Once Upon a Time publicity image featuring Austene Van as Josephine Baker rising out of the pages of a book

Once Upon A Time... Josephine Baker.

Written by Austene Van
Directed by Lou Bellamy

Since theaters can not yet open, some of my friends and family volunteered to gather together safely to dream of what this play could be when it can be produced. (Keeps us out of trouble.)

Everyone was tested for Covid-19 before gathering and some had even been vaccinated!

The space was sanitized, had great airflow, excellent HVAC system, and we also supplemented with an air purifier which eliminates 99.999% of the Corona Virus within a 1200 sq. ft. area.

We maintained a safe social distance and wore masks, gloves and some had shields when not being recorded.

Each of my friends only stayed an hour. I was there all day for both days.

I brought some props from home. Sam costumed me and we dreamt.

We documented our time together and wanted to share a bit with you...


(Same dance, different scene)
What happens when Josephine remembers Pepito?



Austene Van named
Yellow Tree Theatre’s
New Producing Artistic Director

Austene Van

Yellow Tree Theatre has announced Austene Van will be its next Producing Artistic Director, following the departure of Jason Peterson and Jessica Lind Peterson, who founded the theater in 2008. Austene Van has been a powerhouse in the Twin Cities theatre community and beyond for 35 years. A social justice based director, performer, choreographer, administrator and educator, she has been a staple at renowned stages, including: The Guthrie, Penumbra, Children’s Theatre Company, Ten Thousand Things and Mixed Blood, among others. Ms. Van served as Associate Artistic Director of History Theatre from 2011-2013, where she curated new work for Raw Stages Play Festivals, and is the founding Artistic Director of New Dawn Theatre Company. Yellow Tree fans will remember her critically-acclaimed staging of The Royale by Marco Ramirez in 2018 (named a Top Ten Production of the Year by Minneapolis Star Tribune), as well as her 2020 staging and co-production of Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau which coincidentally, was the last fully-staged production seen at Yellow Tree before the pandemic hit.

After running Yellow Tree for over twelve years, Jason and Jessica Lind Peterson recently announced their departure to pursue new opportunities in Duluth. “As we contemplated stepping away from Yellow Tree, Austene Van was always in our minds as someone who we knew would be an extraordinary successor. As a director and co-producer, she has brought some of YTT’s most beautiful and impactful plays to life on our stage. Our patrons already know Austene and her work, she is deeply rooted in and cares for this community, and we feel a kindred spirit with her that is a little bit magical. She is passionate about caring for artists, passionate about opening YTT’s doors wider to be more inclusive, and as an artist and educator she has a legacy in the Twin Cities that is truly unparalleled. Jason and I are over the moon that she rose to the top in the selection process. Austene is one of the bravest, most versatile, most compelling theater makers in the Twin Cities. With her at the helm, Yellow Tree will be in very capable hands.”

“I am deeply rooted and dedicated to touching diverse communities with excellent art which peaks awareness, transforms and empowers by way of giving vision to those that may feel unseen and voice to those that may feel unheard through powerful, relatable and often joyful stories of our shared human experiences,” says Austene Van. “which is why assuming the role of Yellow Tree’s Producing Artistic Director is a perfect fit for me. Plainly put, what Jason and Jessica have built with Yellow Tree; their mission, commitment to community, diversity, inclusion and dynamic programming is the blood that runs through my marrow, aligning with who I have been and have become as an artist, educator, administrator and theater maker. Because of the Peterson’s work, Yellow Tree audiences are already primed for stellar, cutting-edge content, diverse casting, new work and classic plays with relevant twists. This beautiful and brilliant couple have founded and established something so special, nothing short of extraordinary. And I am overjoyed to carry on Yellow Tree’s bright torch and expand upon their rich legacy.”

New Dawn wants it to be understood that Ms. Van’s new position with Yellow Tree will not impact its further programming. New Dawn Theatre Company, its artistic leadership and its Board of Directors will continue to exist and fulfill its mission as an Art for Social Justice organization.

After producing Once Upon A Time, NDT will continue to offer our programming of A Breath for George to various institutions, organizations and communities. To further that work, New Dawn theatre is thrilled to appoint NDT Company Member, Andre Shoals as NDT’s Associate Director of Community Outreach and daily operations. NDT will mount one play per year as a co-production with Yellow Tree.

George Floyd memorial with beautiful mural and flowers
Photo by Regina Marie Williams.

A Breath for George

If you would like New Dawn to present our virtual program, A Breath for George, to your organization, please contact Austene Van at vandolleyes@aol.com.

A Breath for George is a collection of songs, interviews, monologues and short films honoring the life and death of George Floyd, those who have fallen before him and those who continue to fall due to police brutality and systemic racism. Our film focuses on voices of Minnesotans; historically and adversely affected by social and civil injustices; physically, emotionally and financially. A Breath for George is a vehicle to mobilize our citizens nationwide to roll up our sleeves and create radical, lasting change for our future.

Featuring: Vanessa Brooke Agnes, James T. Alfred, Jamecia Bennett, James Craven, Aimee K. Bryant, Perri Gaffney, Brian Grandison, Peter Macon, Thomasina Petrus, T. Mychael Rambo, Frank Sentwali, Andre Shoals, Jevetta Steele, Austene Van & Regina Marie Williams. Interviews with Sarah Bellamy, Rose Brewer PhD, Melvin Carter Jr., Danielle Epps, Harvey Blanks, Duchess Harris PhD, Jamil Jude, Talvin Wilks and Professor Emeritus; John Wright.

