, is truly what I stand for.
Passion and embracing challenges are two fundamental aspects of who I am as an individual. The vision I carry forward encapsulates a variety of student voices that if brought forward, will doubtlessly enhance student life on campus.

My platform points outline different issues with the primary focus going back to addressing this concern: creating spaces for you.

The “Everyone” pillar touches on the need to revisit ancillary fees and assess their value to students. For instance, when an average full-time student, out of 20,000 others, pays about $250 to the Athletics and Recreation centre, equating to about $4 million dollars collectively every year, we need to question whether each student is truly receiving value for their money and act accordingly. The pillar further elaborates on ensuring the availability of food ingredient labelling across the different eateries on campus. Surprising we don’t already have this despite the many dietary/religious/cultural restrictions students have. Exam Welcome Day as a de-stressor in March and subsidized costs of graduation photos are also other things I am sincerely passionate for.

The “Enhancement” pillar revolves around modifying the catering rules for student groups at Bridges Café, which was originally built with the intent of bridging the gap between the different diverse backgrounds and food happens to be an essential component. This is a strategic approach to decrease the monopoly of Paradise Catering on campus. Another enhancing aspect is to establish a base for a spirituality centre on campus. I have critically analyzed different ideas of where this space can exist. It’s definitely feasible if enough pressure and commitment are in place. After all, nine years ago, an entire vegetarian restaurant came to life on campus, all because of students’ voices coming together and enough work from the MSU. The potential is there. Within this platform as well, there needed to be space to enhance the learning and academic experience of students, more so from the research aspect. The idea behind the MSU Research Awards is to work collaboratively with the different faculties and hold a campus-wide research symposium, however logistically feasible the supervisors think it would be.

The “Equity” and “Engagement” pillars further revolve around issues we as students can relate to. I invite you to visit me at the table behind Timmies to ask me for more details on them or have a chat over anything you like. I would absolutely love the opportunity to share with you my thoughts.

And beyond any other label, I am a student just like you. What makes me different is that I care, a lot.

 

Jacob Brodka

My decision to come to McMaster was an easy one. As soon as I had an opportunity to experience the incredible sense of community on campus, I was sold. The amount of energy and passion I continue to see from students each and every day motivates me to want to make a difference.

From buying a cup of coffee at Union Market to printing off our assignments at Underground - whether we realize it or not, the majority of us interact with the MSU through its services each and every day. Aside from this interaction - the MSU gives us as students a direct role in improving student experience and driving change. In putting together my platform I wanted to make sure that I built something that students could not only connect to, but is also feasible and practical within the term of the MSU President.

I decided to focus on three main areas: Student Life, Academics, and Communication.

For student life I wanted to focus on celebrating and expanding school pride and community relations. I am also interested in taking steps towards improving term two programming - specifically Frost Week.

Academics is the reason why we are all here to begin with, yet it is often something overlooked in a Presidential campaign - especially from a service perspective. With my platform I wanted to encourage students to explore new academic interests by implementing “Freedom Credit” pass/fail course options. I want to create a service for affordable peer-to-peer academic support and at the same time bridge the gap between the MSU and faculty societies.

Communication is key. I truly believe that student ideas are the fuel that helps ensure the MSU continues to provide amazing opportunities and experiences for all those it represents. I want to take the power of student ideas even further by giving you the ability to be part of the decision making process through participatory project budgeting.

In making my platform I aimed to create something that was feasible within a one-year term. A lack of information about research or consultation in regards to platform implementation is a major oversight. I want students to know that what I am proposing was the result of hours of research and conversation with the people who have the power to turn talk into action.

Students need a president who not only has good ideas, but also has a strong knowledge of the organization in which they want to lead. The majority of the MSU President’s job is not implementing their platform but filled with meetings, conversations, and events that require a holistic view of the MSU and its services and governance.

Through my involvement with the MSU and other university departments, I am confident I have the experience and understanding to ensure continuity and introduce positive change.

To learn more, I encourage you to check out my website: www.brodka14.com

 

Jyssika Russell

I envision a campus that’s equitable, inclusive, and accessible.

It’s time for the MSU to focus on the needs of those belonging to marginalized communities, or not otherwise represented by the Student Representative Assembly. The MSU should strive to get a better understanding of student issues on campus beyond academics.

As it stands, representation within the MSU is limited to just our faculties. But we all know that we’re more than that. Students have individual needs, concerns and issues on campus that need to be addressed in different manners.

