Rona Siddiqui

By Sandi Durell

Rona Siddiqui’s career speaks for itself as a composer/lyricist, musical director and the 2020 Jonathan Larson Grant recipient along with numerous awards under her belt, like the 2019 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award. 

Her credits are amazing so rather than go on about them here, I urge readers to just check out www.ronasiddiqui.com. This Q & A will surely help getting to know Rona and Hip Hop Cinderella!

1 – We are all acquainted with Cinderella through the years. She never gets old, just morphs. What inspired you to write a Hip Hop Cinderella ? I know it’s intergalactic so what does this mean?

RS: I fell in love with creators David Coffman and Linda Chichester’s idea to have Cinderella grappling with issues of loss and grief and finding her voice. It’s not just about a wistful servant who marries a prince. It’s about a girl who has to make choices to stand for something bigger than herself. The setting in a different galaxy opened up wonderful creative opportunities for myself and bookwriter Scott Elmegreen. We’ve got robots and wormholes and all sorts of quantum physics mayhem. It also gave me a clarity of compositional purpose. It inspired a palette of instrumentation that I found so playful. I’d call it “royal electronic “with lots of synth horns and bleeps and bloops. 

2. What should audiences expect to see in this virtual live stream hip hop premiere? And what’s the take away?

RS: Audiences will see a super fun, fast-paced, well thought out theatrical experience with great use of tech to make it feel like our brilliant young actors are inhabiting the same space. Director Christopher Scott gave each actor a green screen and was, therefore, able to fully flesh out a vision of our futuristic intergalactic setting. It’s no small feat to virtually record video and audio and edit it all together, keeping it as engaging as it would be if you were sitting in the theater, but the Amas creative team did just that. 

For me the take away of our Hip Hop Cinderella is that the only one who can place limits on what you can do is you. I can’t wait to see what messages our audience will pull from it!

3 – This is a project for Amas Musical Theatre and they, of course, are very involved with kids and cultural equity for over 50 years. How does this particular project effect what you want to say to fans and colleagues ?

RS: While Amas has been doing incredible work in the theatre for 50 years, it was my first time working with them. I now know why they continue to endure and flourish. Not only do they have a discerning eye for good storytelling (their feedback to us as writers was invaluable), they strike that perfect balance with the young artists between educating and nurturing, with truthful insights in striving toward excellence. Friends of Amas will be blown away by how they’ve taken their winning methodologies from stage to computer screen seamlessly. I hope to work with them again very soon.

4 – In addition to your skillful musical writing abilities, you’ve musically directed the Pulitzer prize winning off Broadway production A Strange Loop, and received an OBIE along with the cast/creatives. You’re also an orchestrator. With so many facets to your career, what gives you the most fulfillment?

RS: Yes, while I get to collaborate with all sorts of wonderful artists in numerous capacities, it all feeds my knowledge and hunger to tell stories as a musical theatre writer. But truly, if I did not have the opportunities to work closely with writers on other projects and learn from them, I don’t think I would be as far as I am in my own writing career today, so I’m very grateful for the diverse experiences I’ve had.

5 – Is there anything you’d like the readers to know about you that is important from your point of view?

RS: I think we should all be continuing to ask what stories we’re telling and who is telling them. If yet another revival or movie adaptation pops up with an all white male creative team, let’s challenge if that’s what will serve our culture well in 2021 and beyond. The diversity and richness of experiences in this country should be reflected and celebrated. With reflection comes empathy, with empathy, compassion, and with compassion, acceptance and security. It’s my job as an artist to cultivate an openness that breeds empathy and compassion. It is the antidote to fear and intolerance and is needed in spades right about now.

6 – What would you like to achieve as you look ahead? 

RS: As we know, there is only the present moment, so I strive to live each moment with as much joy and honesty as I can. That being said, as long as I get to tell stories that can make the world a better place with like-minded creative people, and continue to challenge myself, I will feel successful. In being a part of this arts community, I also hope to encourage a way of creating theatre that is respectful and inclusive, and where people are paid a living wage. That to me is much more important than any award or accolade.

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