Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future
|Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future|
|Music||Andrew R. Butler|
|Lyrics||Andrew R. Butler|
|Book||Andrew R. Butler|
|Setting||Richmond, Virginia, 2252 and 2241|
|Premiere||October 8, 2018Ars Nova:|
|Awards||Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical|
Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future is a science fiction concert folk musical with lyrics, music, and book by Andrew R. Butler. The show premiered Off-Broadway in 2018 at Ars Nova where it ran for about a month. The premiere production starred Butler, Stacey Sargeant, Jessie Linden, Debbie Christine Tjong, Tony Jarvis, and Rick Burkhardt.
Set in the mid-2200s in a world where partially constructed and fully constructed humans face government persecution, the show begins with the title character performing solo before being joined onstage in flashback by his former band, Beaux Weathers & The Future. Butler spent nearly a decade developing a show about a folk singer performing several centuries in the future, pulling inspiration from a variety of folk, country, rock, and blues rock artists. Rags Parkland was well received by critics and garnered nine Drama Desk and six Lucille Lortel award nominations, ultimately winning the Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. An original cast recording was released in 2020.
In 2252, a lone folk singer named Rags Parkland performs at the Over/Under, his friend Gill's subterranean Richmond, Virginia, club ("Apocalypse in Tennessee"). Between songs, Parkland reminisces about his time during a stint in a penal colony on Mars and his romance with his former bandmate, Beaux Weathers ("Android Love Song", "Talkin' Mars Dust Blues", "Stella Charlemagne"). Parkland's songs are largely covers of songs by his old band, Beaux Weathers & The Future, and during one song ("One Hundred Years of Subterranean Society Blues"), the scene shifts back to 2241 when the full band is performing that same song at the Over/Under. Parkland, Weathers, and rest of The Future reveal a world through their performance in which partially constructed and fully constructed humans are illegal ("Never Find Us Now" through "Apple in the Sky"). All members of The Future except for Parkland are, to varying degrees, constructed, yet continue to play music underground as a way to pass along their shared history and hope.
During one song ("Love You Good"), a perimeter warning light alerts the club that a raid is taking place. In defiance of the ban on constructed humans, Weathers and the rest of The Future play on against the raid, effectively giving themselves up, while Parkland shrinks back ("The Raid"). The scene shifts forward to Parkland and Gill in 2252 once again. They reveal that Weathers and the rest of the band have not been seen since that day and Parkland indicates that he intends to keep sharing their songs and spreading their story ("Delilah in the Rubble").
Cast and characters
|Rags Parkland||Andrew R. Butler|
|Beaux Weathers||Stacey Sargeant|
|Ess Pinvint||Debbie Christine Tjong|
In 2009, Andrew R. Butler was reading science fiction classics when he encountered the Philip K. Dick short story "What'll We Do with Ragland Park?", whose title character was a folk singer. While Butler was not drawn to the story itself, the idea of an American folk singer performing several centuries in the future appealed to him, suggesting "a show that had the shape of a concert, but that told a much wider story." Developing this concept, he described an interest in characters in the future "thinking about history, and some of that is our present and some of that is our past, and that character can also be thinking about the future, which immediately changes our temporal framework in a way that is exciting." Butler envisioned the world of the 23rd century as one in which significant political turmoil had come as a result of climate change and resource depletion.
The combination of science fiction and folk music, known as filk, had existed as a genre for decades although Butler noted that while he was unaware of it while writing Rags Parkland, he "never imagined that nobody had done this before". When he was working on the musical he "started poking around, just trying to do some research and get [his] bearings and [he] discovered" filk. Rags Parkland was one of several Off-Broadway shows produced in late 2018 to combine science fiction and folk music, others including 1969: The Second Man at New York Theatre Workshop and The Outer Space at Joe's Pub.
At first, Butler wrote songs for the Rags Parkland character, whose name alludes to the titular character of Dick's short story. He conceived the show as a solo musical based on what he was able to do as a performer, namely singing and playing guitar. Butler pulled musical influence from Odetta, Skip James, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan for Parkland's character, ultimately reverse-engineering the musical's story from the songs he had written. When Butler began writing songs for the character Beaux Weathers and the band The Future, his musical influences expanded to include the more complex arrangements of Alabama Shakes, Jason Isbell, and Fleetwood Mac. Butler's collaborators composed their own instrumentations from the starting point of Butler's vocal and guitar arrangements.
Butler developed Rags Parkland at the Off-Broadway theater Ars Nova in Hell's Kitchen, New York, where the show had its world premiere. Staged as a cabaret with seating on three sides, the production was directed by Jordan Fein with set design by Laura Jellinek, lighting design by Barbara Samuels, costume design by Andy Jean, and sound design by Mikaal Sulaiman. Butler wrote the show's book, music, and lyrics, with the other castmembers credited for additional music and arrangements. Previews were scheduled to begin on September 25, 2018. The production was postponed by a week when Ars Nova was affected by water damage; Alexis Soloski speculated in The New York Times that Jellinek incorporated the damage into show's set design. Rags Parkland opened on October 8 and was scheduled to close on November 3 but was extended until November 10.
