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Sammi Cannold and Jose Solis.

Token Theatre Friends: The Future of Directing With Sammi Cannold

This pre-pandemic conversation with the exciting helmer behind ‘Endlings’ and radical stagings of ‘Ragtime’ and ‘Carmen’ holds hope for the art form.

Roughly twice a month since early 2018, the Token Theatre Friends video series and podcasts have featured theatre critic Jose Solís and American Theatre senior editor Diep Tran, bringing a POC perspective on the performing arts, and lively guests, to listeners and viewers. After Diep left AT in late 2019, Jose continued the series. But now Diep and Jose are making big plans for the show’s future that won’t involve American Theatre, and after 52 fabulous episodes (plus one “bonus” episode), this will be the last TTF on AT for the foreseeable future. We plan to follow and share their essential work wherever they go!

Jose offered this heartfelt farewell: “We are living in unprecedented times; as you all know, a global pandemic has altered the way in which live. The curtains have come down in theatres all over the world as we try to protect the most vulnerable. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, not because of the apocalyptic setting, mind you, but because of the way in which it celebrates storytelling through an oral tradition, and the such celebration makes us human.

“Luck has it that theatre-kid eagerness led me to record not one but two episodes of Token Theatre Friends in early March. No one could have imagined what the days ahead would bring. The shows I discussed with my guests then have either closed or have been postponed indefinitely. And as I wondered whether the episodes had a place in this strange new world, I kept thinking of the characters in Washburn’s play, who get together to reenact an old episode of The Simpsons. And it made sense to me to put these into the world. Let theatre critics, journalists, fans, and lovers continue the tradition. Let us be the keepers of the flame while we wait for our beloved curtains to rise again.”

In this final episode, Jose spoke to director Sammi Cannold, whose bold, imaginative reinterpretations of famous musicals have turned into one of the most exciting voices in theatre. Her critically acclaimed take on Evita ran at City Center in the fall of 2019, and in 2016 she staged an epic production of Ragtime right on Ellis Island. At the time Jose spoke to her, in early March, Cannold was helming the dreamlike Endlings at New York Theatre Workshop, while working on an adaptation of Bizet’s Carmenwhich would have been her first opera. Although the world took a turn since then, Cannold’s insights on the craft of directing remain timeless, her approach to the work is refreshing, and her passion for the stage impossible to resist.

*All production footage in this episode is courtesy of Cannold.

The audio of the interview is also available on the podcast.

The episode can be downloaded here.

Check out Token Theatre Friends videos on YouTube and follow them on Twitter to see where they go next.

ADV – Billboard