2022 was the year we were going to get back to normal—right after 2021, which we all know was the year we were going to really get back to normal.

In many aspects, things did return to some semblance of normalcy. After five years of owning and operating Minnesota Playlist, I’ve come to understand that it represents a kind of barometer of the health of our performing arts community. You can measure this metric primarily through the number of classifieds that are purchased in a year. For 2022, there were 555. Each of those classifieds represents a company, group, or individual in the process of creating something—through auditions, classes, or seeking to hire. This was heartening to see after watching things start, and sputter out through 2021.

Even during the worst of the pandemic and its aftershocks, many of us knew deep in our hearts that theater would return. Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest forms of communication, and theater, at its most primal, is one person relaying a story to others. So this year, 2022, has seen a strong return of that fundamental bedrock of the MN arts scene.

But what hasn’t returned are the trappings—no awards shows, no comprehensive (or at least in-depth) year-end best-of lists, a massive reduction in the amount of reviews*, etc.

This year has felt, in a way, untethered from the “normal” that many of us were used to. And I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. Instead, I think that what 2022 has given us is a fresh slate—a chance to take the foundational elements of our community and build something new. Or, perhaps another way to look at it is: What do we want the connective tissue that strengthens our community to look and feel like? Do we want it to be award shows and popularity lists? Do we want it to be gatekeepers with a thumbs-up, thumbs-down digital column? Or do we want something different? Or better? Or just new?

We know that theater will continue. The resilience of the art form is embedded in our need to connect as humans to each other—to sit in communal space and share an experience. What we are tasked with in the coming weeks, months, and years is what we want our theater community to be. That’s not something that will happen quickly; it will emerge gradually from the efforts and choices of many individuals and groups. While the community that was prior to the pandemic may have been formed haphazardly—often in reaction to a national narrative of what it “should” be—we now have more of a unique luxury to be intentional about what our community looks and feels like.

It has been a year. I don’t anticipate that 2023 will bring us any less chaos and challenges. And yet, as we close 2022, I’m left with a feeling of optimism for our community. Along the way, I hope that Playlist can be a place to document these ideas and to share out what is happening as we re-build together.

*An aside: I recognize that Playlist was contributory in the reduction of reviews. The experiment to bring on four part-time journalists in 2022 was less successful than I had hoped. I am looking at alternate solutions for how the magazine gets written. More on this in some future posts.