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Recipients of 2022 Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre Announced

Prize for the most promising musical theatre lyricist awarded to César Alvarez. Prize for the most promising musical theatre librettist awarded to Isabella Dawis

Recipients of 2022 Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre Announced

The Kleban Foundation is celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre with the announcement of the 2022 prizewinners. The Kleban Prize for the most promising musical theatre lyricist has been awarded to César Alvarez (they/them). The Kleban Prize for the most promising musical theatre librettist has been awarded to Isabella Dawis.

The Kleban Foundation will present the 2022 prizes in a virtual ceremony streaming online at Broadway On Demand starting Monday, February 21 at 7PM, and available on demand through February 28. Free and open to the public, the event will feature musical performances from this year's recipients and will be hosted by Tony Award winners and Kleban board members Richard Maltby, Jr. and Maury Yeston.

Since its inception, Kleban Prize winners have been selected by judging panels comprised of the theatre's most respected artists and administrators. The trio of award-winning judges making the final determination this year were 2018 Kleban Prize-winning lyricist Sarah Hammond (Pete the Cat); Obie Award-winning composer, lyricist and music director Or Matias (Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812); and actor Manu Narayan (Company, My Fair Lady).

The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning lyricist of the musical A Chorus Line. Kleban's will made provisions for annual prizes, which in recent years have totaled $100,000 each, payable over two years, to be given to the most promising lyricist and librettist in American musical theatre. For over 30 years, the Kleban Prize, which has recognized and honored some of the American musical theatre's brightest developing talents, is unique in that it is bestowed not just for an artist's previous achievements, but for the promise of creativity to come.

Over more than three decades, the annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has awarded over $6,000,000 to 81 artists who collectively have garnered four Tony Awards (with nearly 30 Tony nominations), 59 Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, 10 Drama Desk Awards, nine Outer Critic Circle Awards, four Obie Awards, two Olivier Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. The list of previous Kleban Prize winners includes Lisa Kron (Fun Home), Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder), David Lindsay-Abaire (Shrek), Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years), John Bucchino (A Catered Affair, It's Only Life), Gretchen Cryer (I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, The Last Sweet Days of Isaac), Michael Korie (Grey Gardens, Happiness), Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), Michael John LaChiusa (Giant, See What I Wanna See, The Wild Party), Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid) and John Weidman (Pacific Overtures, Road Show, Assassins). For a complete listing of Kleban Prize winners, see the list at the end of this document.

"For over three decades, the Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has been one of the theatre's most distinctive honors, and in this unique and challenging year, Ed Kleban's legacy may be more important than ever and its supporting and fostering of the creators of tomorrow's American Musical theatre," says Tony Award winner Richard Maltby Jr, President of the Kleban Foundation. "Ed Kleban recognized that theatrical wordsmiths had the hardest time supporting themselves while honing their craft, and so the Kleban awards are specifically for librettists and lyricists. Particularly apropos for 2020 - 2021, it is notable that The Kleban Prize is not given to a specific work already completed (as other theatre awards are), but instead, recognizing the excellence of past work, it is given to the writers in anticipation of work yet to be done. With a uniquely generous endowment, the Kleban Prize identifies, celebrates, and supports the most promising writing talent in the theatre, just when emerging writers and established writers need help the most. In these challenging times, The Kleban Foundation is proud to carry on Ed Kleban's enlightened legacy, and to continue fostering the work of new writers, as well as supporting writers who have already begun to establish themselves. Kleban Prize winners are the artists who are going to define the art form for years to come. We celebrate them, their fresh perspectives and creative energy that will be so very important to the theater when it returns."

Broadway on Demand has streamed over 2,500 events and live productions-from Broadway shows to concert series, performance venues to individual artists, and original content-in 114 countries to 300,000+ subscribers and was honored with an Emmy award® nomination in 2021. Thanks to a unique licensing interface, Showshare, approved middle school, high school, college, community, and professional theatre productions utilize the platform to stream to their audiences.


2022 Kleban Prize winner, most promising musical theatre lyricist CÉSAR ALVAREZ (they/them), is a composer, lyricist, playwright, and performance maker. César creates large experimental musicals as non-normative possibility spaces for embodiment, inter-dimensionality, socio-political transformation, kinship and coexistence across difference. With a background as a jazz saxophonist, band leader and sound artist, César's work inhabits a space between the worlds of theater, music and performance art. César has written five full-length musicals, FUTURITY (2016 Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical); The Elementary Spacetime Show; The Universe is a Small Hat; NOISE (a commission of The Public Theater); and The Potluck. César also composed the music for Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon (Soho Rep, TFANA. Drama Desk Nomination), and The Foundry Theater's Good Person of Szechwan (LaMaMa, The Public Theater. Drama Desk Nomination). In 2015 César co-founded Polyphone, a festival of new and emerging musicals at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and served as Artistic Director for five seasons. César was a 2018-20 Princeton Arts Fellow, 2020-22 Hermitage Fellow, a recipient of The Jonathan Larson Award and is currently under commission at Playwright's Horizons and Denver Theater Center. César is an Assistant Professor of Music at Dartmouth College

2022 Kleban Prize winner, most promising musical theatre librettist ISABELLA DAWIS, is a Filipina-American playwright and performer. As bookwriter/lyricist, she is the winner of the 2021 Fred Ebb Award with composer Tidtaya Sinutoke. Isabella currently holds a 2021-23 Composers and the Voice Fellowship with the American Opera Project. Her musicals written with Tidtaya Sinutoke include Half the Sky (Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award, 5th Avenue Theatre Digital Radio Play/First Draft Commission, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Theater Mu's New Eyes Festival, Theater Latté Da's NEXT Festival) and Sunwatcher (Civilians' R&D Group, Goodspeed's Johnny Mercer Writers Grove, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Global Forms, Ancram Opera House Play Lab, Tofte Lake Center). Isabella’s writing has been supported by the Primary Stages Rockwell Scholarship, the Kurt Weill Foundation's Lotte Lenya Songbook, Musical Theatre Factory, Coalition of Asian American Leaders, and more. B.M. summa cum laude, piano performance, University of Minnesota, with vocal study at New England Conservatory.

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