Recently I had the opportunity to interview Ernest Briggs who is the Associate Artistic Director of SteppingStone. Here is what he shared about the upcoming season and new work happening at SteppingStone
Tell me about your role with SteppingStone.
My current role with SteppingStone Theatre is as the Associate Artistic Director.
What are you excited about for this upcoming season?
I am most excited about the different perspectives we will get to see the world through with so many varied and different stories. The Wizard of Oz this summer which is a classic and a great show for the family to see together.
I am excited about "FLY GUY" the musical, it was a story I must admit that I was not too familiar with, but when I saw how positive a response our student matinee audiences reacted to it, I have started reading some of the books which inspired the stage version and it is going to be a very good show! "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is going to be a fantastic show as well and what better place to have Charlie Brown then in Saint Paul where he was born. "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, which is a great adaptation of the well known book, will also include music as well as dance and be a great celebratory experience for the whole family!
"Dandelion Girl" our second co-production with Theater Mu which is a world premiere from playwright May Lee-Yang, the charming story of a young girl named Payton, and what she discovers from her father's tale of arriving in the US from Laos (and his secret dream of being a kung fu star like he sees on TV). And to end the season we will be presenting Junie B. Jones next summer a production a lot of families have inquired about and have even started buying tickets for as well, so please join us for these stories and experiences.
Is there a particular show that you want to highlight and why?
Not specifically for next season, but for this season we are currently doing "The Princess' Nightingale" in a co-production with Theater Mu and we would love for families and people of any age to come and join us. It is fantastic show which asks the question what makes a good leader?
How does one get tickets for your shows?
Typically you call our Steppingstone Theatre Office 651-225-9265 and we can assist with tickets. We also use Brown Paper Tickets and can purchase tickets there as well for upcoming shows. For "The Princess' Nightingale" tickets can be purchased through Theater Mu on there website or there box office phone number 651-789-1012.
It is said that most of your shows are meant for children, how do your shows appeal to all ages?
I like to think that our shows are mostly geared toward children, but we are also a family theater, a place you can bring your whole family and enjoy really great theater. We also have done productions in the last year that have talked about difficult subjects and started conversations with school groups and families. Plus some of the humor in our show's is very enjoyable by everyone of every age!
How do you plan to get new audiences?
You know that is the question that everyone is often asked, the easy answer for me comes from a talk back conversation that was conducted with Peter Brook I attended a few years ago. He was asked about how progressive it was that he cast a multicultural cast for his theatrical production and whether that was important to him, his response was something along the lines, "The people you see on stage are the same people I want to see in the audience." I have always taken that to mean if you want to see newer people in your audience to see your shows and enjoy what you bring, show them represented on stage, show their stories represented in the theater’s season, I feel we have done a great job this next season of finding stories that show these perspectives and to make sure there is something on stage that makes them feel represented.
How do you determine what shows are part of the upcoming season?
I tend to agree with Mark Hauck our Artistic Director's opinion when it comes to choosing shows for the next season:
Important criteria I use when considering a season.
Focus on young people and young artists--place young people at the center of the art-making experience.
Inhabit the perspective of the various stages and experiences of childhood, reflecting the silliness, dreams, dreads, and energy of youth across the age spectrum.
Shift the conversation and framing of race. Children and communities of color must see their stories told from their lived experiences, and reflecting the unique strengths, gifts, challenges, and characteristics of their cultural identity. We must start telling stories that embrace the broad and complex experience of being human for young people of color.
Play. We must be willing to play. Play is at the heart of authentic learning.
Hope is a precursor to action. We need to sustain the hope and creativity of young people.
Inspire young people to see their own capabilities and possibilities as artists and as contributors to their communities.
Support the child's community, by providing resources and stories that encourage deeper exploration in school, in family settings, or in faith and activity groups.