Rhinebeck Writers Retreat to Host 17 Writers, Featuring Obie, Larson & Kleban Award Winners
Kathy Evans, Founding Executive Director of Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, announced the 17 writers and 8 new musicals selected for the fifth summer of weeklong retreats. For eight consecutive weeks beginning July 5th, each writing team will have a residency in Rhinebeck, New York. Writers are provided a private home, transportation, food, and a $400 stipend. This year's writers include Obie winner Kirsten Childs, Tony nominee Elizabeth Davis, and 2015 Jonathan Larson award-winners Charlie Sohne, Tim Rosser, and Sam Willmott, who also just won the Kleban Prize.
Over 90 musicals were submitted and a panel, which included Kurt Deutsch, CEO of Sh-K-Boom Records, Robert Zukerman, former Director of Theatre at NYSCA, and Theatreworks USA Artistic Director Barbara Pasternak, selected the participants. The complete line-up for the summer and the donors underwriting each week are:
· July 12 - July 19: John Dietrich, Will Buck, Only Anne, underwritten by Alec Stais and Elissa Burke.
· July 26 - August 2: Elizabeth A. Davis, Luke Holloway, Jason Michael Webb, Indian Joe, underwritten by Peter Risafi and Steven Wheeler with additional support from the John Levin and Diane Keefe fund
· August 9 - August 16: Kirsten Childs, Buffalo Bella: An American Tall Tale, underwritten by Liz Armstrong. Buffalo Bella was commissioned by Playwrights Horizons with funds provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Musicals in Partnership Initiative.
Created in 2011, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide a sanctuary for musical theatre writers to develop their musicals in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Musicals developed in Rhinebeck have had productions at The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in The Park, Second Stage Theatre, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and The Eugene O'Neill National Music Theater Conference. Past participants include Laura Eason, Michael Friedman, Itamar Moses, Duncan Sheik, Stew, Heidi Rodewald and Valerie Vigoda. All costs for the retreats are covered by contributions, including major support from The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund, Liz Armstrong, Rick Farrar and Jeff Zadroga, Amy Faxon, Michael A. Jenkins, John Levin and Diane Keefe fund, Stacey Mindich Productions, Steve Reynolds, Peter Risafi and Steven Wheeler; Harry, Cathy, Gabriella, and James Rubin Foundation, and Alec Stais and Elissa Burke. www.rhinebeckwriters.org
Synopses and writer bios:
RUN AWAY HOME, a musical inspired by real events, tells the story of 22-year-old Gabriel Miller, who decides to pose as the missing child of LeAnne Parker, a woman he doesn't know who's son, Austin, disappeared three years earlier at the age of 13. Gabriel, abandoned at a young age by a mother who never even left a note, always wanted a "real" family. However, Gabriel soon discovers that LeAnne can't provide the complete family he's looking for: her other son Bryson cut off contact after Austin's disappearance, and her daughter Amber refuses to believe that Austin is now back in the form of Gabriel. Gabriel sets off on a journey to put the family back together while hiding his identity and struggling with a growing sense of self-doubt over lying to people he has grown to care for. RUN AWAY HOME is a story about family: the secrets, the lies and the love that never quite goes away.
CHARLIE SOHNE (Bookwriter/Lyricist) is a recipient of a 2015 Jonathan Larson Grant (with Tim Rosser), a 2014-2015 Dramatists Guild Fellow and a member of the Lark Play Development Center's Meeting of the Minds. He has had shows workshopped at New York Stage and Film, The O'Neill National Music Theater Conference, and The Cherry Lane Theater. He's written book and lyrics for several shows with composer Tim Rosser, including: The Boy Who Danced On Air which was seen at the 2013 NAMT Festival of New Musicals, a 2013 ART/NY Workshop with NYTB and was a Finalist for the Richard Rodgers Award; The Pro?t of Creation which was seen at the 2011 Yale Institute for Music Theater (dir. Evan Yionoulis) and underwent development at ASCAP's 2010 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Workshop; and Political Speeches, seen in the Culture Project's IMPACT 2012 series. His work has been seen in concert at a sold-out 54 Below show, Birdland, Contemporary Classics at Seattle Rep, Cutting Edge Composers 4 and 5 at Joe's Pub, NEXT's Emerging Composers Concerts, and The Holiday Songbook at the Lincoln Center Library. Charlie has been through the advanced class of the BMI Workshop and is a member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild.
