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Amas Musical Theatre Announces Winners of the 4th Annual Eric H. Weinberger Award for Emerging Librettists

Charlie Romano and Will Wegner, classmates at Yale University, were selected from over 50 blind submissions for their full-length musical Onward and Upward.

Amas Musical Theatre Announces Winners of the 4th Annual Eric H. Weinberger Award for Emerging Librettists

Amas Musical Theatre today announced the recipients of the fourth 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.

Charlie Romano and Will Wegner, classmates at Yale University, were selected from over 50 blind submissions for their full-length musical Onward and Upward, an adaptation of the original play Up (The Man in the Flying Chair) by Bridget Carpenter. 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.

In 1982, Walter Griffin made national headlines after tying a cluster of weather balloons to a lawnchair and flying 16,000 feet into the sky. In Onward and Upward it is nearly two decades later and Walter is still searching for his next great invention but struggles to get his ideas off the ground. His wife, Helen, encourages him to find a steady job, while their son, Mikey, searches desperately for recognition of his own. After a surreal encounter with his idol, high-wire artist Philippe Petit, Walter believes he's found his ticket to success and goes to great lengths to fund his new prototype. Meanwhile, Mikey finds an unlikely friend in a pregnant classmate, Maria, who soon lands him a job at her Aunt Chris's questionable small business. Helen is overjoyed at her family's newfound stability but soon discovers that their situation is more precarious than it seems, threatening to topple down off the wire at any moment.

In an artistic statement for the submission, Mr. Wegner said "We have been writing together for more than two years. We met as undergrads at Yale, where we were both members of the musical comedy improv group Just Add Water. Alongside the other members, we would improvise songs and half-hour-long musicals in various genres based entirely on audience suggestions. Charlie was the pianist and music director, and responsible for improvising accompaniment. The rest of the performers improvised the melody and lyrics of the songs. When we discovered a shared penchant and passion for musical theater writing, our compatibility as a composer-lyricist team was obvious. Our first collaboration was for an underwear jingle contest, soon followed by a one-act children's puppet musical, and we have since written numerous short and long-form works of musical theater together."

Mr. Romano explained "Our inspiration to tell the story of Onward and Upward came from Will, who performed in his high school's production of the original play, Up (The Man in the Flying Chair) by Bridget Carpenter. It had always been one of Will's favorite plays, and after revisiting it early in the COVID-19 pandemic, he developed a sneaking suspicion that it would make a fantastic musical. After reading through the play together, it resonated strongly with both of us, and we immediately began to outline the musical. As artists, we were particularly drawn to the character of Walter, who is eventually consumed by the blind pursuit of his passion." "We began writing Onward and Upward, remotely-Will from Wisconsin, Charlie from Chicago-in April of 2020, continued work through the summer, and completed the first draft during a self-appointed retreat at Charlie's house in New York, shared Mr. Wegner. "In December of 2020, we held a self-funded, COVID-conscious workshop at Charlie's family home in Chicago, culminating in private reading from which most of the submitted demos were drawn. We were satisfied with the workshop, but wanted to push ourselves to improve the show even further, which we did over the course of several months while preparing for another, forthcoming workshop at Yale University. We believe that the changes we've made for the Yale production, reflected in the submitted libretto and score, help to further elucidate those elements of character and story which drew us to the material in the first place. We hope you find yourselves just as inspired-and just as haunted-by the story of Walter and his family as we have found ourselves during the development process. We deeply appreciate the time and energy which you're taking to review Onward and Upward."

"We are very happy to welcome Charlie and Will 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."

Bios

Charlie Romano (music & book) is a Latino/Italian-American Composer from the Chicago area. As a member of a large family, he is used to sharing everything and spending time with many different kinds of people. As a result, Charlie is passionate about telling untold stories. Beyond Onward and Upward, his work includes Call Me From the Grave (2021 O'Neill Finalist), a musical about the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson and his infamous deal with the devil, Video Rental Store, an exploration of human connection in the face of disaster, and Word Nerd, a comedy about a game show and its eccentric host. He is also currently working on TITA, a musical about his Panamanian-immigrant grandmother (a hyper-energetic polyglot whose life touched countless others across the world). Pre-COVID, Charlie was enjoying a part-time writing residency at NYCSongSpace. He is also a member of the Dramatists Guild and the BMI Workshop. Visit charlieromano.com for more information.

Will Wegner (lyrics & book) is a lyricist and librettist from Wisconsin. During his time at Yale, where he's pursuing a double major in Theater & Performance Studies and Linguistics, he has worked extensively as a performer and designer, although he has recently hit his stride as a lyricist and librettist. Beyond Onward and Upward, he has written the lyrics for So, Betsy!, a metatheatrical portrait of American seamstress Betsy Ross; AlakaZoom!, a satirical take on Yale's response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and Unscheduled Maintenance, a short musical which was nominated for the 2021 Marvin Hamlisch International Music Awards. He is also currently in rehearsal for his undergraduate thesis musical, Word Nerd. You can learn more at wegner.world.

Eric H. Weinberger (1950-2017) was a playwright and musical theatre librettist. His credits include Class Mothers '68, starring Priscilla Lopez (Off Broadway and Luna-Stage/">Luna Stage - Star Ledger Award for Best New Comedy in NJ), Six Hands (Yale University and Luna-Stage/">Luna Stage), The Nightwatchman (Luna-Stage/">Luna Stage and On the Rock Productions, Key West), Tea for Three, with and starring Elaine Bromka (Amas Musical Theatre and touring the country since 2004, www.teaforthree.com), three children shows at Andy's Summer Playhouse in Peterborough, NH. Musicals: Wanda's World (Amas Musical Theatre, Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Book of a Musical, Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Musical) and published by Theatrical Rights Worldwide, www.wandasworldmusical.com), ...and Then I Wrote A Song About It (Luna-Stage/">Luna Stage and The Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, www.andtheniwroteasongaboutit.com), Brothers, Boyfriends and Other Criminals, (Zach Theatre in Austin, Texas), A Dog Story (Off Broadway and The Waterfront Playhouse, Key West). Workshop production of Giant Steps, an "urbean" version of Jack & The Beanstalk (U of Texas in Austin).

Amas Musical Theatre (Donna Trinkoff, Artistic Producer) is a non-profit, multi-ethnic theatrical organization founded in 1968 by Ms. Rosetta LeNoire. Amas ("you love" in Latin) is devoted to the creation, development and professional production of new American musicals, the celebration of cultural equity and minority perspectives, the emergence of new artistic talent, and the training and encouragement of inner-city young people. Amas celebrates its impact in pioneering multi-ethnic casting in the American Theatre and reiterates its commitment to this reflection of our diverse society.

www.amasmusical.org



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