While faculty division might be an easy and effective way to vote on organizational policies, we also need other venues for students to speak up about issues of equity on campus.
I’m advocating for the creation of an Inclusion Council, which will meet with the MSU President to discuss matters of equity, inclusivity and accessibility. This Council will serve as a window into the myriad of individual student needs and bringing these matters to the attention of the MSU.

Over the last two years, with the help of last year’s VP Education, Huzaifa Saeed, the MSU has been talking about mental health issues on campus, and attempting to “stomp out the stigma.” For far too long we’ve been raising awareness about these issues and failing to implement tangible solutions.

We need to address some of the roots of mental health concerns, and find avenues to improve support for students.

The primary source of support for students with mental health issues on campus is the Student Wellness Centre. However, some students have to face month-long waiting periods between appointments. Additionally, same-day mental health appointments are only offered for first time use. We need to have more counsellors at the SWC to reflect this growing student need.

The Peer Support Line is doing a wonderful job at reaching out to students and providing support. However, we need to be cognizant of the fact that not everyone feels comfortable calling in. In collaboration with other services which provide peer support, like the Student Health Education Centre and the Queer Students Community Centre, a text-based peer support system should be put in place to provide more accessible support options.

There are also ways for the MSU to be proactive in helping students overcome barriers that can lead to mental health crises. For example, a low income student whose OSAP is late will have a hard time collecting funds to pay for tuition, courseware, food and rent. The implementation and advertisement of an accessible emergency loan with students in mind would lessen the burden of a financial crisis. In turn, removing this major source of stress would have a positive impact on a student’s mental health.

Another stressful time for students is tax season. In the past, the MSU had a tax consultant on campus to help students with the completion and filing of their taxes. It saw strong usage during its original implementation, however, the program was poorly advertised later, and the service was discontinued. Tax season is stressful for many students, and can be a complicated process. Re-implementing this program with proper advertisement would lessen the stress associated with this period of time.

As a part-time manager of the MSU, implementing solutions, building community, and providing students with the support they need has been my job. Over the last two years in this position, I’ve interacted one-on-one with hundreds of students.

My platform isn’t only a list of things that could make our experience at McMaster better. These are things we need.

 

Teddy Saull

“The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  - T.S. Eliot

Amidst the exciting chaos of this campaign, I find myself reflecting on how things have changed so dramatically since I arrived at McMaster almost four years ago.

In a word, my first year was confusing. I couldn’t see where I fit in to the puzzle that was “the McMaster community”—just a small fish in a big pond. I believe this is true for many, and that it isn’t just a first year thing.

Today, I walk the same paths and sit in the same buildings. I eat the same food and I hear the same bells ringing from Divinity College. The McMaster experience hasn’t changed much, but the feeling has.

Now I’m connected, involved and excited. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve formed and experiences I’ve had. As an MSU Presidential candidate, I’m relentlessly dedicated to bringing this feeling of connectivity to our entire student body.

My platform is powerful in its simplicity. It’s tangible and well informed. But it’s not everything. It’s not just promises of a bigger frost week, a new website or an opportunity to have your say in MSU spending. It’s an opportunity to prioritize community and to make it matter.

As voters consider the different candidates, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, I’d like to advise a note of caution. Challenge the depth of experience and the meaning of consultation that seem to promise a safe vote in other candidates. Differentiate between talking about student issues and dealing with them, and ask yourself where each candidate falls on that spectrum.

The bottom line is that this campaign is a job application and the 20,000+ students at McMaster are the hiring managers. While I see value in the ideas brought forth by the other candidates, I wouldn’t have run for this position if I didn’t believe I was, without a shred of doubt, the most qualified applicant. Read my story, review my CV and reflect on my philosophy (available at www.teddysaull.com). It’s all there. It’s experience where it matters: with students, for students and about students.

All that said, thank you for making it this far in an article about student politics. I appreciate the past 3-minutes of your time (reading speed may vary, but thanks either way).

 

Jason Wolwowicz

Hi there McMaster, thank you for taking the time to read this article. Hopefully it will give you more insight about myself and shed some light as to why I am a relevant candidate for the position of MSU President.

I am pleased to see the diverse selection of candidates running for President of the McMaster Student Union. In fact, I have had the pleasure of working with all of them in some way, shape or form within the last year and I admire their drive and determination.

With that said, I strongly believe that my wide variety of experience at McMaster is what sets me apart from my fellow candidates. My time as an active member of the Student Representative Assembly, MSU Executive Board, Finance Committee and Sponsorship and Donations Committee has helped me develop valuable knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the services we provide to students. It has also allowed me to recognize the areas in which improvements need to be made.

