“Songs for a New World” will open the 2021-2022 St. Olaf Theater season with performances in Haugen Theater from Thursday, Oct. 7 through Sunday, Oct. 10. “Songs for a New World” toes the line between a musical and a song cycle. The show follows multiple characters portrayed by four actors as they make decisions about self-discovery, joy, and love, as described by Music Theater International. The music and lyrics are by Jason Robert Brown.
Adjunct Instructor in Theater and Director Sara Pillatzki-Warzeha began teaching at St. Olaf in the spring of 2021. When picking the show, she asked herself what she thought students needed as they worked through the exhaustion of the COVID-19 pandemic. She picked “Songs for a New World” for the belt-worthy music, notes of hope throughout, and the way the emergence into a new world mirrors how St. Olaf has been able to open up since the start of the school year.
“It is very universal,” Pillatzki-Warzeha said. “Not all of the stories are going to hit people in the same way, but they all have an element of connection.”
One way that the show is unique is that it is double casted — there are two actors for each of the four parts. However, there are not two separate casts, and instead, each night is a different combination of actors. Assistant Director Will McIntyre ’23 has enjoyed seeing how these interactions impact the storytelling.
“[The show] is human experiences. Tons of different perspectives… because there are two different actors in each role. They just perform every aspect of it differently, and they choose different things to sort of dive into further than the other and then like vice versa. It’s just human stories that feel real,” McIntyre said.
Erin Myrhan ’23, who plays Woman 1 in the show, has also enjoyed getting to work with her counterpart, Emily Hensley ’21, through collaborating by sharing notes. Myrhan’s favorite part of the show is the opening.
“I walk in first and sing the first part, and then the melody kind of changes and gets more upbeat. Then Man 2 enters and it’s just really cool to see everyone come in individually and then come together and sing,” Myrhan said. “The harmonies in the show are just incredible. They’re tough to learn but incredible.”
The show run time is about an hour and 45 minutes with a 10 minute intermission. Once each cast member enters the stage, they stay onstage for the rest of the show. The rehearsal process is intense, as practices began the week of Sept. 13, with the show opening just four weeks later. Pillatzki-Warzeha reflected on what she has found so meaningful throughout the rehearsal time.
“My favorite part is honestly just watching all of our young artists from Will, to the cast, to the pit just thrive and do the things that they’re just awesome at. It is joyful to be in a space with young creative people who are trying new things and learning as they do it, and it’s just really exciting,” Pillatzki-Warzeha said.
Due to the COVID-19 guidelines on campus, the audience is required to mask, but the actors will be unmasked. Admission is free to St. Olaf faculty, staff, and students. More information about reserving and buying tickets can be found online through the St. Olaf Theater web page.