Illustration by Fiona Kuzmack

Pio Grooves: Journie Ma-Johnson (’18) Talks Spring Awakening

By Iris Shanks /// Staff Writer


First of all, take a  moment as you’re reading this and look around. If you’re within shouting-distance of any of the talented actors or musicians who performed in “Spring Awakening” the past couple of weekends, you should definitely shout “Good job!” at them. Done? Okay, you can keep reading now.

This week’s Pio is Journie Ma-Johnson (‘18), who played Wendla Bergmann, the female lead of the show. Despite the ease with which she performed the part of Wendla, Ma-Johnson had trouble connecting to some of the music at first.

“‘Mama Who Bore Me’” is about a girl wanting to know how babies are made, and she wants to know why she is the way she is… like, why does she suddenly have boobs coming out of her chest? That was something that was hard for me because when I asked my mom where babies came from she rented a video called ‘The Miracle of Life’ or something.”

She continues, “Once I was able to think of it as a song about a girl who is asking her mom to give her more––give her knowledge (she’s reaching out the only way she knows how to)––then it was easier. It’s about trying to find the parts of yourself that match your character, then amplifying those parts.,” Ma-Johnson said.

Particularly on a sex-savy campus like Lewis & Clark, the sheltered lives that the children of “Spring Awakening” lead are appalling––or at least, difficult to imagine. Portraying them believably onstage? It seems like a challenge, to say the least. Ma-Johnson was able to break down the specifics and connect with her on a deeper level.

Despite the major differences between LC Life and turn of the century Germany, the music of “Spring Awakening” mainly falls under the alt-rock genre, with a few dips into punk and folk, and was much easier for Ma-Johnson to connect to. “Whenever I wanna have a good time I’ll put on pop music because it’s a lot of fun.  I’m also really into The Cure, Nirvana, a lot of older bands like The Smiths, but I’m really into metal, which they don’t have in Spring Awakening.”

These tastes fall right in with the movement of the production: “A lot of it is supposed to look kind of punk rock and angsty–– the choreographer wanted us to bring a lot of our own energy into it so a lot of the choreography was given mostly as an outline––not too exact.”

The music does a lot to make the show relatable to those of us who don’t know much about (or care for) musical theater. Take “Totally Fucked,” one of Ma-Johnson’s top two. She adds, “I think that every person has felt that way at some point in their life.”

For me, I always put it on before I have a hard test coming up and I’m feeling totally fucked.”  Or “I Don’t Do Sadness”: “I’ve struggled with a lot of the same things that Moritz’s character struggled with in that song, so that scene is really beautiful and really rough for me, but also really cathartic.”

There is a song in there for everyone, so if you couldn’t make the show, check out the music and keep groovin’, Pios.

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