However, it is not only my time with the MSU that has been valuable. I have assisted with Welcome Week as a Residence Orientation Rep for the last three years. Since this past summer, I have also had the opportunity to work with students and staff through dedicated working groups, in an effort to increase the experiential and interdisciplinary options for our students. For after all, a comprehensive education is the reason we are all here.

When deciding what points to include in my platform, I had to reflect on the diverse needs of our University. The result was a variety of realistic projects inspired by student feedback, and I invite you to read through it.

I have been asked by some students why I did not include a point regarding Equity in my platform. I would like to clarify that by no means is this ignorance towards the issue. My reasoning is as follows: There is simply no one solution. Instead, I firmly believe that every presidential candidate should attempt to foster an equitable learning environment in all the initiatives that they undertake with the assistance of our resources such as the MSU’s Diversity Services, the QSCC, the up-and-coming Women & Gender Equity Center and the many important clubs on campus.

It has been an absolute pleasure having the opportunity to meet so many of you and I am hopeful that we will see a record number of students voting this year. So please check all the candidates platforms and come meet us all as well, for we should be voting not only for the platform, but for the individual who best represents our community.

This is a call to all undergraduate students at Mac. Remember that you are not just a number, but a student with dreams, goals, ambitions and the power to make this important decision for the future of our University.

The choice is yours McMaster.

The Wolwowicz campaign got off to a slow start after suffering website troubles for the first days of the race, but the team is working hard to spread the “not just a number” message and promote their platform.

The platform itself consists, mostly, of undeveloped ideas that call for student feedback.

Wolwowicz wants to ensure that a variety of study environments exist on campus. His plan is to gather feedback from students and figure out what types of spaces are most in need. Whether that results in more demand for quiet space, group study rooms, or private cubicles, Wolwowicz would rearrange current study spaces to meet those needs.

“It’s really about getting student feedback and tailoring the space that we have to make students happy,” he said.

This may be his most specific platform point.

His plans for “increasing experiential education options,” and adding an end of year celebration both look to the students for direction.

Wolwowicz seeks to ensure that each faculty organizes committees to think of new ideas for education options and encourage students to take courses outside of their faculty.

His hope for an end of year celebration would also be in the hands of the student body.

“Let’s give the students a chance to give ideas,” he said.

Wolwowicz has spoken to Campus Events about the idea and been assured that the money is there.

Despite not having a budget or knowing what the event would be, he is confident that the celebration would occur. It would take place between the end of classes and the start of exams in the spring.

“It would be completely up to Campus Events and the students; It could be a concert or interactive event, or anything,” he said.

Wolwowicz’s Bright-Idea program is an idea similar to those of Teddy Saull and Jacob Brodka. It is a system where students submit, and subsequently review, ideas for new ways to improve campus or student life. A new idea would go through committee and be chosen by students each term.

Unlike Saull’s or Brodka’s plan, the Wolwowicz incarnation of the idea seems more hopeful than practical. He has not placed a cap on the amount of money these projects can receive, nor does he know exactly where the money will come from.

Jason Wolwowicz is likeable and engaging, but his ideas may have more words than substance. It remains to be seen whether students will vote for a leader with his or her own ideas, or choose the candidate who will be asking for their’s.

Campaign catchphrase: Not just a number
Year/Program: Fourth-year French and political science
Who he would vote for: Jyssika Russell
Most ambitious platform point: Increasing experiential education options
Point he’s most critical of: People who have ‘inclusion’ and ‘equity’ in their platform. They should simply be givens, and to make them a platform point is redundant.

A member of Israa Ali's campaign team adds a poster to a wall in MUSC beside posters of Teddy Saull and Jacob Brokda.

Campaigning may have only been officially happening for a few hours, but it's been an eventful day for MSU presidential hopefuls.

Already, Thulashini Sooriyadas has dropped out of the race. The third-year geography student pulled out of the election for unknown reasons. She could not be reached for comment. Sooriyadas is an event coordinator for Free the Children at McMaster and an executive on the McMaster Creative Arts Dance Team.

For the five remaining candidates, it's been a day filled with putting posters up all around campus and launching websites and Facebook pages supporting their campaign.

Jacob Brodka and Teddy Saull both started the day strong. Websites for Brodka and Saull were the first to go live. Jyssika Russell has promised a forthcoming site, jyss.ca, on her facebook page.

So far, Israa Ali and Jason Wolwowicz have not launched websites or Facebook pages.

Update (Jan. 20): Jyssika Russell's website is now live and Israa Ali's website has been launched but is not yet filled with content.

