Learn More about the Show with Dramaturgy
Over the past three decades, the role of the dramaturg and literary manager has expanded in the United States and Canada alongside the increasing importance of contemporary playwriting.
Dramaturgy for Songs for a New World is supported in part by
A New World of Songs for 2022
I was fortunate to have been invited to the very first reading of Songs for a New World at Nola Studios in midtown Manhattan in the early 90s. The space was small, dank, and gritty, but I was immediately transported by Jason’s glorious score. I was a young 20-year-old actor and the show resonated with me deeply, even through much more innocent eyes. All these years later, I have seen how audiences have responded to this material, and how their reactions have evolved as well. It has been produced all over the world, and now, nearly three decades later… the show has taken on a completely different meaning for me. Just as potent. I have spent my entire adult life listening to these songs and following the journey of this show, so I am even more excited to direct it now… as a grown up… but most importantly, as someone whose story in this nation continues to evolve!
Traditionally, the show is done as a rather abstract song cycle. We have decided to approach this piece as 15 mini-musicals, with each song treated as its own sort of short story– a beautiful patchwork of tales only connected by the thematic and emotional strings that weave the piece together.
Thematically, I am intrigued by who the recipients of these stories might be, which begs the question… who do we feel comfortable opening up to, especially in times of crises and change? A family member? A friend? A therapist? A bartender? An old lover? A complete stranger? A higher power? How does the listener shape our stories?
These songs speak to our vulnerabilities, our imperfections, and our humanity, exploring those moments in life when everything seems perfect and then suddenly disaster strikes. When we are thrust into uncharted territory, what do we do? How do we move forward? It’s about the way we regroup and figure out how to survive in a new set of circumstances – a new world – even against seemingly overwhelming odds.
I am honored to be collaborating with the incredible team at Village Theatre and this extraordinary and diverse group of local artists. I am so excited to have a completely BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) cast to weave this tapestry of stories from each of our unique perspectives, breathing new life into what has become a modern musical theatre classic, putting our own definitive spin on this material in these tempestuous times.
These stories are cathartic. They are a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions, both funny and challenging, and in the end, we are left with hope. We are challenged to listen to that part of our hearts that we take with us every day– to the song that no one can take away. These are the melodies that will shape this world generation after generation. And perhaps…by truly listening to each other and trusting each other…we’ll be fine.
Enjoy the show!
By Ana Marίa Campoy, Dramaturg
Songs for a New World explores personal stories with emotional complexities, but one theme that continues to call my attention is how loss shapes these stories. Loss of a relationship, an identity, a child, or control. Many of Brown’s lyrics refer to natural disasters: cracks, blowing winds, or earthquakes to describe facing irreparable change or loss. All these events happening within us, implying that our internal landscape is never the same from that moment.
Grief forces us to sit with it. Like many of the song cycle’s characters, many of us have learned (and continue to learn) grief is a lifelong teacher that there is no way around, only through. The characters who struggle to confront their hurts reach out to others, trying to be pulled through it. Song after song, Brown demonstrates that hope arises in connection.
As we move through grief, those who hold space for us create possibilities. The possibility of healing, facing down obstacles, or embarking on new paths. Relationships and community provide us opportunity to reimagine—ourselves, our communities, and our world. We are not the same as the last time we gathered in this theatre—or any gathering space—from before the Covid-19 pandemic. This production might be your first time at a public gathering. We are glad you are here. On this planet and in this ephemeral box of imagination, connection, and sound.
You made it here. Listen to our song, we hope you shine.
What Do We Mean When We Say “A New World?”
(Some) Dramaturgy Notes and Research on Learning and Unlearning
By Ana Marίa Campoy, Dramaturg
When I hear the phrase “a new world”, two things come to mind. The first being, colonization—the assumption that settlers had (and continue to have) the land we preside on as not inhabited; invalidating the Indigenous Nations, whose people, languages, cultures, and practices existed across this continent for thousands of years. The invitation to learn and unlearn the stories and history of “the new world” expands our view of the land we walk, but also grows our hearts and empathy. The following are a few resources the Village Theatre artistic team explored while discussing this topic:
Documentary Film: Gather (available on Netflix). From the website, “Gather is an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political, and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide.”
TedTalk, Nikki Sanchez, Decolonization Is for Everyone
TedTalk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story
Interpedence: Global Solidarity and Local Actions, What is Decolonization, Why is it Important, and How can we Practice It?
After colonization, the other thought that comes to mind after hearing the phrase “a new world” is Grace Lee Boggs and her speech, ‘Reimagine Everything’. In both her activism and her philosophy, she challenges us to believe that our imaginations are capable of not only addressing our current issues, but revitalizing ourselves, our communities, and our work.