TIM ROSSER (Composer) is a composer, freelance music director, and recipient of a 2015 Jonathan Larson Grant (with Charlie Sohne). Credits include: composer of several musicals with bookwriter/lyricist Charlie Sohne, The Boy Who Danced on Air (2013 NAMT Festival of New Musicals, 2013 Rodgers Award Finalist, 2013 ART/NY and NYTB Workshop), "The Pro?t of Creation" (2011 Yale Institute for Musical Theater, developed at The Lark and through ASCAP's 2010 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Program) and the short musical Political Speeches (The Culture Project's IMPACT Series). Tim is also the music director for the BC/EFA bene?t BROADWAY BACKWARDS, the associate music director for I AM HARVEY MILK at Avery Fischer Hall, has played keyboards for ROCKY and THE ADDAMS FAMILY on Broadway and CARRIE at the Lucille Lortel, and rehearsal piano for A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER at the Walter Kerr. Tim is an alumnus of Oberlin Conservatory, the advanced class of the BMI/Lehman Engel Musical Theater Writing Workshop, the Civilians R&D group and the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project at Northwestern University. He is a 2014-15 Dramatists Guild Fellow.
July 12 - July 19: John Dietrich, Will Buck, Only Anne
A musical adaptation of Jane Austen's "Persuasion", ONLY ANNE is set in 1920 Britain at the dawn of the jazz age. Anne Elliot is forced to confront sacrifices she once made for her family when she finds herself face to face with a previous love, Frederick Wentworth, whom she was persuaded to give up seven years prior. Wentworth, once a penniless young man of no noble connection, is now a successful admiral in the Royal Navy. Finding themselves threatened by post-War financial ruin, the entire Elliot family scramble to maintain their aristocratic existence, while being torn between the traditional past they cling to and the new demands of a rapidly shifting modern society. It is a world of Jane Austen meets "Downton Abbey" - with miscommunication, misperceptions, appearances, maneuvering, and ultimately the search for love in a rapidly changing world.
JOHN DIETRICH (Bookwriter / Lyricist) has had an extensive career as a professional Director/Choreographer/Writer that includes a 17-year relationship with Radio City Entertainment, where he was the Director/ Choreographer for the world-famous Rockettes as well as for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Other work includes hundreds of shows from television to Off-Broadway & regional theatre. He has written for Walt Disney Entertainment and for Dolly Parton & Dollywood Entertainment. He wrote the book & lyrics for the musical Things As They Are, based on the life of photographer Dorothea Lange (NYMF Next Link selection and "Best of Fest" Award). He received his MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Musical Theatre Writing, and his MA from NYU Gallatin School in Musical Theatre Structure & Directing Theory. He also holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Wisconsin. He continues to freelance as a Director/Choreographer and Writer while managing a position as a Creative Director for Niles Creative Group, a film production company specializing in large scale theatrically based film and video productions. John is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
WILL BUCK (Composer) received his B.M. in music composition at Northwestern University, and an MFA in musical theatre writing at NYU. While at Northwestern, he contributed music and lyrics to dozens of songs for the school's long-running Waa-Mu show, as well as his original show, LEARNING TO PLAY. At NYU, he wrote TOYBOX, a one-act inspired by The Velveteen Rabbit, and ONLY ANNE, based on Jane Austen's Persuasion. A solo concert of his work played 54 BELOW in April 2014. He is currently enrolled in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, while working as a freelance accompanist/music director around the New York area. He is also working on POWERLESS, a musical about the ancient Greek gods in the modern world. Will is a member of ASCAP and the Dramatist's Guild. www.willbuck.com
July 19 - July 26: Matthew Doers, Eric Webb, Taking Step Three13
A modern rock/hip-hop re-imagining of Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment," TAKING STEP THREE13 revolves around a young artist named Rocko who is caught between the harsh reality of a degenerate neighborhood and the world of possibility in his art. Still reeling from the murder of his girlfriend at the hands of local pimp and crime-lord, Trinketman, Rocko creates an alter-ego within his art who is sexy, brutal and capable of righting the wrongs against which Rocko is helpless. While Rocko's creation gains a greater foothold in our reality and compels him to commit "one crime to eliminate many," Rocko also finds the promise of love in the most unlikely of places, a discovery which forces him to weigh his thirst for justice against the price of his soul.