Five students are in the running to become the next president and CEO of the McMaster Students Union. Initially, six candidates were announced at a meeting on Jan. 17 in Council Chambers. One candidate, Thualshini Sooriyadas, pulled out of the race on Sunday, Jan. 19, the first day of campaigning.

Israa Ali is a fourth-year life science student and the MSU Diversity Services director. She is a co-chair of the McMaster President's Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community.

 

 

Jacob Brodka, a third-year life science student, is running for a second consecutive time. Brodka is a 2013-14 SRA science representative and services commissioner for the MSU. He is the transition program coordinator for the Student Success Centre.

 

 

 

Jyssika Russell is a fourth-year biology student and the director of the Queer Students Community Centre (QSCC) on campus.

 

 

 

Teddy Saull is a fourth-year psychology, neuroscience and behaviour student. He is an IntroPsych teaching assistant and an academic experience advisor.

 

 

 

Thulashini Sooriyadas, a third-year geography student, pulled out of the race on Jan. 19, the first day of campaigning. She is an event coordinator for Free the Children at McMaster and an executive on the McMaster Creative Arts Dance Team.

 

 

 

Jason Wolwowicz is a fourth-year French and political science student. He is a 2013-14 SRA humanities representative, sits on the MSU executive board, and is the vice-president of McMaster Musical Theatre.

 

 

Each candidate has a $600 budget for campaigning funded by the MSU. According to election rules, candidates are not allowed to campaign door-to-door or post campaign material on Avenue2Learn or LearnLink. Candidates who campaign on Facebook will be restricted to doing so on their own page dedicated to the election. Voting, to take place online, will begin on Jan. 28 at 12 p.m. and end Jan. 30 at 5 p.m.

Photos by Tyler Welch / Senior News Editor

TheSil.ca will be home to continuing coverage of the election leading up to the voting results on Jan. 30. Follow us @theSilhouette and use #MSUpres14 to join the discussion on Twitter.

A refrain throughout the hit musical Spring Awakening is the melancholy verse,

“O, I’m gonna be wounded / I’m gonna be your wound / I’m gonna bruise you / you’re gonna be my bruise.” These poignant lines capture the pain of love and life; a pain that McMaster Musical Theatre’s production of the controversial play powerfully portrays.

Set in Germany circa 1892, Spring Awakening chronicles the struggles of sexually censored and socially oppressed young adults who express their anxieties and frustration in modern rock musical numbers. The clash between setting and musical style in the production, which is directed by Mac student Brad Dunn, is refreshing and gives the issues the characters experience timeless relevance.

And what a slew of issues they face. In a mere two hours, Spring Awakening covers incest, masturbation, child sexual abuse, suicide, queer sexuality, domestic violence, teen pregnancy and abortion. It’s an ambitious agenda, and can be both dislocating and exhausting for the audience. With so many heavy subjects to cover, not enough time can be afforded to each, leaving some depth to be desired as the play jumps from one topic to another.

Stringing the tragedies together into a linear plotline is the doomed teenage couple of Wendla and Melchior. Played sensitively and sang beautifully by Haley Midgette and Shane Bowley, this ill-fated pair suffer more than their fair share of sadness. In the context of a society that demands innocence and ignorance, this duo find each other and unintentionally shake up the status quo of their conservative town.

Their friend Mortiz, commandingly portrayed by the immensely talented Jason Wolwowicz, is also haunted by sex, family relationships and ultimately suicide. His story, along with that of several supporting subplots, covers vast territory in the world of teenage tribulations.

Amidst the heavy drama, it’s the beauty of the musical numbers and the moments of comic relief that prevent the show from being bogged down by its subject matter and keep it within the sphere of entertainment.

Expert choreography by Jennifer Enchin makes each song visually engaging and assists in powerfully conveying such significant messages. A sparse set design also makes the dance and dramatic physicality feel natural to the scenes.

The band behind the musical numbers also deserves commendation. Their well-chosen placement upstage in clear view of the audience adds interest to the background of the set and better fosters audience appreciation on the live music that they’re hearing.

Putting on a production of Spring Awakening is an act of bravery. It’s not commonplace to have sex, domestic violence, suicide, a gay makeout scene and group masturbation all explicitly take place on stage, never mind to be able to pull it off.

But somehow, McMaster Musical Theatre takes a heavy, complicated show, and does just that.

 

Spring Awakening continues this weekend in Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 103) on Friday at 2 p.m. (8 p.m. is sold out), Saturday at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. (8 p.m. is sold out). Tickets are $12 for students, $20 for general admission and $25 for on-stage seating. Email mmt.tickets@gmail.com to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets at the door.

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