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Works by Paula Vogel, Alex Brightman and More Set for 2017 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed


In what has become an annual ritual, a total of 32 established and emerging composers, lyricists, and librettists will converge on the Goodspeed campus from mid-January through mid-February 2017 to participate in the Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals. The writing teams, representing 18 new musicals, will populate the campus, creating a truly exciting environment for discovery and inspiration.

The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed is an unparalleled, long-term residency program devoted exclusively to musical theatre writing. It provides a sanctuary for composers, lyricists, and librettists to embark on new musical theatre work or to devote a substantial amount of time to a work-in-progress in an environment rich with creative energy. For four weeks, starting January 16, the writing teams work in residence in Goodspeed's Artists Village, each team in their own house, with whatever support is needed, from dramaturgical to Goodspeed's fine music department. In the evenings writers get together in an informal, salon-style environment and share the day's work. This gathering allows the artists an invaluable opportunity to gain insight from their colleagues. The Colony is the ultimate think tank of veteran Broadway and young working professionals in theater today.

Over the course of the four week program, composer/lyricist Jonathan Brielle will again serve as Producer/Writer in Residence. Mr. Brielle is a writer, composer and lyricist. He created the first songwriters' room in New York City, Uncle LuLu's. His first Broadway credit was writing music and lyrics for Foxfire starring theater legends Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy (who won the Tony) and Keith Carradine. Subsequently, he became Composer in Residence of the prestigious Circle Repertory Company in New York, providing scores for some of New York's top playwrights. His recent credits include Himself and Nora (book, music, lyrics) Minetta Lane Theater 2016; Nightmare Alley (book, music, lyrics) Geffen Playhouse; and 40 Naked Women, A Monkey and Me (book, music, lyrics) Eugene O'Neill Cabaret Conference. His Las Vegas shows include book, music, lyrics for Enter The Night (Stardust) and MADhattan (New York, New York). For television, he is the music director and composer for "Wonderama" on the Tribune network. He continues to serve as Executive Vice President of the Johnny Mercer Foundation.

Clifford Lee Johnson III will serve as Resident DramaturgE. Johnson is a Consulting Producer who specializes in producing and developing new plays and musicals. Between 2009 and 1993, he was the Director of Musical Development at Manhattan Theatre Club. Prior to that he was the Assistant Literary Manager at Actors Theatre of Louisville. He has been a critic for BACKSTAGE and published articles on the theater in various publications. He has also taught at the Kenyon Playwrights Conference, mentored at the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, and served as an adviser during the creation of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Goodspeed's Line Producer Donna Lynn Hilton is guiding Goodspeed Musicals' efforts on the JMF Writers Colony. Amanda Kate Joshi will be the 2017 Colony Coordinator.

The Writers Colony created a confluence of Goodspeed's long-held mission of fostering new works and JMF's dedication to nurturing the discipline of songwriting. With this wonderful collaboration, Goodspeed continues to be an incubator for the next generation of musical theatre artists and performers, as well as the home of the American Musical. This is best-illustrated by several projects that Goodspeed has moved from the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony forward to production including Indian Joe (2015) and Chasing Rainbows (2016) as well as the upcoming Deathless and Darling Grenadine which are both slated for the 2017 Terris Theatre season.

The outstanding writers who have been invited to participate in the colony have earned tremendous recognition in the industry with honors such as the Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics Award, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Drama Desk Award, The Jonathan Larson Award, Kleban Prize, Outer Critics Circle, MAC Award, BMI Foundation Jerry Bock Award, NEFA National Theater Project Award, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship, ASCAP Plus Award, the Ronald M. Ruble Prize for New Works for Young Audiences and many more.

Goodspeed is pleased to announce that the 2017 writing teams are (in alphabetical order) Janet Allard, Beth Blatt, Alex Brightman, Sam Carner, Ben Clark, Peppy Castro, Joel Derfner, Mindi Dickstein, Kate Douglas, Robert DuSold, Drew Gasparini, Nolan Gasser, Scott Gilmour, Matt Gould, Derek Gregor, Kirsten Guenther, Shayfer James, Andrew Kramer, Patrick Lazour, Daniel Lazour, Sean Mahoney, Dan Marshall, Claire McKenzie, Andy Monroe, Patricia Noonan, June Rachelson Ospa, Nicky Phillips, Martha Redbone, Jen Shuber, Mark Sonnenblick, Niko Tsakalakos, and Douglas Waterbury-Tieman.

The mission of the Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) is to support the discipline of songwriting in the tradition of the Great American Songbook, as exemplified by the life and work of the legendary Johnny Mercer: lyricist, composer, performer, collaborator and producer. The Foundation continues Johnny's legacy by partnering with individuals and organizations dedicated to celebrating and nourishing the disciplines he mastered and the causes he and his wife Ginger Mercer championed.

