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PREVIEW: Artistry’s Return to the Stage: Songs for a New World

It’s been a year and a half since Artistry closed its doors in Bloomington, Minnesota as pandemic shutdowns swept the country. When they reopen on Friday, the company faces a different world: one without Producing Artistic Director Benjamin McGovern, who stepped down in May after six seasons; one with a public commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility – including raised minimum pay scales for everyone onstage and backstage; one with the contemporary logistics of mask-wearing, COVID-19 cleaning, and requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result for entry..

It is fitting, then, that Artistry’s 2021-2022 season opens with Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World. This unusual show – something of a song cycle, something of a revue of original song – explores important decision moments in the lives of a colorful cast of characters. Unusually, Artistry’s production is co-directed by a triple team: Vanessa Brooke Agnes, Colleen Somerville, and Max Wojtanowicz.

The modular structure of the songs and vignettes in Songs for a New World have made it a popular pandemic choice around the world – easy to isolate different cast members, easy to rehearse separate numbers simultaneously, and allowing a variable cast size. Artistry’s cast consists of nine actors: Elise Benson, Deidre Cochran, Joshua Hinck, Brandon A. Jackson, Rajané Katurah, Dwight Leslie, Joey Miller, Janely Rodriguez, and Elly Stahlke. The creative team includes Karin Olson (Lighting Design), Katie Phillips (Scenic Concept), Maureen Sherman-Mendez (Wardrobe Styling), Rachael Rhoades (Stage Manager), and Nicholas Tranby (Sound Design), with music direction by Anita Ruth.

Songs for a New World plays September 10–26, 2021 at the Bloomington Center for the Arts’ Schneider Theater.

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