ERIC C. WEBB (Book) is a writer and freelance dramaturg, as well as Director of Creative Development for Davenport Theatrical Enterprises and Literary Manager for March Forth Productions. Other writing projects in development include The Angels of Mons (for March Forth Productions), Thompson/Gifford (a Gothic chamber musical), and Borrowed. Previous writing credits include Ubu - a twisted puppet show co-adapted from Jarry's Ubu Roi, Playwriting is Easy, Clown, and Strange Currencies. Eric received his MFA in Literary Management & Dramaturgy from Stony Brook University (2008). Literary Management/Dramaturgy credits include Literary Management for La Vie Productions (2009-2013), Associate Literary Manager for the 2008 John Gassner New Play Festival, Dramaturg for Stephen Sondheim's Young Playwrights Inc. (2008 - present), The Sphinx Winx, Un-American Activities (new musical by William Norman), Escape From Happiness and Lynn Nottage's Las Meninas (directed by Talvin Wilks).
MATTHEW DOERS (Music & Lyrics) recently made his transition from NYC's underground rock n' roll scene to the stages of NYC theater. The Public Theater's NEW WORK NOW! showcased his most recent musical, Taking Step Three13 in a concert performance at Joe's Pub, where he was recognized as "an exciting new voice in musical theater." Music from the show was also included at a recent concert at Ars Nova. Other credits include additional lyrics for the sold out London premier of American Psycho with music and lyrics by Tony award winner Duncan Sheik. He also scored for the New York premier of the play Love Minus, wrote the music and lyrics for fringe hit Poking Kitty Purple and music and lyrics for Celebrate Good Times - Rockin' Macbeth. Matthew recently contributed the theme music as well as featured music and lyrics, to HERE network's new television variety show "She's Living For This!" starring drag artist Sherry Vine. He was also featured in Mexico City's "9th Annual International Cabaret Festival" as music director and accompanist to performance artist Joey Arias. Matthew performs and writes with a commitment to bring exciting, vibrant musical theater to new a young new audience.
A Native American homeless man who calls himself Indian Joe is looking for a fight. Liz is a Texas pageant queen looking for a cause. The entangled journey of this very unlikely combo leads us into dark, knife-pulling underpasses, and the bright lights of the Miss Texas stage. Jordon, Liz's African American love interest, completes this tricky triangle. With fiddle in hand, Liz weaves us in and out of this unique perspective on homelessness and racism in America, but most importantly, on what it means to become family.
ELIZABETH A. DAVIS (Book, Music, Lyrics) Broadway: Once (Tony Award nomination, Cast Grammy Award). Off-Broadway: Allegro (Drama Desk Award Nomination); ZORBA (City Center Encores!); Caucasian Chalk Circle (Classic Stage Company); Four Last Things (American Globe); 39 Steps (New World Stages ); Wolves (59E59); Joe (Cherry Lane Mentor Project); Cherry Orchard (Theatre Row); and Once (New York Theatre Workshop). TV / FILM: Jim Gaffigan Show, Blue Bloods, Taxi Brooklyn, Fringe, and Blur Circle. Select Regional: Once (America Repertory Theatre); Misanthrope and Devil's Disciple (STNJ); Doubt (Gulfshore Playhouse); Opus (Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati); A Streetcar Named Desire (Cleveland Play House); and Indian Joe (Goodspeed Opera House, Norma Terris, Upcoming). Johnny Mercer Writers Colony Alum, Cherry Lane Mentor Project Writing Alum, Cleveland Play House New Ground Play Festival Writer. 54 Below, Rockwood Music Hall, Joe's Pub, Ars Nova. More at www.elizabethadavis.com.
