TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Commissions Two Musicals and One Play as Part of Commissioning Program

Commissions include a new musical with music and lyrics by Grammy winner and songwriter Paula Cole and a book by Lynn Rosen and Pia Wilson, and more.

By: Mar. 10, 2023
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TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Commissions Two Musicals and One Play as Part of Commissioning Program

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has commissioned two musicals and one play as part of the launch of its official Commissioning Program. A Silicon Valley-based incubator for new works, the Tony Award recipient theatre company has served as an artistic home of national and local theatre makers throughout its more than fifty year history, supporting them in the development new plays and musicals that have become future theatrical hits. The Commissioning Program furthers this mission, designating two funds to aid in the creation of new theatre: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Commissioning Fund and Susan Fairbrook Playwright Fund. To learn more about new works commissioned by TheatreWorks the public may visit

TheatreWorks announces the commission of a new musical with music and lyrics by Grammy winner and chart-topping songwriter Paula Cole and a book by Lynn Rosen and Pia Wilson. With a Working Title of How to Build a Revolution, this irreverent new rock musical about three dynamic icons of second wave feminism-Betty Friedan, Helen Gurley Brown, and Flo Kennedy-recently received a developmental workshop as part of TheatreWorks' Writers Retreat February 18-22, 2023, directed by TheatreWorks Artistic Associate and Director of New Works Giovanna Sardelli that featured an invitation-only presentation. How to Build A Revolution also received a National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) Grant as part of its Frank Young Fund for New Musicals and participated in Goodspeed Musicals' annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Grove.

Also in development is Happy Pleasant Valley: A Senior Sex Scandal Murder Mystery Musical (Working Title) with book, music, and lyrics by award-winnng Bay Area playwright and composer Min Kahng. Kahng's musical The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga debuted at TheatreWorks' New Works Festival and received a hit World Premiere production on TheatreWorks' main stage. This scintillating murder mystery musical about a retirement home scandal received a workshop in December 2022 directed by TheatreWorks Casting Director/ Literary Manager Jeffrey Lo.

Both How to Build a Revolution and Happy Pleasant Valley: A Senior Sex Scandal Murder Mystery Musical are supported by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Commissioning Fund, dedicated to developing new works by both well-known playwrights and new theatre voices as a part of the company's New Works Initiative. Launched in 2020 as part of the 50th Anniversary Campaign, this fund was kicked off by a generous gift from Phil Kurjan and Noel Butler. This Fund previously supported the complete commission of Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon's Pride and Prejudice, which broke box office records in its December 2019 World Premiere production at TheatreWorks and is available to watch online through Streaming Musicals and Amazon Prime Video.

Also among the funds in TheatreWorks' Commissioning Program is the Susan Fairbrook Playwright Fund. Established in memory of former TheatreWorks Board Member Susan Kay Fairbrook, who was a lifelong lover of theatre and fierce advocate for new works, this fund will support new plays by up-and-coming playwrights and theatre artists. At its New Works Festival in November 2022, TheatreWorks announced that Jeffrey Lo would be the first recipient of the Susan Fairbrook Playwright Fund. An in-demand director who staged TheatreWorks' productions of Little Shop of Horrors, The Language Archive, and The Santaland Diaries, Lo is also an accomplished playwright, whose play Writing Fragments Home was presented by TheatreWorks in an online benefit reading in 2021.

"Susan Fairbrook was a woman who loved the theatre, but especially loved playwrights," said Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, whose plays Archduke, The Lake Effect, and The North Pool have been seen at TheatreWorks. "She was curious and passionate about the process of writing a play. I was always so moved by her interest in my work, and how it transformed from thoughts in my head to words on a page to action on a stage. She was deeply respectful of that mysterious and hard-to-pin down concept of development. Plays do not erupt from a playwright with a few strokes of the pen. They are wrestled with, for years. They are torn up, thrown away, and resurrected. The experience of writing a play is scary, frustrating and, if you're lucky, worth every last minute. What Susan was interested in doing in her life, and what the Susan Fairbrook Playwright Fund will continue to do, is offer playwrights the time, resources, and encouragement to keep writing. What a simple, but profoundly important idea."

TheatreWorks has long been dedicated to fostering new theatre-the company has presented 71 World Premieres and more than 170 Regional Premieres on its mainstage since its founding in 1970. As part of its 2022-23 season, TheatreWorks will present the World Premiere of Kareem Fahmy's A Distinct Society April 5-30, 2023 in association with Pioneer Theatre Company and the World Premiere musical Alice Bliss by Adam Gwon, Jenny Giering, and Karen Hartman July 12-August 6, 2023. Established in 2000, the New Works Initiative formalized TheatreWorks' commitment to new theatre. TheatreWorks' wildly popular annual New Works Festival have contributed to the development of scores of new plays and musicals that have gone one to perform at theatres across the globe, including stages Off-Broadway, in the West End, and on Broadway.