From ‘Reimagine Everything’:
“The time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to reimagine revolution and get beyond protest. We have to think not only about change in our institutions, but changes in ourselves. We are at the stage where the people in charge of the government and industry are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s up to us to reimagine the alternatives and not just protest against them and expect them to do better.
We are at the point of a cultural revolution in ourselves and in our institutions that is as far-reaching as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11,000 years ago, and from agriculture to industry a few hundred years ago. How do we reimagine education? How do we reimagine community? How do we reimagine family? How do we reimagine sexual identity? How do we reimagine everything in the light of a change that is so far reaching and is our responsibility to make? We have to think beyond capitalist categories. We can’t expect them to make it. We have to do the reimagining ourselves.”
We at Village Theatre want to recognize and honor the lives represented on stage in our production of Songs for a New World. The photos that we feature during “The Flagmaker” represent a small handful of the lives lost to gun violence and police brutality in America. We honor the mothers and their children and ask that you #saytheirnames. Learn more about their lives, and how to support their families and communities below.
Allison Jean, Mother of Botham Jean (26)
Botham “Bo” Shem Jean, born in Castries, Saint Lucia was the middle child to Allison and Betram Jean.
Those who knew him would readily describe him as a singer, a preacher, a leader and “the light in a dark room”.
To hear Allison speak to her son’s legacy and her hopes for the future in her own words, you can read more by visiting https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/News/botham-jeans-mother-time-black-person-killed-police/story?id=71668031
Botham’s previous employer Price Waterhouse Cooper and his alma mater, Harding University, established a scholarship program in his honor, which awards four global majority students pursuing a degree from the College of Business with $5000 dollars each. Donation can be made to the Botham Jean PwC Charitable Foundation Endowed Scholarship at https://www.harding.edu/give/botham-scholarships
His family created the Botham Jean Foundation, promoting social change while keeping in line with Botham’s Christian faith. You can learn more about this organization at https://bothamjeanfoundation.org/mission/. Donations can be made at https://bothamjeanfoundation.org/donate/
Lesley McSpadden – Head, Mother of Michael Brown Jr. (18)
Michael Orlandus Darrion Brown Jr., also known as “Mike Mike” by family and friends, was born in Florissant, Missouri to Lesley McSpadden-Head and Michael Brown Sr. He was a recent graduate from Normandy High School, and an aspiring rapper under the name “Big Mike”.
Teachers described Brown as a “gentle giant,” while friends described him as a quiet person with a wicked sense of humor and a love for music.
Michael Brown was the eldest of his surviving siblings, and McSpadden-Head said he “adored” his brother and three sisters.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden-Head, now serves as the president of The Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation, an organization built in memory of Brown, dedicated to intersectional systemic change. Learn more about this organization at https://michaelodbrown.org/
Within this foundation, McSpadden-Head holds an annual gathering called the Rainbow of Mothers, which focuses on the mental health and well-being of mothers whose children have died prematurely as a result of police and gun violence.
You can read more about her story in her own words by reading her book, Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown, written by Lezley McSpadden.
Katie Wright, Mother to Daunte Wright (20)
Daunte Wright, was the son of Aubrey and Katie Wright, and dedicated father to Daunte Jr.
Voted as the class clown, friends and family remember Wright for his smile and joyous demeanor. “…He couldn’t wait to make his son proud,” said Wright’s mother. “Junior was the joy of his life, and he lived for him every single day”
Emajay Driver, a friend, says Wright “loved to make people laugh.”
“My brother was the most delightful person you could have met,” said Wright’s sister, Destiny. “He was good man. He was a good young man in the making,” said Aubrey Wright, Daunte’s father.
You can donate directly to Daunte Wright’s verified gofundme at https://www.gofundme.com/f/dauntewright
Please consider donating to the following organizations in Wright’s name:
Andre Hill (47)
Andre Hill was a father and grandfather- known to friends as “Dre”, and “Big Daddy” to his three grandchildren- who dreamed of owning his own restaurant.
Loved ones remember Hill as an optimistic man deeply devoted to his family and passionate about cooking. He specialized in soul food, but enjoyed experimenting in many styles of cuisine.
“That was his passion right there, cooking,” says Michael Henry, a high school classmate and eventual roommate.
Hill was a family man, and was active in keeping in contact with his family. “He’s the one to make that call—‘You get over here right now. I’m cooking dinner. Let’s go,’” said his sister Michelle Hairston.
You can learn more about Andre Hill by visiting:
Alton Sterling (37)
Alton Sterling was a son, a brother, and a father of five children. Alton had been living in a shelter at the Living Waters Outreach Ministries in Baton Rouge before his death. He was known by residents as someone who loved to cook for everyone at the shelter.