JMF has created a number of dynamic creative joint ventures with several prestigious institutions to facilitate our goals, including the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, Accentuate The Positive Programs (New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami), The Musical Theater Program at NJPAC, Georgia State University Fellowship Program, Florida International University Fellowship Program, the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project with Northwestern University and the Johnny Mercer Archives at Georgia State University. In addition, JMF also supports various charitable causes including UCLA's Art of The Brain, Children's Hospital Los Angeles (Mark Taper and Johnny Mercer Artists Program), Braille Institute (Johnny Mercer Children and Adult Choirs) and KCET TVs Cinema Series.

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Under the leadership of Executive Director Michael Gennaro, Goodspeed Musicals is dedicated to the preservation, development, and advancement of musical theatre. Goodspeed produces three musicals each season at the The Goodspeed in East Haddam, Conn. and additional musicals at The Terris Theatre in Chester, Conn., which was opened in 1984 for the development of new musicals. The first regional theatre to receive two Tony Awards for outstanding achievement, Goodspeed maintains The Scherer Library of Musical Theatre and The Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre.

Who's Who: 2017 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals Participants:

A SILENT MAN (Scott Gilmour, Claire McKenzie)

NOISEMAKER is the award-winning writing partnership of actor/writer Scott Gilmour and composer Claire McKenzie. Both graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Scott and Claire began collaborating together to create innovative, imaginative work that challenges the expectations of musical theatre. The pair have gone on to work throughout the UK and internationally with companies including The National Theatre of Scotland, The Royal Lyceum, Channel 4, Citizens Theatre, The Roundhouse, Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, NYMF and the BBC. Noisemaker credits include: Little Red And The Wolf (Dundee Rep Theatre - Nominated for Best Production for Children and Young People UK Theatre Awards 2016 and Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland 2016); Forest Boy (NYMF/St James' Theatre/Arcola Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe Assembly - Winner of S&S Award for Best Musical in Development, The NYMF 2016 Publishing Award and selected for the Next Link Project by the New York Musical Festival 2016); The Girl Who (Edinburgh Fringe Assembly/Infinity Rep); Freakshow (The Roundhouse/ The Arches - Winner of the Scottish Daily Mail Drama Award 2012); The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh). Upcoming projects include: The Girl Who, which will tour New York with Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in early 2017. Noisemaker have been commissioned to adapt pop groups Belle & Sebastian's film "God Help The Girl" for the stage. Most recently, Scott and Claire were chosen as one of the New Voices 2016 - an award for emerging? writers from across the globe chosen by New Musicals Inc. and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment. Alongside this Noisemaker were recently named Artists in Residence at the National Theatre of Scotland.

Scott Gilmour (Book/Lyrics) Scott trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and now works as an actor, writer and director throughout the UK. His acting credits include: The 306:Dawn (The National Theatre of Scotland), Pressure (Royal Lyceum/Chichester Festival Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Royal Lyceum), James And The Giant Peach (Dundee Rep)' "Lovehurts" (Channel 4/Clerkenwell Films)' Everyman (Splendid Productions), Velvet Evening Seance (Tortoise in a Nutshell/National Theatre of Scotland)' The Improvised Musical (Red Note Ensemble/No Shoes Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe). Scott's writing credits include: Book/Lyrics for The Tales Of Netherwold (MarkScott Productions), Lyrics for Anna And The Apocalypse (Flaming Griffin Productions). Upcoming projects include: National Theatre of Scotland's The 306:Day (actor/asst. director) and Parahandy at Pitlochry Festival Theatre (actor).

Claire McKenzie (Music) McKenzie studied Composition and Musical Direction at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where she received the Patrons Prize for Composition from the Royal Schools of Music, the Stevenson Scholarship and the Paul Kelly Prize for Drama. Claire recently completed a residency at the Royal Lyceum Edinburgh and composed music for their productions of The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Winner Best Production at the Critics Awards 2015), The Illiad, Faith Healer, Hedda Gabler, The Venetian Twins and THE BFG. Other Composing /Sound Design credits include: Long Days Journey Into Night, A Christmas Carol (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh), Hecuba, Mill Lavvies (Dundee Rep), Roman Bridge (National Theatre of Scotland), Hansel And Gretel, After The End, Divided City, Beauty And The Beast, Cinderella (Citizens Theatre). TV, film and radio credits include arrangements for Children in Need 2012-14, Scottish Olympic Homecoming Event, My First Spellbook (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - nominated for a BAFTA New Talent Award for Original Music.)

BABY GIRL (Paula Vogel, Matt Gould)

Paula Vogel (Book / Lyrics) has written How I Learned To Drive (Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics Award, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and many more.) Other plays include A Civil War Christmas, The Long Christmas Ride Home, The Mineola Twins, Hot 'N' Throbbin, The Baltimore Waltz, Desdemona, And Baby Makes Seven, and The Oldest Profession.

Her plays have been produced by Second Stage, New York Theatre Workshop, the Vineyard Theatre, Roundabout, and Circle Repertory Company, and regionally all over the country at the Center Stage, Intiman, Trinity Repertory, Woolly Mammoth, Huntington Theatre, Magic Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, American Repertory Theatre, Dallas Theatre Berkeley Repertory, and Alley Theatres to name a few. HarroGate Theatre and the Donmar Theatre have produced her work in England.