Rags Parkland was well received by critics. In The New York Times, Soloski described the show's concert musical structure and science fiction–folk music combination as unique and praised the economy and flow of Butler's writing for the way it advanced the narrative. Zachary Stewart of TheaterMania said of the cast that the "six immensely talented musicians come together to form a really spectacular band, performing Butler's catchy original songs with love and a sense of ownership" and Raven Snook in Time Out New York praised Stacey Sargeant in particular as "the show's heart and soul". Both Sarah Fitts of BroadwayWorld and Dan O'Neil of Culturebot wrote that the show left much of its worldbuilding unspoken, which both critics responded to favorably. However, O'Neil also wrote that the show's simple flashback structure did not leave much room for surprise.
Awards and honors
Original Off-Broadway production
The 2018 Ars Nova production of Rags Parkland was nominated for nine Drama Desk Awards and six Lucille Lortel Awards at the 2019 ceremonies, ultimately winning one Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical.
|Lucille Lortel Awards||Outstanding Musical||Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future||Won|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical||Andrew R. Butler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical||Stacey Sargeant||Nominated|
|Outstanding Scenic Design||Laura Jellinek||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Barbara Samuels||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Design||Mikaal Sulaiman||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Musical||Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Andrew R. Butler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Stacey Sargeant||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music||Andrew R. Butler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lyrics||Andrew R. Butler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Andrew R. Butler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Scenic Design for a Musical||Laura Jellinek||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical||Barbara Samuels||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical||Mikaal Sulaiman||Nominated|
An original cast recording of the show, produced by David Treatman and Tony Maimone and distributed by Broadway Records, was released on March 27, 2020. The album's liner notes, by Philip Romano, were written in an in-universe style from the year 2299 with a fictional introduction presenting the tracks as recovered memory data. Reviewing for BroadwayWorld, David Clarke wrote favorably of Butler's and Sargeant's vocal performances and found the album's themes timely in the context of the ongoing physical distancing resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Clarke, who had not seen the stage performance of the show, found the show's conceit somewhat difficult to ascertain through the songs alone but said that the liner notes "ensure that everyone can understand what the musical is about and how it operates. Every detail is attended to and guarantees that every facet of the final product shimmers."
- "Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future". Internet Off-Broadway Database. Lucille Lortel Foundation. Archived from the original on August 12, 2019. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
- Butler, Andrew R. (2020). Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future: Original Cast Recording (PDF) (Digital booklet). New York, NY: Broadway Records. BR-DIG14320. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
- Musbach, Julie (October 23, 2018). "BWW Interview: Andrew R. Butler Talks Sci-Fi Folk Concert Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future". BroadwayWorld. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
- Tran, Diep (October 17, 2018). "What Does It Mean to Be Human?". Theatre Development Fund. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
- Soloski, Alexis (March 31, 2020). "Has Your Dystopian Play Come in Handy?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 3, 2020. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
- Gushue, Jen (December 4, 2018). "Filk on Stage: How the Underground Sci-Fi Folk Genre Found a Home Off-Broadway". HowlRound. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- Benigni, Grace (producer); Vera, Nella; Karnani, Adrian (hosts) (January 15, 2020). "Episode 4: Andrew R. Butler & Mark Sonneblick". The Feinstein's/54 Below Podcast (Podcast). New York, NY: Broadway Podcast Network. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
- Stewart, Zachary (October 15, 2018). "Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future Presents Folk Music for the 23rd Century". TheaterMania. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- Snook, Raven (October 15, 2018). "Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future". Time Out New York. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- Clement, Olivia (October 23, 2018). "Ars Nova Extends Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future". Playbill. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- Soloski, Alexis (October 15, 2018). "Review: 'Rags Parkland' Plays the Interplanetary Homesick Blues". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 16, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
- Fitts, Sarah (October 18, 2018). "BWW Review: Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future at Ars Nova". BroadwayWorld. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- O'Neil, Dan (October 20, 2018). "Future Issues: Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future". Culturebot. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- Ramos, Dino-Ray (June 2, 2019). "Drama Desk Awards Winners List: 'The Ferryman', 'The Prom' Among Top Honorees". Deadline. Archived from the original on June 11, 2019. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
- Meyer, Dan (February 5, 2020). "Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future to Release Original Cast Recording". Playbill. Archived from the original on February 5, 2020. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
- Clarke, David (March 31, 2020). "BWW Album Review: Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future is Poignant, Captivating, and Deeply Satisfying". BroadwayWorld. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.