The Ordway Performing Arts Center just kicked off season 2019-20 with the lively Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller, which closes Sunday, September 22. It’s the first season of original productions programmed entirely by producing artistic director Rod Kaats, who began his position February 1, 2018. In fact, the very first day on the job at The Ordway for this Broadway veteran was on the first day of auditions for the Tony Award-winning Mamma Mia!. It gave Kaats an appreciative insight into the “incredibly talented acting pool” in the Twin Cities, which he says he looks forward to further exposing to the global theater world through “Ordway Original” collaborations with internationally-renowned directors, producers and choreographers.

Now that Kaats has comfotably acclimated for 18 months to his adopted theater family in this challenging, but rewarding new role, we sat with him for a conversation covering his vision for this season, his strategy for adding a richer diversity of talent and performances that will “assert the retelling of stories that look more like America” and his dream 10-year plan that he wishes he could make happen with the snap of his fingers.

Watch our exclusive video interview to hear what he says is an “incredibly important distinction” between the Minneapolis-St. Paul theater scene from the ones in larger markets. You’ll even see him smile when he explains the meaning of “drop butt” music. You might smile too.