If you are inspired to support our mission, please visit this page to donate.

NEW DAWN THEATRE is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. We are a passionate, hardworking (volunteer) staff that believe in paying our designers, artists and crew so that we may deliver to you exceptional art for lasting social transformation. It is not lost on us that your discretionary income reflects the blood, sweat and tears that you put into your life’s work. So, we honor your decision to help us march forward.

We thank you for your generosity, consideration and look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

If you would like to put your heart into action but are unsure of where to begin, please consider volunteering or donating to any of the listed organization committed to rebuilding our communities and eradicating systemic racism.

Support for Victims' Families

George Floyd’s family

Donations will cover funeral costs, counseling services, legal fees, and care for his children.

Ahmaud Arbery’s mother fund

Donations support the family’s legal battle. Further action can be taken here.

Breonna Taylor’s family

Donations fund legal fees and offer extra support. Further action can be taken here.

Tony McDade’s family

Donations will cover funeral and burial expenses, counseling, and support the family's legal battle. Further action can be taken here.

David McAtee’s mother and family

Donations will go to Odessa Riley, David McAtee's mother, to help with funeral and memorial funds, as well as funding any legal action. Petition for justice.

Rayshard Brooks' family

GoFundMe to directly support Mr. Brooks' family. Petition for justice.

Elijah McClain's family

GoFundMe going to Elijah's family for funeral expenses and legal battle. Petition for justice.

Robert Fuller's family

GoFundMe benefiting Mr. Fuller's family for funeral expenses and legal battle. Petition for justice.

Protest Tips and Support

Safety During Protest

Tips from Amnesty International.

The Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund

Raises money for physical resources, bail, and medical care for black, transgender protesters, which will be redistributed to black, trans-led organizations.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Supports racial justice through advocacy, litigation, and education.

The Legal Rights Center

A non-profit law firm based in Minneapolis, offering legal defense, educational, and advocacy services.

Black Visions Collective

A black, trans, and queer-led social justice organization and legal fund that provides education and training in black and brown communities has set up a legal fund for Mpls.

The Know Your Rights Camp

An organization founded by Colin Kaepernick that provides education and training in black and brown communities has set up a legal fund for Mpls.

Organizations Working
Against Police Abuse

MPD 150

A participatory, horizontally-organized effort by local organizers, researchers, artists and activists helping organizers in other cities to establish practical abolitionist strategies.

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Works to educate white people about anti-racism and organizes actions to support the fight for racial justice and undermine white supremacy.

Communities Against Police Brutality

Operates a crisis hotline where people can report abuse; offers legal, medical, and psychological resource referrals; and engages in political action against police brutality.

POCI Caucus of Minnesota Legislature

Introduced reforms — they are pushing at the State level to address police misconduct and prevent more killings and police misconduct against the communities they serve.

New Era of Public Safety

An Advocacy Toolkit for Fair, Safe, and Effective Community.

Campaign Zero

Has a comprehensive package of urgent policy solutions informed by data, research and human rights principles to change the way police serve our communities.


Their mission is to promote the accountability of law enforcement officers and their employers for violations of the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Rebuilding Support

Clean up efforts

Local businesses owned by people of color need support repairing the damages to their buildings.

Community clean up events

Free Hugs Project community clean up projects.

Support the Cities

Information on Lake Street clean up and grocery donations. Volunteers need brooms, shovels, trash bags, , gloves. Plywood is also useful.

Community Support

Hallie Q. Brown Community Center

The Mission of Hallie Q. Brown is to improve the quality of life in our community by providing access to critical human services, fostering and promoting personal growth, and developing community leadership. Volunteer. Donate.

MOODI (Mobile Outreach and Outdoor Drop-In)

Initiative of the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis, providing immediate response and resources for people currently without shelter.

We Love Lake Street

Gathers donations for small businesses and non-profits on Lake Street in Minneapolis, to help with the clean-up effort, as is the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition.

The Okra Project

Combats food insecurity in black trans and gender-nonconforming communities. It set up two funds — the Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Fund, for trans men, and the Nina Pop Mental Health Recovery Fund, for trans women — to help cover the costs of mental health therapy sessions with licensed black therapists. You can donate money here, and learn about donating services by following the links above.

Mutual Aid Fund

Good place to send community support amidst a pandemic. Find more info on where to look here.

Fair Fight

Organization founded by Stacey Abrams that aims to end voter suppression and equalize voting rights and access for fairer elections.

Black Visions Collective

A black, trans, and queer-led social justice organization and legal fund that provides education and training in black and brown communities has set up a legal fund for Mpls.

George Floyd memorial with beautiful mural and flowers
Photo by Regina Marie Williams.

New Dawn Theatre is committed to amplifying voices not often heard by producing plays written by women, minorities and LGBTQ communities, while onstage we highlight artists of all walks of this wonderful life.

New Dawn Theatre is a tax exempt organization under IRC Section 501(c) (3). Donors can deduct contributions they make under IRC Section 170.

You can make a donation directly via PayPal or support us through our GoFundMe Campaign!