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2009 Richard Rodgers Award Winners Announced

Winners of the 2009 Richard Rodgers Awards for Musical Theater were announced recently by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which administers the Rodgers Awards. They are:

Cheer Wars by Karlan Judd and Gordon Leary
Rosa Parks by Scott Ethier and Jeff Hughes

The two works were awarded stage readings.

The intent of the Richard Rodgers Award is to nurture the careers of talented composers and playwrights, and to have their musicals produced in New York City. Former award recipients include Maury Yeston (Nine), Jonathan Larson (Rent), Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal (Juan Darien), Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Lucky Stiff), and Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley (Violet). Since 1980 sixty-six works have been produced.

This year's jury included Stephen Sondheim (chair), Lynn Ahrens, John Guare, Sheldon Harnick, David Ives, Richard Maltby, Jr., and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Cheer Wars is a story of royal lineages, vengeful mothers, usurped thrones, everlasting innocence, and the quest for the perfect "herkie" as two women wage an epic battle for control of the New London Lady Leopard Varsity Cheer Squad.

Rosa Parks tells the tale of one of the Civil Rights Movement's most storied heroines in the months leading up to her fateful bus ride in Montgomery, Alabama. Uncovering forgotten heroes and re-discovering celebrated ones, Rosa Parks depicts how a seemingly ordinary woman became renowned for one extraordinary act of bravery.

Richard Rodgers, elected to the Academy in 1955, endowed these awards in 1978. The awards provide financial support for productions, studio productions, or staged readings of original musicals by nonprofit theaters in New York City. The Richard Rodgers Awards are the Academy's only awards for which applications are accepted. 

Winner Biographies

Karlan Judd (music, Cheer Wars) has written and collaborated on several musicals, including The Case of the B-Team Cheerleader, Lemonade, Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington and hunger, still lifes from the Donner Expedition (finalist, Stages 2009). He received his B.A. in Composition from UCLA and his M.F.A. in Musical Theatre Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He also received an M.M. in Conducting from UCLA and is a recipient of the Elaine Krown Kleine Fine Arts Award and the Roothbert Fellowship.

Gordon Leary (book and lyrics, Cheer Wars) has written the book and lyrics for Sled Ride (with Rochelle Bright, music by Aravind Sreenivasan) and Disappeared (music by Julia Meinwald). He received the 2008 First Look Award for the musical Across the River (music by Hyun Rim Kim). Mr. Leary has a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.F.A. in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Scott Ethier (music, Rosa Parks) has written music for theater projects including The Third Miracle (with Jeff Hughes and Richard Vetere) and Dreams This Way: The Best of Raw Impressions Musical Theatre. His concert music has been featured on American Public Radio's Performance Today and performed by such groups as VocalEssence, the Cape Ann Symphony, and the Macon Symphony orchestra (where he was composer-in-residence). He has been a Dramatists Guild Musical Theatre Fellow, a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a member of the BMI Musical Theater Workshop, and a recipient of the American Composers Forum's Continental Harmony grant.

Jeff Hughes (book and lyrics, Rosa Parks) is the author of the plays Shore Points, A Good Tavern, The Last Hours of Asbury Park, and In the Jersey City Moonlight. He is a former member of the BMI Workshop and a Dramatists Guild Fellow from 2005-2006. He and Scott Ethier are adapting Richard Vetere's novel The Third Miracle into a musical. He is the head writer and editor of nation's top Chicago Bears' fan site. Mr. Hughes is the coordinator of the New York Playwrights Lab under the artistic direction of Israel Horovitz.



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