Any history professor will say that every decade is a time of transition. However, sometimes we feel the transitions as they happen, and sometimes we don’t. Like the students in this musical, sometimes there are new aspects to discover about ourselves as we transition to a new state.
Last spring and summer, Arena engaged in research to better understand where we fit in people’s minds and hearts. We were encouraged to learn that Arena and our mission has a strong connection with our long-time audiences. We were also challenged to realize that some people who live in our very own neighborhood are not sure what happens inside our building. Such an idea is quite thought-provoking. Keeping with my theme this season of Finding Resilience, we learned that we could improve on ways to engage with the upcoming generations of theatergoers.
We know that musicals can take on difficult stories in ways that straight plays cannot—and then there are musicals that also break the mold on musicals. Currently celebrating a decades-long run on Broadway, The Lion King on the surface would seem to be a non-starter: an uncle kills his brother for the throne, tried to murder his nephew, and they are all animals. However, the music, the theatricality, the fulsome story combined to make The Lion King successful beyond belief. The risk of the creators (even though the Disney movie was a success, I hope we can agree that the innovative translation to stage musical was a big risk) was able to connect to audiences in a new way. Certainly, it made all of theater transition to another level. So today, without too much of a spoiler, a musical about a tragic accident on a roller coaster provides us with a way to approach mortality and how we live our lives. Coming out of a pandemic where mortality was very much top of mind, it is timely to have music that speaks to all generations to guide us through a unique story with cosmic resonance.
It is a pleasure to partner with McCarter Theatre on this production. McCarter Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen started her tenure in 2020—talk about experiencing a challenging transition! As Arena faces our own artistic leadership transition, we are buoyed by this partnership and seeing Sarah’s strong leadership and artistry so evident on our Kreeger Stage.
It’s also interesting to note that Ride the Cyclone’s first performance was 15 years ago—in 2008 —and the piece has continued to grow and change over these years. Intriguing stories will persevere until they find the most successful way to be told. Resilience is relied upon in navigating these transitions.
Cheers for the New Year,