The Civilians Announces Tenth Annual R&D Group

The R&D Group is comprised of playwrights, composers, and directors who work together to develop new plays and musicals.

By: Oct. 15, 2020
The Civilians Announces Tenth Annual R&D Group

The Civilians will present the newest members of The R&D Group, marking the Group's 10th season, and The Civilians 20th Anniversary Season. The R&D Group is comprised of playwrights, composers, and directors who work together as a writing group for nine months to develop new plays and musicals. The season culminates in the Findings Series, a works-in-progress reading series anticipated taking place in June 2021. The artists were selected from a competitive application process. The open call received a record number of 268 applications, a 60% increase from last year.

The members of The Civilians' 2020-21 R&D Group are Galia Backal, Nana Dakin, Isabella Dawis, Jacinth Greywoode, Jaime Lozano, Emily Lyon, AriDy Nox, Reynaldo Piniella, Tylie Shider, Tidtaya Sinutoke, Rachel Stevens, Ken Urban, and Noelle Viñas.

Led by R&D Program Director Ilana Becker, the artists share work as it develops, discuss their creative processes, and provide a community of support for one another. Each project develops according to its unique methods of creative inquiry, offering new approaches to the idea of "investigative theater." Methods may include interviews, community engagement, research, or other experimental methods of inquiry. The artists will meet twice a month, virtually.

"The sheer talent and curiosity we encountered in this year's applicants proved exceptionally heartening. This season's R&D Group artists, in particular, inspired us with their visionary and deeply personal approaches to questions that demand illumination," said Becker. Artistic Director Steve Cosson added, "I am overjoyed to mark the 10th Anniversary of The Civilians' R&D Group with these exceptional artists; I'm immensely excited as they embark on the process of developing these vital new projects."

Ken Urban's project, THE MODERATE, joins the group through The Civilians' new work development program; his play is commissioned by the EST/Sloan Project, developed by The Civilians, and will receive its first reading at EST. This season, Cosson and Becker will also hold two virtual roundtable sessions with Finalist Directors in order to better get to know their work, and to expand community.

The 2020-21 R&D Group projects are as follows:


Libretto by Isabella Dawis, Music by Tidtaya Sinutoke, Directed by Nana Dakin, with support from Producer/Cultural Consultant Ikumi Kuronaga

SUNWATCHER, a Noh-inspired musical, is the story of astronomer Hisako Koyama (1916-1997) - intertwined with the ancient Japanese myth of the sun goddess Amaterasu, in a retelling inspired by the structure of classical Noh theatre. Hisako was a woman with no formal scientific training - also a survivor of the 1945 US air raid of Tokyo, the deadliest bombing in history - who managed to rise to the stature of Galileo. She did so by drawing the sun in painstaking detail every day for 40 years, a landmark achievement for solar science. SUNWATCHER is a celebration of Hisako's extraordinary dedication to ordinary observation, reminding us how seemingly small acts can have an immense impact over time and space.


Music by Jacinth Greywoode, Book and Lyrics by AriDy Nox

BLACK GIRL IN PARIS is a musical about one of the most famous and least known black women in the American historical canon: Sally Hemmings. It hones in on her years spent in Paris, a point in her life where she both had the most access to freedom ever afforded her and the beginnings of the relationship that would forever define her legacy. Black Girl in Paris seeks to explore the inherent contradictions of an enslaved young black woman held in bondage in a city where slavery has been outlawed, under a man widely considered to be one of the architects of one of the greatest articulations of the necessity of freedom in the western world. It also centers an ensemble cast of Ancestors who chide and guide Sally along her journey, interweaving fables and history to craft the nuanced world Sally is forced to grapple with. At the heart of this musical is the question "What does it mean to be free?", a question black Americans have been grappling with since the original kidnapping and enslavement of Africans for The American Project.


Lyrics and Music Jaime Lozano, Directed by Rachel M. Stevens, Co-Created by Lozano and Stevens

Told through the lens of Mexican folklore, our story explores the psychology behind societal suppression and the strategic erasure of female voices in the fight to end gender-based violence and the killing of women and girls. A female ensemble assumes a community of characters in a tapestried play of dramatized accounts, fictionalized scenes and musical sequences to unearth and dismantle the moral behind the 'myth' of violence against women.


Written by Reynaldo Piniella, Directed by Emily Lyon

Tasked with escaping your neighborhood, you inevitably run across environmental hazards that impede your progress. Especially if you're Black, Indigenous or Latinx. Dissentary takes inspiration from the classic game The Oregon Trail and adds an environmental justice lens; your group can do one of two things - leave in pursuit of clean air, water and healthy food, or stay and defeat the corporations focused only on profits. Dissentary will both be a participatory theatrical piece as well as an accompanying card game that will allow people to play the game off-line themselves, thus giving access to people who normally don't have access to the arts.


Written by Tylie Shider

an investigative work of theatre

about how incidents between police and black Americans

continues to reset race relations in the country.


a new play by Ken Urban, directed by Steve Cosson, commissioned by the EST/Sloan Project and developed by The Civilians.

ACCEPT. ACCEPT. REJECT. ACCEPT. REJECT. For a minimum of eight hours a day, with a target of at least 2,000 videos a day, Frank evaluates the videos and photos uploaded on the world's largest social media site. What Frank sees, he can't un-see, but he soon realizes he has the power to change the world. Playwright Ken Urban and director Steve Cosson will interview scientists, researchers and policymakers in order to dramatize the hidden human cost of the internet and imagine a future when a free exchange of knowledge and information is possible again. This project is an EST/Alfred P. Sloan Science & Technology Project Commission.


Written by Noelle Viñas, Directed by Galia Backal

El Cóndor Mágico examines the events of Operation Condor, the US-backed campaign of right-wing dictatorships and repressive regimes in South America throughout the 1970s-80s via oral history, research, and satire. It will also explore the American fascination with magical realism, a Latin American narrative tool rooted in history in a region where people have been known to "disappear," problems miraculously go away, and corruption can serve as a curtain behind which history does tricks. Research will unravel how the political imprisonment of over 400,000 people, varied intimidation/torture tactics taught by the US, and unknown thousands of "disappeared" people set a precedent for relations between the US and Latin America that haunt us today. With an eye on Operation Condor's long shadow and impressive wingspan, it asks: who is the magician behind the "magical realism" when it comes to the relationship between Latin America and the US?


In honor of the overwhelming amount of talent and curiosity displayed amongst this year's applicants, The Civilians are pleased to share the exceptional finalists considered for this season's R&D Group:

Finalist Projects were proposed by Calley N. Anderson; Masi Asare; Helen Banner; Aaron Coleman; Sara Cooper & Kira Stone; Annalisa Dias; Dominic Finocchiaro & Stephen Bennett; Franky D. Gonzalez; Suzy Jane Hunt; Rachel Gita Karp, Ben Hoover & Jacob Russell; Divya Mangwani & Kate Moore Heaney; Talene Monahon & Adam Chanler-Berat; Brett Robinson; Dominique Rider & Nissy Aya; Marcus Antwan Scott, Ryan Kerr, & Dev Bondarin; David B. Thomas, Nick Hatcher, & Sheridan Merrick; Xandra Nur Clark; and Sim Yan Ying "YY" & Alvin Tan.

Finalist Directors are é boylan, Britt Berke, Matt Dickson, Joan Sergay, Noam Shapiro, Emerie Snyder, Leia Squillance, Alex Tobey, and Michael T. Williams.

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