Rhinebeck Writers Retreat presents First Reading of BHANGIN' IT

Rhinebeck Writers Retreat is presenting the first reading of the new musical, BHANGIN' IT, book by Rehana Lew Mirza and Mike Lew and music and lyrics by Sam Willmott, on May 1 in New York City for an invited industry audience. The reading includes actors Shoba Narayan (Natasha Pierre & The Great Comet), Tony Sheldon (Amelie), Dan Rosales (Spamilton), Angel Desai (Company), and Salena Qureshi. The reading is directed by David Ruttura (School of Rock) and music directed by James Dobinson (The View UpStairs).

BHANGIN' IT was selected for Rhinebeck Writers Retreat's Triple R program, which gives musical theatre writers 2 readings and a residency to do extensive development in a compressed time frame, culminating in the May 1 staged reading. The program is fully funded by Rhinebeck Writers Retreat and made possible through a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and lead support from Cathy Cabrera and Rick Ungar, and Steve Reynolds.

Created in 2011 by Founding Executive Director Kathy Evans, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat provides a sanctuary for musical theatre writers to develop their musicals in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Past Rhinebeck Writers include Kirsten Childs, Michael Friedman, Adam Gwon, Joe Iconis, Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, Duncan Sheik, Kyle Jarrow, Nathan Tysen, David Hein and Irene Sankoff, Stew and Heidi Rodewald. Musicals developed in Rhinebeck have been seen at The Public Theater, Barrington Stage, Second Stage Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, NAMT's Festival of New Musicals, and The Eugene O'Neill National Music Theater Conference. All costs are covered by contributions, including The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund, The Frederick Loewe Foundation, The Dramatists Guild Fund, and The Noël Coward Foundation. We thank our major individual supporters: Liz Armstrong; Hal Aronow-Thiel and Pat Henry; Rick Farrar and Jeff Zadroga, Amy Faxon, Peter Risafi and Steven Wheeler, and Alec Stais and Elissa Burke. www.rhinebeckwriters.org

Inspired by the high-stakes world of intercollegiate bhangra (Indian folk dance) competitions, BHANGIN' IT follows a biracial girl named Mary who gets kicked off her bhangra team, the unstoppable Michigan State Bengal Tigers. Haunted by an accusation of not being "Indian enough," Mary grabs her best friend and cheerleading drop-out Sunita, and together they form a rag-tag multicultural bhangra team of their own. Mary also finds an unlikely mentor in Rekha, a former Bollywood starlet who now runs a restaurant slash cabaret act in East Lansing. As the team prepares for Nationals, they swap restaurant labor for dance lessons and brace for a collision course with Mary's former team. Along the way, BHANGIN' IT wrestles with love, betrayal, and the cultural traditions we inherit versus those we create.

Mike Lew's plays include Tiger Style! (Huntington, La Jolla Playhouse, and Alliance productions; O'Neill, CTG, and Juilliard workshops), Teenage Dick (Public Studio; O'Neill, OSF, FST, and PF workshops), microcrisis (Ma-Yi, InterAct, and Next ACT Productions), Stockton (AracaWorks and EST workshops), People's Park (Victory Gardens workshop), In Paris You will Find Many Baguettes... (Humana), Roanoke (Humana), and Moustache Guys. Mike recently won the Venturous Playwrights Fellowship with a two year residency at the Lark. He is a Tony Voter, Dramatists Guild Council member, and recipient of a Mellon Foundation residency, Lark residency, NYFA fellowship, and the Lanford Wilson, Helen Merrill, Heideman, and Kendeda awards. He is co-director of Ma-Yi Writers Lab, the largest collective of Asian-American Playwrights in the country. Education: Juilliard, Yale. Website: mikelew.com.

Rehana Lew Mirza's recent full-length plays include: Soldier X (Ma-Yi Theater; Brooklyn College; Kilroy Selection); Lonely Leela (LaGuardia Performing Arts Center); Barriers (Desipina and Asian American Theater Company); Neighborhood Watch (NNPN/InterAct Commission); Particles of Pakistan (E.S.T. Sloan Commission) and if it's sad i don't want to see it (readings: Queens Theater in the Park, 2G). She is a current Lark Playwrights Workshop fellow and playwright-in-residence at Ma-Yi Theater through the National Playwright Residency Program (with Mike Lew.) Additional honors include: 2016 Lilly Award (Stacey Mindich "Go Write A Play"), Rhinebeck residency and Orchard Project residency with collaborators Sam Willmott and Mike Lew for Bhangin' It, La Jolla Playhouse and Kennedy Center commissions (with Mike Lew), Tofte Lake Emerging Artist residency, TCG Future Leaders Fellowship with New Georges, Indo-American Arts Council playwright residency with The Lark, NBC Short Film Festival Audience Award, John Golden Award, and a LMCC artist grant. She is also current member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab (co-director from 2011-2013) and the Primary Stages Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group. MFA: Columbia University; BFA: NYU Tisch. www.rehanamirza.com

Sam Willmott is a composer, lyricist and bookwriter whose work includes Standardized Testing - The Musical!!!!; Yo, Vikings! (with Marcus Stevens); the mini-musical Scarlet Takes a Tumble; Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (additional lyrics for the stage adaptation of the Jule Styne / Bob Merrill score); and a new project with Dreamworks Animation. Sam is the recipient of the 2015 ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award, the 2015 Kleban Prize for Most Promising Musical Theatre Lyricist, a 2015 Jonathan Larson Grant, the 2013 ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Award for Lyrics, the 2012 Fred Ebb Award, the 2012 John Wallowitch Award, and the 2009 Kennedy Center ACTF Musical Theater Award. He has been a Composer-in-Residence at The Orchard Project, Running Deer Musical Theatre Lab and Rhinebeck Writers Retreat (all for Bhangin' It, summer 2015), Goodspeed Musicals (2013 and 2014), and the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Music Theater Conference (2013). He is an ongoing resident member of Merrimack Repertory Theatre's Patriot Program, and was the first musical theatre writer to be recognized with the Exploring the Metropolis / ConEdison Musicians' Residency. Sam is a teaching artist with Lincoln Center Theatre's Songwriting in Schools Program, and a proud contributing writer to the Korean children's language program, English Egg, for whom he has written over 120 songs. For more info, check out SamWillmott.com.

David Ruttura (Director). Directing credits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Ogunquit/Gateway Playhouse), White Christmas (Gateway Playhouse), Hot Mess in Manhattan (Araca Project), Electra in a One-Piece (Good Company/The Wild Project), He Who Laughs: Live by Isaac Oliver (Ars Nova), Moustache Guys by Mike Lew (Second Generation), Koberet (Joe's Pub), Red, White and Purple (Ensemble Studio Theater). Film Credits include the web series Dick Punch,stalkTALK. David is currently the Associate/Resident Director of School of Rock on Broadway. As Associate Director, credits include; Broadway: Spider-man, Follies, Lombardi, Million Dollar Quartet, White Christmas, A Man for All Seasons. Tour: Phantom. Regional: Kennedy Center, LaJolla Playhouse, Old Jews Telling Jokes.

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