Teatro San Diego was created with the mission to reflect on stage with the cast, crew, and creative staff the amazing diversity that makes up San Diego. It is the fusion of all of the different cultures that makes San Diego one of America’s finest cities, and that should be showcased in our theatre as well.
Teatro San Diego premiers their inaugural production SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD via streaming from August 5th – 15th. Executive Director Julio Catano and the talented creative team talk about their roles in and some of their favorite moments while creating this show.
Kevin “Blax” Burroughs is a man of many talents. Not only is he the Director and Lighting Designer of this show, but he is also a Co-founder and Theatre Associate for Teatro San Diego. You may also recognize from being a part of the phenomenal ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at Moonlight last month. Kevin says his approach to this show is something he’s been working on for a while and then this last year brought everything into even sharper focus.
“My approach with this specific concept of the show technically has been a 4 year journey. I started to get the idea around 2016. Although I love the original production of the show, I really wanted to transform the interpretation of this show to face the true social issues in this country: racial injustice, feminism, white privilege and gender equality & sexuality. It seemed as if every year since then, these issues haven’t gotten much better. Specifically within the summer of 2020 and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many more. I felt the need to incorporate as much as I could within these songs of the show. I told my incredible Scenic Designer Reiko Huffman, that I would like it to feel like a street corner of artwork as the playing field that the actors could play off of. She executed it with perfection.
My favorite moment of this process would have to be the moment we all walked into the theatre as a company to see the finished set. It was a very emotional moment for everyone not only with the artwork but also just being back in a theatre again after 15 months.”
Scenic Designer Reiko Huffman took the direction and ideas from Kevin, and then turned them into a phenomenal backdrop for the show to play upon. She says that creating the space for this all to come to life had a very personal impact on her.
“As the Scenic Designer and Scenic Charge for the show the approach was a culmination of imagery, events, and propaganda from the year 2020. The scenic design took the emotions of that year and of prior events and translated them into a personification of what the year 2020 felt like. Kevin Burroughs wanted this to also be driven by the daring quality embracing these parts of American society as people who identify with minority groups. Therefore, the scenic design wanted to be an all-consuming and acknowledgement of the realities that us as BIPOC and minority artists experience and live in every day.
There were moments painting George Floyd’s image, the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ words, or ‘Black Lives Matter’ . It became almost a spiritual experience where what I was doing in relation to what it meant connected. Even though this was for a show and some of these images exist in real life on a much bigger scale, because I identify as a BIPOC female artist, the meaning surpassed the show at a certain point and became a meditation on the significance of who I am in relation to the thing I am creating.”
William BJ Robinson served as the Music Director for the show, and their musical talents should be familiar to San Diego audiences since they have worked at many places including The San Diego Rep, The Old Globe, Coronado Playhouse, OB Playhouse, or online for their bi-weekly virtual discussion series “Tough Talk.” Robinson says it’s been both a collaborative and inspiring journey working on this show.
“It has been an humbling honor to serve as Music Director for the inaugural stage production for Teatro San Diego. One of the brilliant things 2020 did was cross my path with Teatro San Diego, and I believe this is merely the beginning. My approach as Music Director for this show was unlike any other time I’ve musically directed. With Teatro San Diego, there was a primary focus on creating a more equitable experience for every cast and crew member. I, along with my colleagues, have faced various forms of ageism, abuse, colorism, discrimination, marginalization, ostracization, and tokenism throughout our artistic careers (in and out of San Diego). This was an opportunity to show the world a better path for producing art. I chose to treat our artists with the respect of being equal to me, with the support system of being students. Many people see the idea of ‘direction’ as having the lead and being the final say. While those may be part of the job, I believe ‘direction’ can be based as guidance that is wholly supportive of the cast, meeting each of their needs throughout the journey. I aimed to foster an environment that allowed each artist to find their personal power of expression in SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD.
I cannot choose just one moment as a favorite in this journey. On the first day, gathering at the theater and doing introductions, I cried A LOT, being so overwhelmed with excitement, gratitude, and joy. On the day of our sitzprobe, the vastness of our production came into focus, and it was a larger than life moment, realizing how much the artists were interpreting with the music and the set. I started to fully understand how much we were going to be able to translate to our audience. We are changing this world, and this production, in a sense, was another brilliant, shining moment of change for us to manifest.”
With the music taken care of Alyssa Ajay Junious was the featured choreographer for this show, and came with the goal to compliment the storytelling for three numbers in the show: “World Was Dancing”, “I’d Give It All for You”, and “Flying Home.”
“My approach in this show is to compliment the musical storytelling with movement.. I choreographed the duets with the intentions of embodying the emotions of the actors on stage and help drive the narrative. “Flying Home” was a very significant number for me to choreograph because it felt deeply personal to me. In the past year I have lost two family members due to the conditions of this pandemic. Choreographing this number was a part of my grieving process and I feel very fortunate to have had an outlet like this to honor the lives we’ve all lost this past year.
My favorite moment was film day! It was the first time I was able to be with the entire cast and the energy and love was amazing.”
Julio Catano may be the Executive Director of the theatre but when it came time to work on the show he was happy to assist in any way that he could.
“Many of us wore different hats on this project with the focus on the team and doing what was most efficient for the project. I was the assistant to the creative team. I helped Kevin with some preliminary script analysis, with the goal of finding some kind of arch with each characters song cycle. Another goal was finding what each characters common theme was. It was very unique in this show because we knew there was no intention from the writer of having connecting story line, but Kevin’s pursuit of having common themes was very interesting. The rest of the creative team was very receptive and brought in ideas to help further that approach. The cohesiveness of the themes we found was a fun challenge we worked and witnessed blossom.
My favorite moment in the show always was “Carry Me Home.” Mya Feiga was fully committed every single time she performed it and the choreography Alyssa Ajay Junious set on Jarel Lewis and Mya was so emotional and absolutely captivating.”
SONGS FOR A NEW world is streaming August 5th-15th. Ticket access information can be found at www.teatrosandiego.org/tickets.
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