SDSU New Musical Theatre Initiative Announces New Selection

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The San Diego State University MFA Musical Theatre Program is continuing their innovative two-year development program dedicated to fostering the creation of new musicals with Postcard American Town by Lynne Shankel and Crystal Skillman.

The SDSU MFA New Musical Initiative was conceived with the idea of helping musical theatre writers develop a new work through a two-year process including a reading, a workshop, and a full production. After a competitive submission process, which saw over 130 new scripts and scores, the selection committee chose Postcard American Town written by Lynne Shankel and Crystal Skillman.

Ms. Shankel and Ms. Skillman will work directly with MFA Musical Theatre students, and selected undergraduate students, to rehearse and present a staged reading of this new musical on Friday, October 30, 2020. Professor Stephen Brotebeck will direct the reading with musical direction by Professor Robert Meffe.

In Postcard American Town, the town of Westville prepares for its biggest annual event - the Settler's Picnic. Emma Reed, whose family were original settlers, is excited to be finally taking her place in a big job as the Head Picnic Coordinator. But when the event is accused of exclusion by Dylan Bakshi, a newcomer to town, tensions rise and values are challenged in surprising ways. Postcard American Town is a new musical about a young woman's awakening to white privilege and activism in a small town, and a small town that has to choose its future.

Postcard American Town is a portrait of American life right now. The good, the bad and the ugly. The creators hope that examining themes of the great racial and cultural divide in this country through the simplicity of a small-town picnic will allow audience members to develop a better understanding of how discrimination effects everyone's lives, not just the lives of a few.

"When we began this piece, we saw where America was headed, and wanted to put a lens on that story. We had no idea how far things would progress in our current climate, and we are eager to take the next step with this piece at this point of time in our history," Skillman shares.

"While writing this piece," Shankel tells us, "I have often looked back on MLK's quotes about how the greatest stumbling block towards racial equality in America is the white moderate 'who is more devoted to 'order' than justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice'. Through the story of a simple town picnic, we are trying to really delve into this dilemma. It's not about obvious villains and heroes, but about examining the folks who choose to live somewhere safely in-between."

The SDSU Musical Theatre Program is dedicated to creating a space for musical theatre writers to develop and try out new material. Students apply theory to practice and help to create new work. Everybody wins: artists hear their work and students experience first hand just what goes into creating a new musical. Past artists have included Bobby Cronin, Caroline Prugh, Ryan Scott Oliver, BD Wong, Wayne Barker, Michael Federico and Home for Hovercraft band members Seth and Sean Magill.


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