This summer, TheatreWorks will present its 20th annual New Works Festival August 11-20, 2023 at Lucie Stern Theatre. Tickets and additional information will be available in the coming months. The public may visit to learn more about TheatreWorks' New Works Festival and New Works Initiative.

The Palo Alto-based company also has commissioned works by acclaimed Bay Area playwright Geetha Reddy and Idris Goodwin, a playwright, breakbeat poet, and Artistic Director of Seattle Children's Theatre. Previous TheatreWorks commissions have also included Chris Smith and Raquel Bitton's The Sparrow and the Birdman; Chris Miller, Nathan Tysen, and Craig Wright's Molly's Delicious (co-commissioned with Playwrights Horizons); and Brendan Milburn, Valerie Vigoda, and Joe DiPietro's Ernest Shackleton Loves Me (co-commissioned with La Jolla Playhouse).



Book by Lynn Rosen & Pia Wilson

Music & Lyrics by Paula Cole

Directed by Giovanna Sardelli

Three dynamic icons of second wave feminism - Betty Friedan, Helen Gurley Brown, and Flo Kennedy - battle internal and external forces that threaten their crusade for equality in this rousing and irreverent new rock musical from singer-songwriter Paula Cole and playwrights Lynn Rosen and Pia Wilson.

Lynn Rosen (Book) is a playwright and TV writer. She was just named a 2022 Visionary Playwright by Theater Masters. Her plays have been produced at many theatres including TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's New Works Festival (Man and Beast, The Imperialists), San Francisco Playhouse, New Georges, Women's Project, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Centerstage Baltimore, Studio Theatre D.C., and Working Theater, among others. She is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and is currently commissioned by Theater Masters, Red Bull Theater, and TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Rosen co-wrote/co-created the award-winning comedic web series "Darwin," directed by Emmy-winner Carrie Preston and Greg Ivan Smith, which was named one of the "Top Ten Best Web Series of 2015" by Paste Magazine. She is also creator/writer of comedic web series "Hot Air." Rosen recently sold a pilot to a major network and has more in the pipeline.

Pia Wilson (Book) has been a Newark Creative Catalyst grant recipient, Traveling Master for Dramatist Guild Foundation, resident with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Sundance fellow, and member of the 2008 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater. Her plays have been produced by AD Players, Crossroads Theatre, Workspace Collective, Drew University, Adelphi University, Horse Trade Theater Group, and The Fire This Time play festival. Her fiction podcast "if I Go Missing, the Witches Did It" starring Gabourey Sidibe won a Webby Award for Best Scripted Fiction podcast and was listed as one of the Best New Podcasts of 2021 by Variety and Mashable. In television, Wilson was a staff writer for National Geographic's "Genius: Aretha" and BET's "Sacrifice."

Paula Cole (Music & Lyrics) rose to prominence in the early 1990's when Peter Gabriel, upon hearing Paula's debut album "Harbinger", invited her to tour the world. "Harbinger" became a critical success and established Cole's solo career. In 1996, Paula Cole released her self-produced, second album "This Fire". It was incendiary, a double-platinum smash. The first single, "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" catapulted to the Top 10. Cole was nominated for 7 Grammy awards and was the first woman to be nominated as Producer of the Year with no collaborators. Her second single, the anthemic "I Don't Want to Wait" dominated charts for a year and then lived again as the well-loved theme song for "Dawson's Creek." She was a seminal figure in the formation of the first Lilith Fair, and has performed the world over, for troops in the Persian Gulf with the USO, for small town audiences across America, for worldwide theatregoers, for benefits and charities. Over her career, Cole has released eleven albums, most of them from her independent label, 675 Records. Cole's latest recording is a collaboration with Grammy-winning artists Jason Isbell and John Paul White.