LUKE HOLLOWAY (Music, Orchestrations) is a composer, singer and actor based out of NYC. He graduated from Berklee College of Music with a BFA in Music Composition. He serves as a music director for Story Pirates, a comedy musical improv troupe. As a performer, Luke was in the critically acclaimed Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (Kazino), and was the standby for Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet (New World Stages). AEA
JASON MICHAEL WEBB, (Music) Dove Award winner, two-time Stellar Award nominee; Arranger: Battle Hymn of the Republic (2013 Inauguration of President Barack Obama), Violet (Broadway); Broadway (Associate Musical Director): Motown: The Musical, Violet, Leap of Faith, Memphis; Off-Broadway (Musical Director) Pasek & Paul's Dogfight (2econd Stage), Tarell Alvin McCraney's Choir Boy (MTC); Pianist: Michael Bolton, Queens Symphony, Chaka Khan, Fantasia (2007 Tony Awards), Mariah Carey (Oh Santa!/All I Want for Christmas [Island Records]); Orchestrator: Jacksonville Symphony, Nashville String Machine, Carnegie Hall; Composer: songs recorded by Keke Palmer, Israel Houghton, Martha Wash, Jonathan Butler, Mario Cantone, Reeve Carney; Producer: Brooklyn Tabernacle (four albums), Tshidi Manye (Disney's The Lion King on Broadway)
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE is a musical farce in the tradition of backstage comedies like "Noises Off" and "30 Rock." Charles Cutler, an egotistical songwriter who has been coasting on one hit pop song for the last forty-five years, decides to write, direct, and star in a Broadway musical detailing the history of that song's creation. But just before the curtain goes up on opening night, Anna Carter (supposedly the muse that inspired him) shows up with evidence that she in fact wrote the song. What follows is a frenzied clashing of egos as the two battle it out onstage.
KELLEN BLAIR (Bookwriter/Lyricist) is the Drama Desk nominated co-creator of Murder For Two (off-Broadway: Second Stage Theatre and New World Stages. World premiere: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). The show is currently touring the country with stops scheduled in San Diego (The Old Globe Theatre) and Los Angeles (The Geffen Playhouse) among others. Kellen and co-writer Joe Kinosian are the recipients of the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical Work in Chicago (2011) and the ASCAP Foundation Mary Rodgers / Lorenz Hart Award (2013). Their work has been showcased on Broadway, the Kennedy Center, and theaters across the country. Kellen is excited to be developing a new musical farce with Joe titled The More Things Change; he's also working with Broadway composer Larry Grossman on a new show called Scrooge in Love. Updates, videos, song demos, and sheet music can be found at www.kinosianandblair.com.
JOE KINOSIAN (Bookwriter/Composer) is the co-recipient of Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Award recognizing Murder For Two as Best New Musical; Joe was also nominated for Best Leading Actor. Murder For Two ran off-Broadway at Second Stage Uptown and New World Stages, during which Joe again appeared as The Suspects; as writers, Joe and Kellen Blair were honored with Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations. Currently, Joe is touring with Murder For Two, appearing at Pittsburgh CLO, Arizona Theater Company, and The Old Globe in San Diego. Joe's work with Kellen has appeared at The Kennedy Center and on Broadway at the Theatre World Awards. Joe is the recipient of The ASCAP Foundation Mary Rodgers/Lorenz Hart Award and the Harrington Award from the BMI Workshop. As an actor, Joe appeared in Dirty Blonde with Emily Skinner and Beatsville at NAMT. Additional information can be found at www.kinosianandblair.com
August 9 - August 16: Kirsten Childs, Buffalo Bella: An American Tall Tale
Bella, a young Negro woman in late 19th Century America with a voluptuous figure and a behind of epic proportions, boards a westbound train headed for New Mexico. She's on her way to be reunited with her sweetheart Aloysius T. Hunnicutt, a Buffalo soldier stationed out on the wild frontier. On the train, Bella meets Nathaniel, a salt-of-the-earth, middle-aged colored porter who is charmed by her sweet, open, trusting soul. After Bella and Nathaniel escape from a bunch of outlaws who rob the train, they set out on a series of wild adventures. As they make their way west, they encounter mail order brides, Mexican cowboys, Chinese cattle barons, black folks escaping Klan terrorism, Native American spirits, and other colorful and lively Wild West characters. Bullets and fists will fly, heads and hearts will get broken. But through it all Bella will breeze - with her blithe spirit and her big beautiful bouncy behind.
KIRSTEN CHILDS (Book/Music/Lyrics) is a musical theater writer whose show The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin won her an Obie. She's also won Kleban, Larson, Richard Rodgers, Audelco, and Gilman/Gonzalez-Falla awards, as well as Lortel and Drama Desk nominations. She's currently working with Rajiv Joseph and Bill Sherman on the musical Fly, and is developing her own show Buffalo Bella: An American Tall Tale at Playwrights Horizons. She recently collaborated with Charlayne Woodard on the musical Grace for Inner Voices: Solo Musicals. Her show Miracle Brothers was produced at the Vineyard Theatre, her show Funked Up Fairy Tales was produced at the Depot Theater in Westport, NY, and she's also written works for Disney Theatricals, the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center, the New Electric Company, Works and Process @ Guggenheim Museum and City Center Encores! She's a professor at NYU's Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, a member of both the Dramatists Guild Council and the Dramatists Guild Fund, and she's proud to be a mentor in Theatre Development Fund's Open Doors program.
