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One More Weekend to Catch Songs for a New World

Audiences have raved for two weekends about the amazing performances in Songs for a New World, which has three more performances April 1-3. The collaboration between Three Rivers Music Theatre and Fort Wayne Dance Collective was a few years in the making, leaving TRMT director Andy Planck and FWDC artistic director Mandie Kolkman time to make it a spectacular reality.

“Andy Planck wanted to produce this masterpiece several years ago,” Kolkman said. “He wanted to add dance and movement to enhance the theatrical experience. I had worked with him on the Three Rivers Music Theatre camps and had a great rapport with him.”

Of course part of navigating that ambitious production was working through the realities of COVID, and each time they thought they had a good time to stage the show, they had to estimate the safety for the cast, crew, and audience.

“Late summer and early fall, we were having these conversations in the middle of a pandemic, but we knew the world could change at the drop of a hat,” Kolkman said. “First the spike wasn’t as bad as we thought, but then December wasn’t great. But then after that I thought ‘So this is going to happen.’ The singers, the score, the lyrics, and Andy was reimagining the staging. But the dancers were all starting from scratch so we hit the ground running in January. We’ve had a good, solid three months, and now I think this might be the production that I’m most proud of ever.”

The combination of music and dance explores wide ranging human experiences, and Kolkman thinks that’s why audiences will respond to it. She knew as she brought the added element of choreography to the show, it needed to add to that emotional wallop.

“Each person will relate, but not just relate – relate profoundly,” she said. “As a choreographer, how do you enhance the song if it’s perfect as is? How are you going to elevate it? When we did it, I absolutely knew we had done that, and I thank Ashley Benninghoff and the talent and athleticism of the four dancers.”

Kolkman hopes there will be further collaborations with Planck, well known for the passion he brings to his work.

“I love working with Andy and have learned so much from him,” she said. “I have fun teaching kids at the summer camps, but I was excited to take it to the next level. The children I get to work with are talented, but I’m so blessed with the pleasure of working with these talented adults in our community.”

To purchase tickets for the final weekend of performances, visit

Mandie Kolkman

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