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The Musical Theater Initiative Returns to Joe's Pub with Sneak Previews in their Songwriter Series 11/16

The Public Theater's Music Theater Initiative presents its first Songwriter Showcase, featuring sneak previews of three musicals in development by today's hottest young writing teams, curated by MTI director, Ted Sperling, Tony Award winner for THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA.

The evening will feature Jonathan Groff and Betty Gilpin performing excerpts from KANSAS CITY CHOIRBOY by Todd Almond. The set will be directed by Sam Gold (Circle Mirror Transformation).

Composer Scott Davenport Richards and Librettist Michele Lowe's one-act musical A THOUSAND WORDS COME TO MIND will be performed by Tony Award-Winner Barbara Walsh, accompanied on piano by John DiPinto. The piece was previously presented as part of "Inner Voices" at The Zipper Factory Theater.

Excerpts from LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE by Lila Downs, Paul Cohen, and Quiara Alegria Hugdes, based on the novel of the same title by Laura Esquivel, will round out the concert. Lila Downs will be joined onstage by fellow vocalist Martin Sola.

Todd Almond is a composer, lyricist and performer. His musicals include the award-winning People Like Us (dir: Gus Kaikkonen), Girlfriend (Berkeley Rep., dir: Les Waters), Ahraihsak (Theater Mitu, dir: Ruben Polendo), Kansas City Choirboy (dir: Sam Gold) and the upcoming shows We Have Always Lived in the Castle (with Adam Bock, Yale Rep, 2010), and On the Levee (with Marcus Gardley and Lear deBessonet). Almond served as Music Director for the world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's Tres Ninas, and he has written musicals for both Juilliard and NYU Grad as well as music-directed and reconceived classic works, most notably the "bald" Hair at the Skirball.

In addition to having some of the Theater World's top singers perform his music (Victoria Clark, Cheyenne Jackson, Jayne HoudyshellLaura Benanti, Steven Pasquale and more) Almond regularly performs his own material in NYC's top venues and he recently released a CD of original songs entitled Mexico City. He has been an artist-in-residence at Sundance (both Utah and Ucross, Wyoming), Vassar (with New York Theatre Workshop), and The Orchard Project.

In collaboration with composer Ellen Mandel, Todd has recorded two albums of songs with music by Mandel and texts by E.E. Cummings, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and other great poets. Almond is currently writing a concert piece called Wyoming, and he is collaborating with Warren Leight and Stafford Arima on a musical adaptation of John Knowles' novel A Separate Peace.

Composer, Lyricist, Teacher, and Director, Scott Davenport Richards finds himself continually trying to bridge disparate genre's and forms.

Last year, Charlie Crosses the Nation an opera in a Jazz idiom (music, libretto, orchestration), was performed by the New York City Opera as part of the VOX festival of new opera. A Thousand Words Come to Mind written with playwright, Michele Lowe was commissioned by Paulette Haupt and opened last May at The Zipper Theatre starring Tony Nominee, Barbara Walsh. A Star Across the Ocean, a work for 4 voices and symphony orchestra, was premiered by the Montclair State University Symphony featuring Tony Award-winner Chuck Cooper.

Current projects include a musical adaptation of the classic Jean Shepherd film A Christmas Story, with a book by Joe Robinette, which is scheduled to open At Kansas City Rep this November directed by Artistic Director, Eric Rosen produced in partnership with Gerald Goehring and Michael Jenkins. Dance of the Holy Ghosts, a play with music by Marcus Gardley, premiered in 2006 at the Yale Repertory Theatre.

Other Musical Theatre Works include music for Coyote Goes Salmon Fishing (with Deborah Brevoort), directed by Molly Smith at Perseverance Theatre and produced by Stuart Ostrow in Houston; and Sanctuary D. C., a rap musical about the homeless in Washington (Helen Hayes Award nomination).

His play-scores have been heard at resident theatres around the country including The Old Globe, The Alliance, and Madison Repertory Theatre. Highlights include the world premiere of Lee Blessing's Cobb featuring Oscar Winner, Chris Cooper and Delroy Lindo at The Yale Repertory and the U. S. premiere of Nikos Kazantzakis's Christopher Columbus at the New Federal Theater.

As an actor, Mr. Richards originated the role of Sylvester in the original Broadway production of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Frank Rich's review of that production (praising Mr. Richards performance among others) was recently included in Ben Brantley's compilation of the NY Times reviews of 25 productions which defined the 20th century. Mr. Richards also assisted his father, Lloyd Richards, in the origination of 3 other Wilson works.

Mr. Richards is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson and the Frederick Loewe awards. He is assistant professor of musical theatre at Montclair State University's Cali School of Music, and has been a member of the faculty at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program since 1997. From 1995-2005, he was a teaching artist with Lincoln Center Institute, where he also authored publications for the Heckscher Foundation Research Center on such various subjects as The Blues, Margaret Leng Tan (The Art of the Toy Piano), and the tangos of Astor Piazzolla.

Arlington's TONY award winning Signature Theatre announced that Scott Davenport Richards would be the recipient of an American Musical Voices grant for the development of his musical ideas funded by the Shen Family Foundation.

Michele Lowe is the author of String of Pearls which received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play. She is also the author of The Smell of the Kill (Broadway debut) and Backsliding in the Promised Land (Syracuse Stage). She wrote the book and lyrics for the musical A Thousand Words Come to Mind (Zipper Theatre) and Hit the Lights! (Vineyard Theatre).