MITZVAH tells the story of a family who has a son with autism, through the challenges and disappointments, through the hilarious moments and the love, to the incredible triumphs upon accomplishing even the smallest things. It's the story of a marriage crumbling down, a young boy growing up, and a mother who fights to give him a meaningful Bar Mitzvah against her husband's wishes. Incorporating klezmer and Jewish liturgical musical, MITZVAH was inspired by real experiences working with children with autism spectrum disorder. MITZVAH explores the true meaning of coming-of-age rituals.
DAVID HEIN and IRENE SANKOFF (book, music, lyrics) wrote, produced and starred in MY MOTHER'S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING which was picked up by the largest Canadian theatre producer, extended five times, and has earned rave reviews and multiple "Best Musical" awards, at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and across North America. Their second musical, COME FROM AWAY tells the true story of when 38 planes from around the world were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11. Developed at Goodspeed Musicals and The Canadian Music Theatre Project, it was the hit of the NAMT Festival of New Musicals in New York City - and will receive a world-premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. Their newest musical, MITZVAH, tells the story of a family whose son has autism, and a mother who fights to give him a Bar Mitzvah. It will be workshopped in New York and Toronto this summer.
BHANGIN' IT follows a bi-racial Indian girl named Mary who gets kicked off her college Bhangra team for not being "Indian enough". Mary grabs her best friend Sunita (a cheerleader dropout) and forms her own rag-tag multicultural Bhangra team consisting of Muslim, Jewish, African American, Latino, and Asian teammates. To help get them into shape, Mary seeks out the help of the Indian dance guru and Bollywood legend, Rekha. Problem is, Rekha is busy running a restaurant in Little India. And she hasn't been sober for 20 years. As the team trades restaurant labor for lessons, they face many trials and tribulations as well as shenanigans from Mary's old team, the Bengal Tigers. Ultimately, through the process of working alongside her new friends (and picking up from her teammates' assorted artistic traditions as well), Mary both reconnects with her Indian roots and learns to celebrate cultural pluralism.
MIKE LEW (book)'s plays include Tiger Style! (upcoming at the Alliance; O'Neill, CTG, Huntington, Juilliard, and InterAct readings); Teenage Dick (Public, Playwrights Foundation, and Ma-Yi workshops); Bike America (Ma-Yi and Alliance productions; Juilliard, Lark, Kennedy Center, and Playwrights Foundation workshops); and microcrisis (Ma-Yi, InterAct, and Next Act productions). His plays are published by Sam French and Playscripts. He is a Dramatists Guild Council member/Tony voter, co-director of Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and recipient of the Lanford Wilson Award, Helen Merrill Award, Kendeda and AracaWorks Grad Playwriting Awards, Heideman Award, and a NYFA fellowship. Residencies include the Lark and EST. Training: Juilliard, Yale. Website: mikelew.com
REHANA LEW MIRZA (book)'s full-length plays include: Soldier X (2015 Ma-Yi production; 2012 NYSCA Commission; Lark Studio Retreat); Lonely Leela (production with LPAC; workshops with Magic Theatre, HERE, New Georges, 2G); Barriers (Desipina and Asian American Theater Company productions; readings at Rasik Arts and Asian Arts Center); and if it's sad i don't want to see it (reading at Queens Theater in the Park, 2G). Awards include: NNPN commission via InterAct Theater, Tofte Lake Emerging Artist residency, E.S.T. Sloan Commission, Lark residency through IAAC, and a TCG Future Leader fellowship with New Georges. She was the co-director of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab from 2011-2013 and is a current member. She is also a member of the Primary Stages Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group. MFA: Playwriting, Columbia University. BFA: Dramatic Writing, NYU's Tisch.
SAM WILLMOTT (music and lyrics) is the author of Standardized Testing - The Musical!!!!; Scarlet Takes a Tumble; Yo, Vikings! (with Marcus Stevens); and provided additional lyrics for the 2014 Actor's Fund concert adaptation of Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol. He is the recipient of the 2015 Kleban Prize, a 2015 Jonathan Larson Grant, the 2013 ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Award for Lyrics and the 2012 Fred Ebb Award, and his musicals are published by Samuel French and Playscripts. For more information, visit samwillmott.com.