A Radical, Rooted Musical

The original ensemble cast of Rooted: A New Musical, photographed by Zoey Heath.

I’m sure your attention has been brought, throughout this issue, to the connection between the words “radical” and “rooted”. Rooted: A New Musical was created in the space where these two words overlap and diverge. It emerged ‘from the roots’, rooted in our own lives and communities and experiences, but stretching beyond these, and seeking to become rooted again in the new community that grew around it, and to spread seeds of change.

How can a musical be radical?

By breaking out of the usual stories and tropes, and challenging the status quo instead of reinforcing it. By addressing things that matter to you and to your audience. By not spending money unnecessarily on disposable sets and costumes and instead relying on the performance and the story and the music to do the work. By asking the audience not to “suspend their disbelief” and “get lost in the story”, but to consciously engage with what they are seeing and hearing and think about how it relates to their own lives and actions.

By giving opportunities to people who’ve never been on stage before, because you don’t need to be perfect to make good art. By putting every ounce of energy you have into it and showing the audience how much everyone involved really cares about what’s being said. By giving everything you get out of it back to the community that helped it grow.

How does a radical, rooted musical grow?

The same way all activism grows.

It is rooted in community, in ideas, in people, in passion. It has a firm foundation of love and collaboration from which to draw strength and sustenance.

It grows from these roots, from the ground up, in a community garden, developing and expanding with each rehearsal, each new move, each note, until it is suddenly there, in full bloom.

It scatters new seeds in its audience – seeds of thought and of change, and, hopefully, some of these seeds take root and grow in others, and help make the world a better place.