Matt Gould (Music /Lyrics) is a recipient of the Richard Rodgers Award (2012 and 2014), The Jonathan Larson Award, and ASCAP's Dean Kay, Harold Adamson, and Richard Rodgers Awards. His musical Invisible Thread (fka Witness Uganda) had its NY premiere at 2econd Stage Theater and its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard both under the direction of Tony Winner Diane Paulus. His upcoming original works include The Family Project for LA's Center Theatre Group and Lempicka (Yale Rep Commission). He wrote Twilight in Manchego (directed by Tony Winner Billy Porter) for the NYMF, has written and arranged music for Playwrights Horizons and translated, adapted and directed Romeo and Juliet in Pulaar (Mauritania, West Africa.) Matt has performed around the world including Uganda, Mauritania, and Japan, and across the US. A graduate of Boston University's College of Fine Arts, Matt is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer at schools and Universities. He is the co-director of UgandaProject. @FakeMattGould

BENNY & JOON (Kirsten Guenther, Nolan Gasser. Mindi Dickstein)

Kirsten Guenther (Book) began her writing career in Paris, where she penned the popular weekly column "The Sexy Expat" about an American navigating/dating the French. She is currently writing the book for Benny & Joon (Transport Group, NAMT 2016) and the new musical Measure Of Success (Rockefeller Grant). Book and lyrics: Little Miss Fix-It (seen on NBC). Book: Mrs. Sharp (Richard Rodgers Award); The Cable Car Nymphomaniac (Bay Area Theatre Award Nominee) and Out Of My Head (licensed by Steelespring Stage Rights). She has written sketches for celebrities including James Franco, Jared Leto, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kathie Lee and Hoda, Steve Buscemi, Deion Sanders and Queen Latifah. Kirsten was a Dramatist Guild Fellow and a Disney/ASCAP participant. She holds a BFA in acting from USC and an MFA from the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

NOLAN GASSER (Music) is a critically acclaimed composer, pianist, and musicologist - most notably, the architect of Pandora Radio's Music Genome Project and the company's chief musicologist from its founding in 1999. He holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from Stanford University. His original compositions have been performed in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall, La Salle Pleyel (Paris), and the Rose Bowl. Current projects: an opera, The Secret Garden, commissioned by San Francisco Opera (premiered March 1, 2013); a musical, Benny & Joon (MGM Onstage / H2H Productions), a film score for the Lance Kinsey film, "All-Stars", and a forthcoming book, Why You Like It: The Science And Culture Of Musical Taste (Macmillan Press). Nolan is the subject of a documentary for the ESPN-FiveThirtyEight series, The Collectors, entitled "Breaking Music Down to Its Genes." He recently delivered a successful TEDx on musical taste and its role in our lives.

Mindi Dickstein (Lyrics) wrote the lyrics for the Broadway musical Little Women (MTI, Ghostlight/Sh-k-Boom). Current work includes lyrics for three new musicals: Benny & Joon, based on the MGM film (Transport Group, NAMT 2016); Faerie Tale (Rhinebeck); and Snow In August (American Harmony Prize, based on the Hamill novel); as well as book and lyrics for Trip (Playwrights Horizons Steinberg Commission). Her past work includes book and lyrics for Beasts And Saints (ASCAP Workshop, Boston Music Theater Project), Notes Across A Small Pond (Bridewell Theater, London) and By The Numbers (Prospect Theater), and book for Toy Story - The Musical (Disney). Her songs have been heard widely, most notably in concert at the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center's "Hear and Now: Contemporary Lyricists." Her monologue, Starving To Death In Midtown, was performed internationally in support of Climate Change awareness in 2015. Honors include a Larson Foundation Award, Massachusetts and New York State Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowships, and a Second Stage Klinsky Award. MFA / current faculty: NYU Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program. Member: ASCAP and The Dramatists Guild.

BETHESDA (Patrick Lazour, Daniel Lazour)

PATRICK (Book/Lyrics) and Daniel Lazour (Book / Music) have been writing musical theatre together for the past seven years. Hailing from Massachusetts, the Lazour brothers have produced five of their full-length original works at community, regional and university levels. Their primary interest is in politico-historical subject matter that - by way of music - may be made relevant to our time. Inspired by popular sounds from around the world, they look to create a soundscape that celebrates diversity and culture. We Live in Cairo, their musical about the youth activists in Egypt after the 2011 Revolution in Tahrir Square, was developed as part of the 2015 O'Neill National Music Theater Conference and received the 2016 Richard Rodgers Award. Most recently, they presented the piece as part of NAMT's Festival of New Musicals. They have developed their work during residencies at the O'Neill, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat and SPACE on Ryder Farm. Patrick and Daniel are 2015-16 Dramatists Guild Fellows.

