Gavin Hawk received best directing honors for helming his first professional musical.
At a talkback after a performance the American Stage production of Green Day’s American Idiot, a first responder from New York City told the show’s director, Gavin Hawk, what it meant to see images of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, which were looped on a stack of televisions on the set as backdrop to the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”
“He said it was meaningful that we acknowledged that event,” says Hawk, a professor of theatre at Eckerd College. “We didn’t show the planes hitting the tower—only the rubble and ash. We didn’t want it to seem exploitative, but rather to embody the message of the song, which is about trying to pick up the pieces after a tragedy.”
On Jan. 23, American Idiot earned seven awards from the 2022 BroadwayWorld Tampa Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical for Hawk.
“It was validating,” he says. “This was my first professional musical. Winning increases my credibility in the community as a director who can do musicals.”
A former Eckerd professor, Mark Davis, recommended Hawk as the perfect director for American Idiot because he’s a southern California native who watched the band rise to prominence through the local scene before he set off on his own path to Juilliard.
“I have such a deep connection to that music and the time period. I just love that show,” Hawk says.
He credits the show’s success to the American Stage’s willingness to embrace his vision, no matter how kooky it seemed. Hawk’s concept was to make each song in the show look like its own individual music video, which used the whimsy of theatrical devices to illustrate the themes, instead of trying to replicate the realism regularly seen in television and movies.
For example, in a scene where a character and his girlfriend are shooting up heroin, Hawk requested a bubble machine from the creative team, to help create a dreamlike effect.
“They kind of did a double take at first, but then they just went along with it,” he says between laughs.
The results speak for themselves.
American Idiot was also awarded Best Choreography of a Play or Musical, Best Costume Design of a Play or Musical, Best Ensemble Performance, Best Lighting Design of a Play or Musical, and Best Scenic Design of a Play or Musical. The show ran from Sept. 7 to Sept. 24, 2022—the final week had to be canceled because of Hurricane Ian.
Hawk’s next big project is Spring Awakening The Musical at Eckerd College April 19–22. The pop rock musical set in 1890’s Germany will ask student actors to tell this classic coming of age story through song and dance.
The juxtaposition of the modern music against this repressive period makes for an interesting exploration of reality and fantasy,” Hawk says about his upcoming production.
Showtimes and ticket information for Spring Awakening are available at eckerd.edu/theatre/events.