TheatreWorks Artistic Associate and Director of New Works Giovanna Sardelli's (Director)

many directing credits at TheatreWorks include last season's World Premiere of Nan and the Lower Body and It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play and the March 2020 Northern California Premiere of They Promised Her the Moon, as well as Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph's Archduke (2019), 

FINKS (2018), The Velocity of Autumn and Crimes of the Heart (2016), Joseph's The Lake Effect (2015), Somewhere by Matthew Lopez (2013), and the World Premiere of Joseph's The North Pool (2011). She is an award-winning director who has worked on numerous plays by Rajiv Joseph including the world premiere of Archduke (Mark Taper Forum) and Guards at the Taj (Geffen Playhouse; 2016 Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play) and the World Premiere of the Obie Award winning play Describe The Night (2014 New Works Festival, Alley Theatre, Atlantic Theater Company in NYC). She has directed world premieres of plays by Theresa Rebeck, Lynn Rosen, Joe Gilford, Jeff Augustine, Lauren Yee, Zayd Dohrn, Melissa Ross, Lila Rose Kaplan, Matthew Lopez, and Zoe Kazan among others. Sardelli recently directed "Marvel's Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show!," a podcast series by Marvel Entertainment and Sirius XM. She will direct TheatreWorks' World Premiere of Kareem Fahmy's A Distinct Society, presented in association with Pioneer Theatre Company-a favorite from the 2021 New Works Festival Online, this new play is scheduled to perform on the company's main stage April 5-30, 2023.



Music, Book, and Lyrics by Min Kahng

Directed by Jeffrey Lo

Vlogger "Self-Made" Jade Kim is in hot water for making ageist remarks on her channel. When she learns that her grandmother June is about to get kicked out of Happy Pleasant Valley Senior Apartments, Jade gladly comes to the rescue-in order to record and broadcast her heroine-ism, saving her reputation. What Jade doesn't count on is the cause of June's eviction threat: her "active-living" sex life, which seems to be killing the men she sleeps with. June swears that she and her libido are bring framed, and enlists Jade's help in tracking down the real murderer.

Happy Pleasant Valley seeks to explode the myth that the enjoyment of sex stops after a certain age, and will explore themes of generation gaps, ageism, and finding connection and relevance in the digital age-all with a little bit of good old-fashioned murder thrown in.

Min Kahng (Book, Music, & Lyrics) is an award-winning Bay Area playwright and composer whose works include The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga, which debuted in TheatreWorks' 2016 New Works Festival and received a hit production at TheatreWorks in 2017 that won seven San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards, including "Entire Production - Bay Area." Kahng's other works include The Song of the Nightingale, Inside Out & Back Again, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Kahng also wrote the NEA-funded project Story Explorers, an original musical for young audiences with autism. Kahng has participated in the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Ground Floor Summer Lab, and TheatreWorks' New Works Festival. He has been a Guest Artist at Harvard University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, San Jose State University, and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Kahng is a Resident Playwright at Playwrights Foundation; a member of Theatre for Young Audiences USA's Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Task Force; and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. 

Jeffrey Lo (Director) is a Filipino-American playwright and director who helmed TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's productions of Little Shop of Horrors, The Language Archive, and The Santaland Diaries. He is the recipient of the Leigh Weimers Emerging Artist Award, the Emerging Artist Laureate by Arts Council Silicon Valley and Theatre Bay Area Director's TITAN Award. His plays have been produced and workshopped at TheatreWorks, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The BindleStiff Studio, City Lights Theater Company, and Custom Made Theatre Company. Directing credits include Hold These Truths and The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin at San Francisco Playhouse; Vietgone and The Great Leap at Capital Stage; Peter and the Starcatcher and Noises Off at Hillbarn Theatre; The Crucible, Yellow Face, and The Grapes of Wrath at Los Altos Stage Company; Uncle Vanya at the Pear Theatre (BATCC award for Best Production); and A Doll's House, Part 2 and Eurydice at Palo Alto Players (TBA Awards finalist for Best Direction). Lo has also worked with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and is a company member of Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company and San Francisco Playground. In addition to his work in theatre he works as an educator and advocate for issues of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and has served as a grant panelist for the Zellerbach Family Foundation, Silicon Valley Creates, and Theatre Bay Area. He is the Casting Director/Literary Manager at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, led by Artistic Director Tim Bond and Executive Director Debbie Chinn, presents a wide variety of contemporary plays and musicals, revitalizes great works of the past, and serves more than 100,000 patrons per year. Founded in 1970 by Robert Kelley, TheatreWorks has grown from a truly original Silicon Valley start-up to become one of the nation's leading professional non-profit theatre companies. TheatreWorks was recently honored as the recipient of the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award. TheatreWorks also champions new work, offering artists support and a creative home as they develop new stories for the American theatre. Offstage, TheatreWorks' arts education programs in local schools and arts engagement programs in Silicon Valley neighborhoods uplift its audiences and strengthen community bonds. Whether onstage or off, TheatreWorks welcomes the mosaic of people that embody the Bay Area and beyond, celebrating the transformative power of theatre to ignite imagination, inspire conversation, and enliven our souls.