By Julia Duggan
The College’s Lyric Theatre performed Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs From a New World” from Dec. 4 to Dec. 7 through a virtual streaming service, anywhereseat.com. The original words and lyrics were transformed into a story referencing social justice, Covid-19, and the chaos surrounding the current societal climate.
The score of the show lays out a series of songs as seemingly separate entities, that all delve into the lives of people with a longing for a new lease on life. The differing worlds are strung together by a theme of choices and chances.
“We chose to use the theme of a ‘new world’ as the world post Covid-19,” said Jennifer Little, the Director of Lyric Theatre and the theatre minor program coordinator. “What will that world look like? How will education look? Racial justice look? Climate change? Since the show spends a lot of time exploring individual stories of achievements and obstacles, this seemed like a good time to think about what we, as a community, had planned for 2020 … and how it was actually turning out.”
For the creation of the performance, cast members recorded themselves individually and then submitted the videos to be edited together. Professor Lauren Dugan, who teaches courses in the College’s multimedia minor, edited the videos.
“It is very different this semester because the live aspect is taken out of it,” said Amy Schroeder, a junior education major. “So, everything has been based on recording videos and recording different takes. It is interesting to be able to experience this different kind of performance.”
This performance covered all the major concerns this country and world have faced during the pandemic. Songs in the show covered issues relating to relationships, marriage, losing dreams, hesitance on taking risks, education, race and celebrating holidays.
The show had a message of resilience.
“I really hope the audience gets a little bit of the taste of theatre that we have been missing for a really long time,” said Schroeder. “I feel like everybody who loves theatre has been deprived of watching people perform, so I feel like it will be nice to get that and also the sense of community that comes from communally watching one thing.”
Between songs, news clips played as a way to transition viewers from one message to another. In one instance, right before the performance of an education-related song, there was a short news clip showing schools being closed for an extended period of time, and virtual learning beginning to take place.
“Without the students’ dedication and time, the show simply wouldn’t have worked,” said Little. “That is true every season, but more so now when they had to work in isolation. They worked so hard to bring this vision to life. At the same time, rehearsing and building a show in isolation from each other is hard and emotional in a very different way.”
Throughout the performance audience members commented on the talent of the performers, and how they felt moved by the messages and themes created.
“Hope. That’s it,” said Little. “Hope for the future of theatre. Hope for the future of us and our communities. Hope for song and storytelling and community building. Hope because if this group of incredible students can do this during a pandemic, there is no stopping them from making the world a better, kinder, more compassionate new world.”