Other plays include Good on Paper and Map of Heaven. Lowe has been commissioned by Denver Center Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Geva Theatre. Her plays have been produced at Florida Stage (String of Pearls), Primary Stages, Vineyard Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Reykjavik City Theatre (Iceland) Berkshire Theatre Festival, Asolo, and Cleveland Play House among dozens of others.

Her work has been developed at the Eugene O'Neill National Music Theatre Conference, Colorado New Play Summit, New Harmony Project, PlayLabs, New York Stage and Film, Hartford Stage's BRAND: NEW Festival, and the ACT & Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival.

Her work appears in New Playwrights/The Best Plays of 2005 (Smith & Knaus, 2006), The Best Women's Stage Monologues 2005 (Smith & Knaus, 2006) and Monologues for Women by Women (Heinemann, 2004).

Screenplays include The Emergence of Emily Stark and Quitting Texas. For television she has written several episodes of Little Bear based on characters created by Elsa Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak.

She is a member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild and the Playwrights' Center. Lowe is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She has recently completed her first novel, It Goes Without Saying.

Her play Inana will receive its world premiere at Denver Center Theatre in January 2009. Cincinnati Playhouse will present the world premiere of her new play Victoria Musica during the 2009-2010 season.

Quiara Alegria Hudes was nominated for a 2008 Tony Award for her book of the Broadway musical In the Heights (Tony Award for Best Musical). In 2007 she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue (Page 73 premiere). Other works include the musical Barrio Grrrl! (Kennedy Center premiere) and the plays 26 Miles (ALLIANCE THEATRE premiere) and Yemaya's Belly (Portland Stage Company premiere, Clauder Prize). Her honors include a Joyce Foundation Award, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Musical, and the Paula Vogel Award in Playwriting. She is a resident writer at New Dramatists and is the AETNA/New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage. Her first play was produced when she was thirteen years old by Philadelphia Young Playwrights; she now serves on their Board. Hudes has degrees from Yale (B.A.) and Brown (M.F.A.) Universities. A proud Philly native, she now lives in New York with her husband and daughter.

Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, is the daughter of Mixtec cabaret singer Anita Sánchez and Allen Downs, a Scottish/English-American art professor. She grew up in Oaxaca, California, and Minnesota, where she graduated from the University of Minnesota in voice and anthropology. Her musical vision is anthropological in nature, as varied as the ancient and earthy cultures that inspire her. Downs is accompanied on her musical journey by her longtime band, La Misteriosa, multicultural multi-instrumentalists who include Paul Cohen, her collaborator, producer, and husband.

Her powerful persona and voice caught Hollywood's attention. She played a role in the Salma Hayek film about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, sang the Oscar-nominated song "Burn It Blue," and became the first Mexican to perform on the Academy Awards telecast. She also captured a Latin Grammy for 2004's Una Sangre. At the World Festival of Sacred Music at the Hollywood Bowl, Downs participated alongside luminaries including the Dalai Lama. "I sang in Mixtec, my mother's native language. There were so many Mixtec people in the audience-people who wash dishes, who cultivate the fields-and we got a standing ovation. It was the most intense moment in my life. It was an honor to have that connection."

It's a connection Downs strives to make every moment, succeeding admirably on her newest and Grammy-nominated release, Shake Away. Downs taps into the native Mesoamerican music of the Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya, and Nahuatl cultures. The title track, "Shake Away (Ojos De Culebra)," which means "eyes of the snake," references symbols in the Olmec culture. "It's a metaphorical event, losing your skin. I went to a place with Shamans who inject the venom in their body to become immune, a practIce Traced back to Pre-Columbian times," Downs explains. "Mexico also has an important African community; in the history of music in Latin America we owe so much to our African roots, yet people in the US might not know how important that is."

Though many songs address the heated topics of immigration, political justice, and transformation, Downs's vulnerability, compassion, and humor are always present in her music. Visit her website:

Multi-instrumentalist/Composer/Arranger Paul R. Cohen was born in New York City (1953), and spent his childhood in Vineland, New Jersey.

He attended Haverford College and majored in psychology and fine arts, and later studied drawing and sculpture at the New York Studio School. In the late 1970's he began a career as a clown and juggler, went to the Ringling Bros. Clown College and toured with the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus(U.S.A.), Le Cirque Baroque(Paris) y Los Hermanos Mendoza (Guatemala).

During the early 1980's he began studying music, playing saxophone in the band of the Cirque Baroque in France and then in dance bands and jazz ensembles in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.

He began his longtime collaboration with singer/songwriter Lila Downs in Southern Mexico in the late 1990's. They first toured with a Zapotec Indian folk band, La Trova Serrana. Later they began performing a combination of Oaxacan folk songs and jazz standards in a small club in Oaxaxa, "El Sol y la Luna", and it was during that period that they began collaborating on many original songs.

Paul has been the musical director of the Lila Downs touring ensemble since 1999, and has participated in the following recordings as producer/composer/arranger/musician: La Sandunga (1999), New Minor Dream (1999), Yutu Tata/Tree of Lilfe (2000), Border/La Linea (2001), One Blood/Una Sangre (2004, Latin Grammy), La Cantina (2006), Shake Away (2008, Grammy Nominee)

Join MTI Director Ted Sperling for a glimpse at the future of new music theater. $20 in advance, $25 at the door.


Online at, Phone 212-967-7555, In Person At The Public Theater Box Office (1 PM to 6 PM), or at the Joe's Pub Box Office from (6 PM to 10 PM) both located at 425 Lafayette Street, NYC


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