A More Perfect Union—a new concept-album-inspired music piece written and conceived by award-winning composer and lyricist Rona Siddiqui (Salaam Medina: Tales of a Halfgan, One Good Day)—will be the third and final insallment in the Arena Stage Arena Riffs series. The overarching themes in A More Perfect Union center around acceptance, identity, and America’s racial reckoning.
Arena Riffs is a three-part commissioned music series that features three different composer and lyricist teams with musical selections infused with sounds of folk, indie, and hip-hop. (See Arena Riff #1:The Bengsons create new indie-folk musical for Arena Stage and #2 Black actors face grief of pandemic in hip-hop musical from Arena.)
Premiering April 14, 2021, at 7 p.m., A More Perfect Union tells Siddiqui’s story through a visual audio piece that showcases the different phases of the emotional life cycle of a relationship, while at the same time exploring the larger theme of Siddiqui’s relationship to the country. The visual extended audio recording features a compilation of original songs including “Perfect Us,” “Ghost Train,” and “Your Blanket.”
“A More Perfect Union examines the complexities of my relationship with the United States through the intimacy of personification,” shares Siddiqui. “If you listen to the album without the visual component, it could be construed as a couple’s journey. The visuals clue the audience into the fact that it’s grappling with exceptionalism, isolationism, blind patriotism, and the denial of our history rooted in racism.”
The creative team includes Doug Fitch, Em Goldman, Raja Feather Kelly, and Rona Siddiqui.
Additional members of the creative team include Tomoko Akaboshi, Sherz Aletaha, Jen Anaya, Randy Andos, Elena Bonomo, Michael Croiter, Brandon Espinoza, Joe Fiedler, Michael Fossenkemper, Tyler Hartman, Rob Jost, Tony Kadleck, Susan Mandel, Shakina Nayfack, Tommy Nguyen, Kristy Norter, Jonathan Raviv, Justin Rothberg, and Kuhoo Verma.
Arena Riffs is free and open to the public to watch, but reservations are encouraged by visiting here. Each original musical in the series will remain available to stream at arenastage.org. Arena Riffs are self-produced, self-contained finished pieces presented by Arena Stage.
Rona Siddiqui is a composer and lyricist based in New York City. She is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Grant and Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award. She was named one of Broadway Women’s Fund’s Women to Watch. Her show Salaam Medina: Tales of a Halfghan, an autobiographical comedy about growing up bi-ethnic in America, had a reading at Playwrights Horizons (directed by Raja Feather Kelly). Other musicals include One Good Day, Hip Hop Cinderella and The Tin. She is the recipient of the ASCAP Harold Adamson Lyric Award, the ASCAP Foundation Mary Rodgers/Lorenz Hart Award and ASCAP Foundation/Max Dreyfus Scholarship. She has written pieces for Wicked’s 16th anniversary commemoration Flying Free, 24 Hour Musicals, Prospect Theater Company, The Civilians, and has performed concerts of her work at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Feinstein’s/54 Below. Rona music directed the Off-Broadway Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop for which she received an Obie Award along with the cast and creative team (Playwrights Horizons). She has orchestrated for Broadway Records, Broadway Backwards, NAMT and Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.
Doug Fitch (Video Director/Designer) has been called an expert at nothing in particular. His family ran a puppet theater throughout his childhood where he became fascinated by storytelling. Since then, he went to cooking school in Paris, architectural school in Strasburg, worked as a professional brainstormer and Muppeteer. He has designed homes for Joshua Bell and Alan Gilbert. He has created opera productions around the world, highlights including Le Grand Macabre at the ElbPhilharmonie in Hamburg,The Cunning Little Vixen with the NY Philharmonic, The Fairy’s Kiss and Petrushka with the New York City Ballet, Lucy Negro Redux with the Nashville Ballet, Turandot in Santa Fe and Hansel and Gretel at LA Opera. He performed Pictures at an Exhibition with pianist Inon Barnaton and produced Doug Fitch’s Art Gallery Variety Show at National Sawdust. His show, Punkitititi, starring Geoff Sobelle, was commissioned by the Salzburg Marionette Theater and MozartWoche. With composer Marcos Balter and flutist, Claire Chase, he developed a musical ritual called Pan, which opened at The Kitchen. He has taught at SUNY Buffalo, Yale, Parsons, UCLA and NYU, co-founded the production company Giants Are Small and food-art collective Orphicorps and has written books: Organs of Emotion, With Skin and Hair and Orphic Fodder.
Em Goldman (Illustrator/Video Director) is an award-winning pianist, illustrator and writer based in NYC. You can find more of her work online. Instagram: @esgoldman.
Raja Feather Kelly (Video Director/Designer) is a choreographer, a director and the artistic director of the feath3r theory. In 2020, he was an Obie Award winner and Outer Critics Circle Award honoree for choreography for the Pulitzer-winning musical A Strange Loop. In 2019, he was an SDCF Joe A. Callaway Award finalist for both A Strange Loop and the Pulitzer-winning play Fairview. He is a three-time Princess Grace Award winner (2017, 2018, 2019) and two-time Lucille Lortel Award nominee (2019, 2020). Raja was also the 2019–2020 Randjelović/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist at New York Live Arts, an inaugural Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, a 2019 Creative Capital award recipient and a resident artist of HERE and Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU.
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.