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“Arena Riffs will take us on three different emotional journeys through our virtual world, using music, lyrics and each artist’s unique creative visions. The artists were asked to create whatever they envisioned and make small films through music and imagery. They have succeeded beyond our expectations.” shares Artistic Director Molly Smith
On March 17, join Arena Stage for the debut of Arena Riffs, a three-part commissioned music series that features three different composer and lyricist teams with 20-30 minute musical selections infused with sounds of folk, indie and hip-hop. Themes in the musical series include the grief and void created by the pandemic, the nationwide reckoning on racial injustice, finding joy in difficult times and the exploration of one’s relationship to the country.
The series opens with the world-premiere of My Joy is Heavy! composed and performed by award-winning indie-folk duo Abigail and Shaun Bengson on March 17 at 7 p.m. Their music piece brings together story and song in an intimate portrait about cultivating joy during difficult times. Filmed from their home in Vermont, this intimate, narrative performance is filled with humor, passion and sorrow. Their 27-minute self-filmed piece captures their experiences of dealing with chronic pain and pregnancy loss during the lockdown.
The Freewheelin’ Insurgents, written and directed by award-winning playwright, director and actor Psalmayene ‘Psalm’ 24 (Arena’s The 51st State, May 22, 2020) premieres March 31. Serving as a love letter to the Black Lives Matter movement and an elegy for theater, this musical piece examines the grief and void the pandemic, combined with the nationwide reckoning on racial injustice, has created for theater artists and audiences. The story unfolds through hip-hop and movement and explores issues of violent versus nonviolent protest, love and mental health during this unprecedented moment in history.
Arena Riffs will conclude with a new music piece, A More Perfect Union, written by award-winning composer Rona Siddiqui (Salaam Medina: Tales of a Halfgan, One Good Day) on April 14. Drawing on inspiration from concept albums, her story is a visual audio piece that showcases the different phases of the emotional life cycle of a relationship, such as bargaining and acceptance.
Join Arena Stage for what will be three exciting and deeply powerful original works. Arena Riffs is free and open to the public to watch, but reservations are encouraged. Each original musical will be available to stream at arenastage.org.
About Arena Stage
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org