VERSED: The ASCAP Podcast / Ep. 20 - Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty

January 29, 2021



VERSED is a bi-weekly podcast illuminating the heart and soul of music. Featuring in-depth interviews with songwriters and composers, plus tips and insights to help you navigate your music career. Brought to you by ASCAP, home of the world's greatest music creators.


We talk with Tony Award winners and Oscar and Grammy nominees Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, best known for their Broadway hits, Ragtime and Once on This Island, about their new song “How Can I Tell You?” from the powerful new documentary, NASRIN, performed by Angélique Kidjo. They also dig deep into their storied career collaborating on projects for the stage and screen and all the magic moments they've shared along the way. Then Allison Russell, founding member of the acclaimed groups Our Native Daughters and Birds of Chicago, shares the origin of her upcoming debut solo album, which tells the harrowing story of her abusive childhood in a deeply moving, unforgettable song cycle that is ultimately life-affirming. PLUS: Charlie Sextro, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, also joins us to talk about music-focused films premiering at this year’s fest.

+Find out where to watch the documentary NASRIN, featuring Ahrens & Flaherty's new song "How Can I Tell You?"

+Watch Allison Russell and others perform at the 2021 Sundance ASCAP Music Café.

Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty on VERSED


Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty are considered the foremost theatrical writing team of their generation. They won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for the Broadway hit Ragtime and were nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for Twentieth Century Fox’s animated feature film Anastasia, which they also adapted for the Broadway stage. Their show Once on This Island won London’s Olivier Award for Best Musical and Broadway's 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Other theatre credits include Seussical (one of the most produced shows in America); Rocky; My Favorite Year; Chita Rivera–The Dancer's Life; Lincoln Center Theatre premieres of Dessa Rose, A Man of No Importance and The Glorious Ones; Playwrights Horizon’s Lucky Stiff; and two upcoming shows, Knoxville and Marie. They serve on Council for the Dramatists Guild of America and co-founded the DGF Fellows Program for Emerging Writers. They are four-time Grammy nominees and recipients of the Oscar Hammerstein Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015 Ahrens and Flaherty were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Visit Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty online // Follow them on Facebook

Allison Russell


Allison Russell is a self-taught singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of extraordinary power, talent and grace. A founding member of the acclaimed groups Our Native Daughters (with Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Amythyst Kiah) and Birds of Chicago (with her husband/musical partner JT Nero), the Montreal native has begun to emerge as a potent force among creative circles in both Chicago and Nashville where she currently lives with her husband and their young daughter. 
On her upcoming debut solo album (Fantasy, spring 2021), Allison shares the harrowing story of her abusive childhood in a deeply moving, unforgettable song cycle of courage, empathy, hope and love. With its vivid detail, brilliant songwriting and fearless soul, Russell’s upcoming debut is both a triumphant artistic statement and life-affirming achievement – one that feels destined to become one of 2021’s most essential and celebrated albums.

Visit Allison Russell online: // Follow her on Twitter Instagram & Facebook

Charlie Sextro


Through pure dumb luck, the Sundance Film Festival has employed Charlie Sextro to watch movies for them for nearly a decade. He grew up watching too many movies and an unhealthy amount of MTV Spring Break in Dallas, Texas. Likely benefiting from some clerical error, he earned a BA in "Watching Movies" at the University of Southern California. He's had previous jobs promoting movies at Entertainment Tonight, marketing movies at Tartan Films USA and buying movies at Paramount Vantage. In his free time, he listens to new music and the Howard Stern Show.

Follow Charlie on Twitter @AnIntellectual

Sarah Finegold


Sarah Finegold, an original yinzer from Pittsburgh PA, is a writer and music fan working in the Marketing department at ASCAP. After graduating from Cornell University in 2015 with a BA in English and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies – with a minor in Film Studies just to shake things up – Sarah moved to New York City and shortly found her home at ASCAP. When she isn't indulging her love of travel and all things edible, she relishes going to the movies, Broadway musicals, making friends with strangers’ dogs on the street and being overly competitive while playing board games.


Mama, I'm going home.

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