The U Theatre Department Cancels ‘Songs For A New World’ Amid Diversity Concerns


Pioneer Theatre Company on Friday, March 6, 2020. (Photo by Cassandra Palor | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


The University of Utah Theatre Department recently made an announcement that they would be canceling their final performance of the 2020-2021 season — a production of Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World” that was to be directed by David Eggers. The decision comes in response to a call for more diversity and inclusion within the Theatre Department and its annual productions.

Brown’s “theatrical song cycle” made its off-Broadway debut in 1995 and was later revived at New York’s City Center in 2018. Brown is also known for his other musical theater works including “Parade,” “13” and the popular “The Last Five Years” — which has also been made into a musical film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. 

A Promise for Inclusive Productions 

The U Theatre Department issued a statement via the Productions page of their website, highlighting the reasoning behind their decision to cancel the season’s final show. The statement is as follows:

“The University of Utah Department of Theatre has canceled its public performance of SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. Although multiple factors led to this decision, one central issue is clear: during our selection and production process, we failed to address essential issues of representation and identity presented by the script.”

Their statement continued with, “Our decision to cancel has immediate and lasting implications, both for the company of SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD and for our department as a whole. As we work to address these concerns and seek remedies wherever possible, we will continue to demonstrate our commitment to ongoing, measurable action in pursuit of the following goals:”

The goals of the department include: taking responsibility and action for failures past and present; welcoming members of underrepresented communities and marginalized groups; supporting and amplifying justice, equity, diversity, anti-racism and representation; committing to self-education and becoming accomplices of members of BIPOC, marginalized, and immigrant communities; and finally, to embrace each of these pursuits to create an environment conclusive to the well-being of students and community members.

Diversity in The Arts 

This decision comes at a time when across the arts as a discipline, creatives and critics are being encouraged to recognize and rethink the ways in which they are representing or failing to represent those who belong to marginalized communities. 

While some organizations or individuals may have been asked to reassess their art and the depictions within it, the call for diversity across all artistic mediums has led to an increase in the emergence of BIPOC, LGBTQ and other diverse artists receiving due recognition for their contributions to art. 

The department’s previous productions for the 2020-2021 season included Rachel Bublitz’s “The Night Witches,” directed by Alexandra Harbold, and William Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” directed by Stephanie Weeks. 

“The Night Witches” featured an all-female cast and was both written and directed by women. “Henry V” featured a female director but did not feature diverse casting for primary roles. 

Despite these efforts, the department’s third production somehow missed the mark on diversity and inclusion. As the season draws to a close and a new season enters its planning stages, they have a chance to fulfill its promise and create an incredibly diverse, inclusive and artistic list of productions for the 2021-2022 season. 

The department promised to provide more information regarding the decision to cancel the final production as it becomes available. “Meanwhile,” their statement concludes, “we are devoting our resources to building additional means for accountability, transparency, and communication.” 

Questions for the department regarding their decision to cancel the production of “Songs for a New World” can be sent to their wellness email address: [email protected].


[email protected]