BONE HILL (Martha Redbone, Aaron Whitby)

Martha Redbone (Book/Music/ Lyrics) is one of the most vital voices in American Roots music. A multi award-winning musician, the charismatic songstress is celebrated for her tasty gumbo of roots music embodying the folk and mountain blues sounds of her childhood in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky mixed with the eclectic grit of her teenage years in pre-gentrified Brooklyn. With her gospel-singing father's voice and the spirit of her Cherokee/Choctaw mother's culture, Redbone broadens the boundaries of Americana. Her latest CD, "The Garden of Love- Songs of William Blake", produced by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder and Grammy-winner John McEuen, is an unexpected twist; "Martha's magnificent voice, Blake's immortal words, and a masterful cornucopia of roots music (folk, country, piedmont blues, gospel, bluegrass, soul and traditional Native)" that make for "a brilliant collision of cultures" (New Yorker.) Redbone and her long term collaborator, pianist Aaron Whitby, are called "the little engine that could" by their "band of NYC's finest blues and jazz musicians" (Larry Blumenthal,Wall Street Journal). From humble beginnings with residencies at the original Living Room on the Lower East side and at Joe's Pub and nationally at powwows across Indian Country in support of her debut album "Home of the Brave," of which Billboard said, a "stunning album, the kind of woman who sets trends," Redbone has built a passionate fan base with her mesmerizing presence and explosive live shows. Her album "Skintalk" is described as the soulful sound of "Earth, Wind and Fire on the Rez" by Native Peoples magazine and is recognized as an example of Contemporary Native American music in the Permanent Library Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The Redbone/Whitby team's newest work, Bone Hill, is based on the stories of Redbone's Appalachian mining family's heritage and culture. In the piece Redbone travels back in time to her own childhood and beyond into the memories and tales of her Cherokee ancestors revealing an untold American story fueled in a celebration of American music. Redbone is a 2016 Fellow of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Bone Hill is the recipient of the NEFA National Theater Project Award and NPN Creation Fund Award' and Redbone is a 2015 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellow.

AARON WHITBY (Book/Music/ Lyrics) is co-creator of Bone Hill. London-born Whitby, a producer, composer/songwriter and pianist, and an in-demand musician on the London Jazz and World music scenes. Mentored by Walter "Junie" Morrison of Parliament Funkadelic and Ohio Players, Aaron is best-known for the multiple award-winning albums he wrote, produced, and directed with longtime collaborator Martha Redbone. Whitby stepped into the independent music world with the release of "Home of the Brave" by singer/songwriter and longtime collaborator Martha Redbone which garnered multiple awards and the debut album on the team's own imprint Blackfeet Productions. Whitby tours with Redbone, whose sophomore album "Skintalk" won numerous awards including Independent Music Award for Best RnB Album in 2006. "Skintalk" is part of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian's permanent library collection as an example of contemporary Native American music. He engineered Natalie Cole's Grammy-winning single "Living for Love". He has recorded and/or engineered with George Clinton, Randy Brecker, Lisa Fischer, John McEuen, Corey Harris, Raul Midon, Tony Scherr, Harvey Goldberg, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Keith Secola, Mino Cinelu, Nona Hendryx, Vernon Reid, Snehasish Mozumder, and many others. A dedicated music educator specializing in group work, he has taught music to all ages including classes for children with special needs. He has been a teaching artist in-residence in NYC elementary schools since 2006. Bone Hill - The Concert is Redbone and Whitby's first commission in musical theater, a Joe's Pub/Public Theater original commission and the perfect follow-up to their critically-acclaimed Americana CD "The Garden of Love - Songs of William Blake." Whitby is currently working on his own CD release "Cousin from Another Planet," a jazz/funk exploration of his more esoteric musical vocabulary featuring Charles Burnham, Keith Loftis, Fred Cash, Gary Fritz and Rodney Holmes.

DEVOTION (Mark Sonnenblick)
M. Sonnenblick was a 2016 Mercer Colony participant

Mark Sonnenblick (Book/Music/Lyrics) is a composer, lyricist, and scriptwriter, although not always at the same time. Collaborations include Independents ("Best Production" FringeNYC, "Critics' Pick" New York Times, Huffington Post's Top Ten Shows of 2012), Midnight At The Never Get (NYMF), Ship Show (Yale Institute for Music Theatre, dir. Mark Brokaw), Stompcat In Lawndale (Ars Nova Ant Fest), Wheel Of Misfortune (Denver Center for the Performing Arts), The Dinosaur Hunters (touring children's show), Rodman In North Korea (Houghton Lyric Theater), and Bunkerville (Yale DRAMAT, winner of the 2016 BSU Discovery Festival). Larson Grant and Kleban Prize finalist, MAC Award nominee, special merit award winner (New Musicals, Inc.). Composer fellow at the John Duffy Institute (Virginia Arts Festival), librettist fellow with Composers and The Voice (American Opera Projects), alumnus of the Johnny Mercer Songwriting Project and Writers Colony, commissioned by the American Opera Initiative (Washington National Opera, Kennedy Center) and Lincoln Center Originals. BA in American Studies, Yale University.

