Amas Musical Theatre Reveals Winners of Fifth Annual Eric H. Weinberger Award For Emerging Librettists

This is a grant given annually to support the early work and career of a deserving musical theatre librettist.

By: May. 23, 2023
Amas Musical Theatre Reveals Winners of Fifth Annual Eric H. Weinberger Award For Emerging Librettists

 Amas Musical Theatre (Donna Trinkoff, Artistic Producer) has announced the recipients of the fifth Eric H. Weinberger Award for Emerging Librettists, a juried cash and production grant given annually to support the early work and career of a deserving musical theatre librettist, commemorating the life and work of playwright/librettist Eric H. Weinberger (1950-2017), who was a Drama Desk Award nominee for Best Book of a Musical (Wanda’s World), and the playwright/librettist of Class Mothers ’68, which earned Priscilla Lopez a Drama Desk Award nomination.

Annie Dillon and Sam Caps aka Dillon & Caps, both 2019 graduates from NYU Steinhardt with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance, were selected from over 49 blind submissions for their full-length musical Show Me Eternity, about the hidden life of poet Emily Dickinson. In addition to a check for $2,000 to help pay cost-of-living expenses, Mr. Romano and Mr. Wegner receive development assistance from the “New Works Development Program” of Amas Musical Theatre, culminating in the work being rehearsed and performed by New York theatre professionals in an Amas Lab production. Amas was the development home for several of Mr. Weinberger’s musicals, and which produced the World Premiere of Wanda’s World and the New York Premiere of Tea for Three.

Show Me Eternity unveils a story hidden for over a century: the romance between Emily Dickinson and Sue Gilbert, her brother Austin’s wife. After Emily’s death, Sue collaborates with Mabel Loomis Todd, a young artist, to prepare Emily’s work for publication. Mabel eventually turns on Sue and pushes the narrative that Emily was a reclusive spinster who never had a love story of her own. As they review the late Emily's manuscripts, they uncover a series of memories which tell the story of Emily and Sue's youthful romance, Sue's unhappy marriage to Austin, Austin's affair with Mabel, and the enduring love which brings Emily and Sue back together in spite of the obstacles in their way. The show's ensemble embodies the concepts that most captivated Emily's imagination and shaped her worldview -- Hope, Love, Nature, Pain, and Death.

In an artistic statement for the submission, Ms. Caps said “Though Show Me Eternity is set after Emily Dickinson’s death, this piece strives to bring Amherst’s famous poet fully to life, in all her vivacity and brilliance. Too often, queer pain, love, joy, and identity are erased from history – quite literally, in Emily’s case. Through Show Me Eternity, we explore the curation of the sensationalized narrative that in time became synonymous with Emily Dickinson’s legacy: that of a reclusive spinster who never knew love. Her brilliant artistry, her affinity for nature, and her insight into mortality are remembered, but the romance that creatively inspired her throughout her life, as well as her lively, spirited nature, are only just beginning to emerge as scholars reexamine her work, equipped with the technology to unearth the parts of Emily’s history that were once censored.

Show Me Eternity explores the intimate conflict underlying this infamous act of queer erasure. Mabel Loomis Todd, the woman behind these edits, was herself deeply entangled in the complex web of forbidden romance that surrounded Emily. Emily and Sue’s lifelong love affair left Austin (Sue’s husband and Emily’s brother) feeling cast aside. He began a brazenly public relationship with Mabel and made no secret of his growing resentment towards Sue. Mabel, once upheld as the renowned editor of Emily’s poetry, is now often dismissed as a self-serving adulteress. And yet, she is a fascinating figure in her own right. A talented artist and a pioneer of women’s sexual liberation and open marriage before her time, Mabel contains multitudes. In our piece, it is ultimately her ambition, in conjunction with her deep loyalty to Austin, that leads her to tamper with Emily’s work and life story. And it is perhaps thanks to Mabel’s tampering that Emily became a household name at all – at the cost of the loving authenticity that Sue so emphasized in her attempt to publish her partner’s work. As a writer, I am interested in bringing a contemporary and queer lens to classic and historical stories. Together, my cowriter and I strive to give the audience a taste of how we experience the world as women and members of the queer community, and to tell stories of women and queer people living their lives as funny, loving, inspiring, and flawed people. The characters in this piece, and the historical people they represent, are so rich, and their story is as captivating as it is poignant. This intimate, imaginative piece invites the audience to consider which stories are allowed to be told – and which are not.”

“We began work on Show Me Eternity in summer of 2019,” explains Ms. Dillon. “The musical had a virtual table read in spring of 2020 and a virtual workshop with Michigan State University's dramaturgy department later that year. The show’s first live showing took place at the New York Theatre Festival in December of 2021, directed by Daniella Caggiano. The performance was nominated for Best Play or Musical, Best Score, Best Director and Best Performer in A Musical. We workshopped the piece extensively in early 2022, and presented a concert version at 54 Below in November.”

“We are very happy to welcome Annie and Sam to the Amas family,” says Donna Trinkoff, Artistic Producer of Amas Musical Theatre. “We are honored and grateful to continue to commemorate Eric’s memory and are looking forward to the futher development of this piece.”

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