Actor, Writer, and Producer Issa Rae started the #AltonSterlingFamily Scholarship in Sterling’s honor in order to support his family. Donations have officially closed at this time.
Learn more about Alton Sterling by visiting:
Rayshard Brooks (27)
Rayshard Brooks was a 27-year-old husband and doting father. While married to Tomika Miller for eight years, they raised three children: Blessing, 8, Memory, 2, and Dream, 1. Brooks also had a 13-year-old stepson, Mekai.
His loved ones called him a “girl dad.”
Rayshard’s family shared he was an outstanding person, outgoing and always kind. His co-workers shared that he was loyal, his laugh was infectious, and his smile would encapsulate his entire face.
“He was an amazing individual. He took care of his family and friends,” former employer Ambrea Mikolajczyk said.
His wife said of him, “He believed in peace. He believed in love. He was a beautiful spirit.”
You can donate to Rayshard Brook’s official gofundme by visiting https://www.gofundme.com/f/official-gofundme-for-rayshard-brooks
Donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund in his honor by visiting https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/contribute-to-the-atlanta-solidarity-fund
You can learn more about Rayshard Brooks by visiting https://www.saytheirnamesmemorials.com/rayshard-brooks
For additional resources and information we have provided the following sites:
- Botham Jean Boulevard Dedicated: https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/botham-jean-boulevard-dedication-set-for-saturday-family-tired-of-seeking-not-seeing-accountability/2590581/
- Who was Botham Jean: https://www.khou.com/article/news/local/texas/who-was-botham-jean/285-c106a46e-3ba9-4039-acaa-dbfb482ec2aa)
- BlackPast Botham Jean: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/people-african-american-history/botham-shem-jean-1991-2018/
- Botham Jean Act Signed Into Law: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/tx/south-texas-el-paso/news/2021/06/17/abbott-signs-botham-jean-act-into-law–increasing-police-accountability-
- Michael Brown’s Mother Reflects on his Life: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/21/what-would-have-been-his-25th-birthday-michael-browns-mother-reflects-life-cut-short-ongoing-fight-justice/
- BlackPast Michael Brown Jr.: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/brown-jr-michael-1996-2014/
- Michael Brown Jr. Remembered: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/michael-brown-remembered-as-a-gentle-giant/article_cbafa12e-7305-5fd7-8e0e-3139f472d130.html
- Michael Brown Jr. CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/michael-brown-called-a-little-kid-in-a-big-body-ahead-of-funeral/
- Support for Daunte Wright’s Loved Ones: https://blacklivesmatter.com/support-for-daunte-wrights-loved-ones-and-community/?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=JjSm.rX1.xW87mqQurcGv5qnCmFvoRCscjrjLE96BqI-1642171512-0-gaNycGzNCL0
- Daunte Wright was a doting father with big life dreams: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/apr/15/a-lovable-young-man-daunte-wright-was-a-doting-father-with-big-life-dreams
- Daunte Wright Photo: https://www.newsweek.com/topic/daunte-wright
- Who was Daunte Wright: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/08/us/who-was-daunte-wright.html
- Daunte Wright’s Parents speak out: https://kstp.com/minnesota-news/interview-daunte-wright-parents-katie-aubrey-speak-out-following-his-death/6073625/
- Say Their Names:: #Say Their Names: https://sayevery.name/ and Say Their Names Memorial: https://www.saytheirnamesmemorials
As courtesy to our patrons, Village Theatre is sharing the following content insights.
This production of Songs for a New World takes on sensitive, mature, and timely themes including racism, violence, and grief.
To support these themes, the creative team has chosen to center connection, empathy, and understanding throughout this production, and encourages each of us to embrace the idea that TOGETHER we can find out way through to the hope of tomorrow.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this production, please contact Patron Services at BoxOffice@VillageTheatre.org or (425) 392-2202.
The isolation brought through the COVID-19 pandemic has been world-changing and difficult for so many. Your mental health and safety matters. You do not have to face any of this alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Ayuda En Español: 1-888-628-9454
Options for Deaf & Hard of Hearing:
• For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255
• Use chat on website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741 (this is free, available 24/7)
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
The GLBT National Youth Talkline (youth serving youth through age 25): (800) 246-7743
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 1-800-662- HELP (4367)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800- 799-SAFE (7233)
National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-855-812-1001
StrongHearts Native Helpline: 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483)
National Runaway Safeline: 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929)
For more resources and connection to specific services, please visit the Grief Source Network.
A dramaturg is a dedicated person on the creative team whose primary task is to support the play’s development by asking key questions, starting conversations, researching, providing context, and helping the artists as they work together to tell the intended story.
Since each piece of theater is unique, the role of a dramaturg is further defined on a project-by-project basis. Each process requires a customized approach that begins with a deep understanding of the play and of the generative artist’s goals.