HIGHWAY OF TEARS (Beth Blatt, Robert DuSold)

Beth Blatt (Book / Lyrics) Beth's words for theatre have won her the Director's Choice Award (NYMF), National Art Song competition, Jonathan Larson and NAMT grants, Klinsky Award (2econd Stage), GBH Lyricist Award (the O'Neill), and fellowships from The Dramatists' Guild and America-In-Play. Her work has been performed at the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, Lincoln Center and across the US, Asia, and Europe. The Mistress Cycle was produced in New York, London and twice in Chicago. Island of the Blue Dolphins, TheatreWorks USA, toured the US. She has received commissions from The Village Theatre (Oneida) and TheatreWorks USA. Development/residencies include the O'Neill, UCross (Sundance), Goodspeed Musicals, Queens University (Belfast), and Running Deer. Beth wrote the lyrics for Princess Caraboo (Jenny Giering, music; Marsha Norman, book) which was presented at NAMT and Goodspeed's Terris Theatre. Beth has taught Musical Theatre Songwriting at Adelphi University and is the co-founder of the Musical Theatre Writers' Group at the Music Theatre of CT. She is a past member of the BMI/Lehman Engel Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop, a current member of the Dramatists' Guild and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth College. She is founder of Hope Sings, the for-benefit music business whose mission is to harness the power of song/story to support women; notable projects include the anthem for UN Women - the first-ever anthem for a UN agency, which she produced and wrote the lyrics for.

Robert DuSold (Music) conceived and is the creative producer of The Public Theater's award-winning musical Southern Comfort, based on the Sundance Award-winning documentary of the same name. Southern Comfort won the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award, the GLAAD Media Award, and a Jonathon Larson Grant, as well as 2016 Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations.

As an actor, Robert's Broadway and National Tour credits include principal roles in Mamma Mia, The Producers, Chicago, Jekyll and Hyde, LES MISERABLES, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Phantom of the Opera, Show Boat, Cats, and Evita. His regional credits include the Guthrie Theater, DC Arena Stage, Signature Theater, Paper Mill Playhouse and others. Robert is featured in the animated classic "Anastasia", in "A Gala Concert for Harold Prince" on Tristar Records, and in "Sondheim: An Evening in Celebration" at Carnegie Hall for PBS.

INTO THE WILD (Janet Allard, Niko Tsakalakos)

Janet Allard (Book/Lyricis) Her musicals include Into The Wild, Perseverance Theater (commission), Berkeley Rep Ground Floor (development), Rhinebeck Writer's Retreat (development), 54 Below, Rattlestick Playwright's Theatre's 'New Songs Now'; Pool Boy at Barrington Stage, Provincetown Playhouse; Driving West at Ars Nova; The Unknown (Jonathan Larson Award with P73 Productions) and NYMF. Allard's plays include VROOOMMM! Summer Play Festival, Triad Stage, published by Samuel French; Speed Date; Incognito; Loyal;and Untold Crimes Of Insomniacs, published by Playscripts, Inc. Her work has been seen at The Guthrie Lab, The Kennedy Center, Mixed Blood, Playwrights Horizons, Yale Rep, The Yale Cabaret, The Women's Project, Perseverance Theatre, Joe's Pub, Barrington Stage, P73 Productions, Ars Nova, Arts and Artists at St. Paul, Birdland, 54 Below. Janet's awards include Two Jerome Fellowships at The Playwrights' Center, three Macdowell Colony Fellowships, A North Carolina Arts Council Individual Artist Grant and a Writer's ResidenCy Grant from NAMT. She received two Rhinebeck Writer's Residencies in 2011 and 2014 and a 29 hour reading in 2016. She is a Fulbright Fellow, has an MFA in Playwriting from Yale School of Drama, and has studied at the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

Niko Tsakalakos (Music/Lyrics) is a singer/songwriter and musical theatre writer whose debut solo album, "The First Snow", was released in 2013. In 2015, he was selected as a Composer Fellow at The Sundance Institute Playwrights Retreat at Ucross, Wyoming. He was also a finalist for the Kleban Prize in Musical Theatre in 2014. He appeared in Ars Nova's Uncharted Series in 2011 and AntFest in 2009. He is writing a new musical, Into the Wild, with Janet Allard, based on the book by Jon Krakauer, which was commissioned by Perseverance Theatre in Alaska. This musical has received developmental support from the Rhinebeck Writing Retreat and Ground Floor - Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Niko is also writing a new musical with Peter Sinn Nachtrieb called Fall Springs, which has been workshopped at New Dramatists; Ars Nova; and TheatreWorks, Silicon Valley.Pool Boy, his musical co-written with Janet Allard and directed by Daniella Topol, enjoyed a sold-out world premiere run at Barrington Stage Company in the summer of 2010. It was also produced by Provincetown Playhouse in 2012. His concerts and cabarets such as "Driving West," "The Niko Songbook," "Songs of a Night Owl," and "Late Nite with Niko" have been performed at venues such as Joe's Pub, 54 Below, Birdland, Barrington Stage Company and Lincoln Center's Bruno Walter Auditorium among others. Niko is a recipient of various awards including the ASCAP Plus Award (2013), Vineyard Arts Project (2012), NAMT Writers Grant (2012), Playwrights Center Writing Grant (2009), MFA Tisch Tuition Scholarship (2006-2008), and UCLA Barry Manilow Scholarship (2003/2004). He is also the film composer of Rock, Paper, Scissors (Alliance Films, 2007). Check out his website at

IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (Alex Brightman, Drew Gasparini)

Alex Brightman (Book) is a writer and actor living in New York City. His recent credits include Everything In It's Place: The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers starring Marc Summers (Bloomington Playwrights Project, Adirondack Theatre Festival), and Make Me Bad (music & lyrics byDrew Gasparini) at the Bloomington Playwrights Project. Upcoming musical works include the adaptation of the award-winning novel The Whipping Boy (music & co-lyrics by Drew Gasparini) and the adaptation of It's Kind Of A Funny Story (music & lyrics by Drew Gasparini) based on the Universal film. Upcoming non-musical works include Slow Children, a play surrounding the events of a controversial hit and run, and A Nicer Place, an exploration into alternate realities and the lengths some would go to see them.

Drew Gasparini (Music/Lyrics) was a contributing composer for the television series "SMASH" (season 2) on NBC and was named one of Playbill's "Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know." The Houston Press has called Drew's music "deftly captivating with lyrics that pulse with vibrant poignancy and appealing wit." His work is regularly heard at Contemporary Classics New Voices in Seattle, Cutting-Edge Composers in NYC and his brand of theater concerts are performed regularly at esteemed NYC venues such as Joe's Pub at The Public Theater, and 54 Below.

"The Music & Lyrics of Drew Gasparini" was presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in 2012 and Lincoln Center in New York City in 2015. Drew's musical theatre/pop album "I Could Use A Drink: The Songs Of Drew Gasparini", featuring the vocals of some of Broadway's biggest names, was released by Broadway Records in 2013 and spent five weeks on the top 100 iTunes charts. Drew is an alum of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and his sheet music is available at where he is a Top 10 best seller.

Drew signed a publishing deal with Razor&Tie publishing in 2015, and since then his songs have been heard nation-wide on TV programs such as "Gainesville" on CMT and NBC's "The Biggest Loser." Currently Drew is working on several new projects including a commission for Warner Brothers Theater Ventures, an adaptation of the movie/novel It's Kind of a Funny Story (book by Alex Brightman) commissioned by Universal Theatrical, as well as an adaptation of the children's novel Whipping Boy (again with Alex Brightman). When Drew isn't writing musicals, he's writing, recording, and performing with his band Saint Adeline alongside both his younger sisters Kasie and Chloe. He is also working on another theater/pop album and the development of a comedy/variety show with his collaborative comedy collective, The (M)orons.

JOHNNY AND The Devil'S BOX (Douglas Waterbury-Tieman)

Douglas Waterbury-Tieman (Book/Music/Lyrics) grew up in Lexington, KY. He started playing the violin and performing onstage in the fourth grade and has been doing so ever since. Whether performing in musicals and plays, playing his fiddle or writing for the stage, he finds great fulfillment in using the power of stagecraft and performance to positively impact his audiencE. Douglas graduated from Belmont University in 2012 as an honors student with a BM in musical theatre performance. He is also a professional fiddle player and recently appeared in Roundabout Theatre Company's Robber Bridegroom as an onstage musician and clogger. His other recent theatre credits include A Christmas Carol (Ensemble/Musician) at Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Fiddler on the Roof (The Fiddler) at Studio Tenn, Lost Highway (Leon), and Cotton Patch Gospel (Jesus) at Flat Rock PlayhousE. Douglas' writing for the stage was recently seen at Penn State as part of their Nu Musical Theatre Summer Festival with a staged reading of Deep Water Ballad (Book by Tieman, Music/Lyrics by Chris Rayis). Douglas is also a collaborative member of The Lobbyists, a NYC-based band and theatre group who recently performed their concert-play SeaWife, at the South Street Seaport in collaboration with Liz Carlson and Naked Angles Theatre Co. Douglas owes whatever success he has had to the love and support of his fiance Annabelle and his family.

ROCKIN' THE BIBLE (Peppy Castro, June Rachelson Ospa)

Peppy Castro (Music/Book /Lyrics), who is considered to be one of the early pioneers of the Psychedelic Garage band rock era, has done it all. He is a successful seasoned professional with great variety in his music. His fame and 1st hit record began at the age of 17 as one of the founding fathers of the legendary rock group The Blues Magoos. His rock and roll status led him to a starring role in the original Broadway Production of Hair. Peppy followed up with being awarded Drama Logue Magazine's Outstanding Achievement Award for his music and lyrics for the ground breaking show Zen Boogie which ran to rave reviews in Beverly Hills. His songs have been recorded by the likes of Diana Ross, Kiss, and Cher, among others. He is also Emmy-nominated and an award-winning playwright and multi-instrumentalist who has penned and or performed hundreds of well-known jingles for decades. Favorite jingles include Budweiser, Chevy, Bounty, Nestlé's Crunch, Kodak, among others -- the list is endless. His potent vocals have appeared on numerous platinum records for well-known recording artists. He's enjoyed years of diverse music by being an original member of the bands The Blues Magoos, Balance, Wiggy Bits, and the newly-inducted Long Island Music Hall of Famers Barnaby Bye. Peppy is also an associate producer for the new off Broadway show The Gong Show Live and has just completed his own solo CD titled "Just Beginning" with long-time friend Joey Kramer from Aerosmith on some cuts. Peppy has been writing and partnered up with his former manager and iconic producer Steve Leber on a rock theatrical spectacle conceived by Leber called Rockin' The Bible. The extensive list of artists Peppy has worked with over the years includes Laura Branagin, Michael Bolton, Liza Minnelli, Ronnie Spector, Peter Allen, Paul Stanley, Gene Simons, Ace Frehley, Joan Jett, Buzzy Lindhart, Rex Smith, Richie Havens, John Denver, Aldo Nova, David Johansen, Darlene Love and Jay and The Americans.

JUNE RACHELSON-OSPA (Book/Lyrics) is an award-winning writer of musical theater as well as a producer. She co-wrote Welcome To Tourettaville (Kennedy Center); Rapunzarella White (NYTimes Pick); Tourettaville Cartoon starring Dr. John, Michael Imperioli and Courage the Cowardly Dog; Triangle, The Hotel Belleclaire, and "Stellaluna" on DVD. She is currently developing new the musicals Bollywood And Vine, Imaginary Boy, Stupid Wig. Gone To Texas, New York Stories (Book), Breakfast With The Birds with author Jack G. Hyman, and Hyde and Seek.

As an independent producer (Osparations) her credits include Broadway's Godspell and investor in A Christmas Story The Musical (Lunt Fontaine and Madison Square Garden), as well as productions of Orphan Train, Oh Rats, The Adding Machine, Guardian Angel, and ACE Cabaret - Eugene Oregon. June has also mentored special needs children through YMCA After-school Programs, and was the Academy Director at Amas Musical Theatre.

June is a member of the League of Professional Theater Women, Dramatist Guild, and ASCAP. She is a former Board member of Theater Resources Unlimited, was Secretary for the New York City Tourette Syndrome Association, and was Artistic Director of Identity Theater.

SKIN & BONES (Ben Clark, Andrew Kramer)
B. Clark participated in the inaugural Mercer Colony in 2013

Ben Clark (Music/Lyrics) is a singer/songwriter from Floyds Knobs, IN currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Skin & Bones is his second work for musical theatre; his debut musical was The Circus in Winter, (Goodspeed Musicals 2014, NAMT 2012). Ben is a graduate of Ball State University Dept. of Theatre and Dance, where he received fellowships from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the Eugene O'Neill Musical Theatre Conference, and the Johnny Mercer Songwriting Colony. Ben has worked with collegiate undergrad students at his alma mater Ball State, as well as University of Nebraska, and Sheridan College in Canada. His debut record release was this fall with his band Ben Clark and the Long Shadows, titled "Time and Miles Apart."

ANDREW KRAMER (Book) was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. He is a 2010 graduate of Ball State University's Department of Theatre & Dance. Most recently, he was selected for the Downstage Left Playwriting Residency with Stage Left Theatre in Chicago to develop his play, St. Sebastian, which later appeared in their LeapFest New Play Festival. He was a 2014 Nord Playwriting Fellow at Cleveland Public Theatre, where he has developed his plays Cut it Out, Armature, Crying for Lions, and Bridge. He was a 2013 member of the Emerging Writer's Group at The Public Theatre in New York as well as a former member of the Groundbreakers Playwrights' Group with the terraNOVA Theatre Collective where he developed his play Whales & Souls. Andrew was a finalist for the 2050 Fellowship at New York Theatre Workshop, a former Core Apprentice Writer at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, as well as a two-time semi-finalist in the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Play Festival with his plays A Map of Our Country (2010) and We Happy Animals (2011). Andrew served as Playwright?in?Residence at the Cairns Arts Festival in Queensland, Australia and his play The Dog(run) Diaries was shortlisted for the 2012 US/UK Old Vic New Voices. He is currently working on Skin & Bones, a new American musical with composer Ben Clark, developed through the SigWorks Musical Theatre Lab at Signature Theatre, directed by Joe Calarco. Andrew is a two-time member of the Ingram New Works Lab at Nashville Repertory Theatre where he was mentored by playwright Steven Dietz and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright. His work has been seen in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Chicago, Brooklyn, Lincoln, Louisville, Nashville, Houston, Williamsburg VA, New York, Sacramento, Washington D.C, Cairns Australia and Bucharest Romania.

SWEETWATER (Patricia Noonan, Sean Mahoney)
P. Noonan & S. Mahoney were 2015 Mercer Colony participants

Patricia Noonan (Book & Lyrics) is an award-winning actor, singer, lyricist, and playwright. She graduated as a Presidential Scholar from Boston College where her award-winning plays The Storykeeper and Mermaid People were first produced. Noonan wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Learning How to Drown, developed at The Johnny Mercer Writers' Colony (Goodspeed) and The Pitch (Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival) and given a workshop production at Boston College earlier this year. She is one of the writers and co-founders of The #makeitfair Project, which launched last year to advocate for gender parity in the entertainment industry and beyond. As an actor, Noonan has created roles in Maury Yeston's Death Takes a Holiday (Sophia), Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (Elizabeth Bennet), Edwin: the Story of Edwin Booth (Mollie Booth), Signs of Life (Lorelei), Baby Case (Betty Gow), Neurosis (Abby), and Little House on the Prairie, and appeared in revivals at Lincoln Center and City Center in NYC and at theaters across the US. She can also be heard on the cast albums for Death Takes a Holiday and Merrily We Roll Along. As a concert soloist, Noonan has traveled the country from 54 Below to the Kennedy Center to Bass Hall. She is a regular performer with NYU's Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program and made her TV debut as Macie-Lynn Pearce on "Law & Order: SVU." Upcoming projects include the new musicalSweetwater and the independent feature film The Light of the Moon.

Sean Mahoney (Music) is a musical theater writer, guitarist, and DJ. Shows include Factory Girls (with Creighton Irons), Prep School Musical (with Sam Forman) and Sweetwater (with Patricia Noonan). He earned an MFA at NYU-Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing, and his work has been produced at Joe's Pub, Ars Nova, Symphony Space, Birdland, and many venues and theaters across the US. He lives in Telluride, CO, with his family, where he writes, teaches, plays guitar in a local band, and coaches his son's ski group.

THE CLEARING (Andy Monroe)

Andy Monroe (Book/Music/Lyrics) is a composer, lyricist and dramatist based in New York City. He wrote the book, music, and lyrics for an original musical titled Drive, which won the 2014 BMI Foundation Jerry Bock Award for Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre. He is the composer for a musical adaptation of Dan Savage's comic memoir The Kid (with lyrics by Jack Lechner and book by Michael Zam) which premiered in 2010 at The New Group under the direction of Scott Elliott where it won the 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. It also won the 2009 BMI Foundation Jerry Bock Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre. His musical short The Life and Times of Joe Jefferson Benjamin Blow has been produced regionally and he also wrote the short musicals SALLY PEACHES, La Rhonda, and Elevator Music as part of his participation in 4@15 at The York Theatre, where he also participated in their NEO4 Concert. He co-wrote the song "My Science Project" (lyrics by Jack Lechner) which was sung by Rosie O'Donnell on her HBO special, "A Family Is A Family Is A Family." He also wrote the music and lyrics for The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun (book and additional lyrics by Blair Fell), which was presented in the 2006 New York Musical Theater Festival. His work has been performed three times in the annual Bound For Broadway Concert at the Kauffman Center, NYC. He is the recipient of the 2001 BMI Foundation Jerry Harrington Musical Theater Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement and was a 2007-8 Dramatist Guild Fellow. In 2011 he received a Jonathan Larson Grant from the American Theatre Wing. He is a member of both the BMI Lehman Engel Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop and the BMI Librettists Workshop.


Nicky Phillips (Music/Lyrics) is an award-winning composer and lyricist. She is currently a member of the BMI-Lehman Engel Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop where she was awarded the Jean Banks Award for outstanding achievement in Musical Theatre. An alumna of the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, Nicky was mentored by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Craig Carnelia. Her work has been showcased at 54 Below, Don't Tell Mama, The Laurie Beachman Theatre and The New York Theatre Barn. She has had writing residencies at CAP21, the Human Race Theatre Company and was recently awarded the artist in residence at the Margret and H.A. Rey Center. She was honored to have written an original song for Colm Wilkinson that was featured in Music of the Night-a tribute to Colm Wilkinson. Musicals include: The Journey That Saved Curious Georgebased on the book by Louise Borden (upcoming workshop at the Canadian Music Theatre Project); Stagefright (Prospect Theatre Musical Theatre Lab); Tussaud (In Development); Bus Trip (BMI); In Flanders Fields (Smile Theatre, Lunchbox Theatre, Betty Mitchell Nomination). Original Music for plays include: Buyer and Cellar (Alberta Theatre Projects); Old Man And The River (Theatre Direct, Dora Nomination for Outstanding Production); Jane Eyre, The Penelopiad, and The 39 Steps (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre); and the upcoming The Snow Queen (Theatre New Brunswick). Visit

JEN SHUBER (Jen Shuber) is a Dora-nominated director and choreographer. She is also a book writer and dramaturg. She has served as the program director of Theatre 20's "Composium," a composer and lyricist writing unit in Toronto modelled after BMI. She is an alumnus of Interlochen Centre For the Arts in Michigan and is currently on the Board of Directors of Canadian Friends of Interlochen. She is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of The Arts, London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (summer program), Writing Musical Theatre at Playwrights' Guild and Lyric and Book Labs at NMI in L.A.. She has worked for the Stratford Festival, Soulpepper, Young People's Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Cirque du Soleil, Harold Green Jewish Theatre, Tarragon, New York Fringe, Buddies In Bad Times, Theatre By The Bay and many more. In 2013 Jen was nominated for the Siminovitch Prize in Directing.

THE NINTH HOUR (Kate Douglas, Shayfer James)
K. Douglas & S. James were 2016 Mercer Colony participants

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