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TheatreWorks Unveils New Works Fest Line-Up

TheatreWorks Unveils New Works Fest Line-Up

Lovers of new theatre will gather this August for an advance look at tomorrow's hits at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 2018 New Works Festival at Palo Alto's Lucie Stern Theatre. This unique festival offers audiences an extraordinary opportunity to experience new plays and musicals in their early stages of development, and hear about the creative process in a "Meet the Artists" panel discussion. With multiple performances of each work, playwrights and composers are able to rewrite scenes, add or delete songs, revise and refine, allowing audiences to return and watch the exciting evolution of brand new pieces of American theatre. TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's Director of New Works Giovanna Sardelli has announced a superb lineup which includes staged readings of two musicals, two plays, and other special events. Among the musical highlights for 2018: the Tony Award-nominated Jane Eyre composer is coming to Palo Alto to work on a modern take on a beloved Jane Austen classic, and local audiences will get a fresh look at a new musical about the world of hip-hop. Plays include the story of a woman who tried to tackle outer space, and a fascinating exploration of a music producer at the peak of the Cold War. The popular festival runs August 10 - 19, 2018 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto. Festival passes ($65 general/$49 season subscribers) and single event tickets ($20) can be purchased online at or by calling (650) 463-1960.

Other events at the 17th Annual New Works Festival include a keynote address by Suzanne Bradbeer (Confederates), and a special presentation of 10-minute plays from women playwrights. Among the playwrights participating are Patricia Cotter (Ladykillers), Dipika Guha (Sneaky Pete), and Velina Hasu Houston (Calligraphy). Patrons will also enjoy a late night special event with The Kilbanes (Weightless), a sneak peek of a local musical in development followed by a Q&A session, hear first-hand about the creative process in a "Meet the Artists" panel discussion, and view a presentation by the playwrights of tomorrow: winners of 1440 Countdown, TheatreWorks Education Department's 24-hour playwriting festival for high school students.

The Festival lineup is as follows:


An Exhilarating Musical Romance


Book, Music and Lyrics by Paul Gordon
Based on the novel by Jane Austen

Directed by Robert Kelley

8/11 @ 8pm • 8/15 @ 8pm • 8/18 @ 8pm

The creator of TheatreWorks' hits Daddy Long Legs and Jane Austen's EMMA returns with an unforgettable musical of the Jane Austen classic, told with a bold contemporary edge. In a romantic comedy for the ages, a liberated Lizzie Bennet and disdainful Mr. Darcy discover the irresistible power of love.

Paul Gordon (Book, Music & Lyrics) penned the music, lyrics, and book for the sensational TheatreWorks hit, Jane Austen's EMMA, and the music and lyrics to the TheatreWorks holiday favorite Daddy Long Legs. He also provided the music, lyrics, and book for Sense and Sensibility, which received its world premiere by Chicago Shakespeare in 2015. Gordon received a Tony Award nomination in 2000 for composing the music and lyrics for the acclaimed Broadway musical Jane Eyre. His other credits include writing music and lyrics for Greetings From Venice Beach and The Magnificent Ambersons. Gordon has written for, and collaborated with, numerous recording artists, including Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Alanis Morissette, Smokey Robinson, and Dionne Warwick, has several hit songs to his credit, and is the recipient of nine ASCAP awards for songwriting.

Robert Kelley (Director) is TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's Founder and Artistic Director and has served as artistic head of the company since its inception in 1970. He has directed more than 175 TheatreWorks productions, including many world and regional premieres. In 2003 he was honored with the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC) Paine Knickerbocker Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2016 was awarded the Jerry Friedman Lifetime Achievement Award from the SFBATCC. He received SFBATCC Awards for Outstanding Direction for his productions of Into the Woods, Pacific Overtures, Rags, Sweeney Todd, Another Midsummer Night, Sunday in the Park with George, Jane Eyre, and Caroline, or Change.

Hip Hop and Hot!


Book, Music and Lyrics by Ronvé O'Daniel

Music by Jevares C. Myrick

Directed by J Kyle Manzay

8/12 @ 7pm • 8/16 @ 8pm • 8/19 @ 7pm

With his community facing the recession, a talented dancer falls hard for the girlfriend of a "gangsta" rapper, threatening his own dreams of hip hop stardom. This tale of family, identity, and the search for truth won the "Best of Fest" Award at the New York Musical Festival.

Ronvé O'Daniel (Book, Music & Lyrics) is a songwriter, lyricist, composer, playwright, rapper, and actor. He is the recent participant in the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony Residency at Goodspeed Musicals, the recipient of Eugene O'Neill 2017 National Music Theater Conference's Georgia Bogardus Holof Lyricist Award, and an Artist-in-Residence at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Currently, O'Daniel and his longtime collaborator Jevares C. Myrick have teamed up with Stellation Entertainment and Rogers & Hammerstein Theatricals to write a short hip-hop musical based on a story from Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Jevares C. Myrick (Music) is a producer, composer, singer, actor, dancer, and choreographer. He is an alumnus of the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts and attended Wright State University on a full scholarship for vocal performance. Myrick has performed in the Broadway and national tour of The Book of Mormon, and has written and produced many shows for Six Flags Amusement parks across the U.S. He is a two-time Suzi Bass Award winner and an Ovation Award recipient for Best Male Vocalist.

J Kyle Manzay (Director) received his MFA from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and a BFA from Howard University, and also serves as Once Upon a Rhyme's story consultant. He has directed several productions and readings at the New York Musical Festivals and at Soul Repertory Theatre's New Play Festival. Manzay is the founder of Korner Theatricals, which most notably produced the Off-Broadway production The Great MacDaddy starring Khalil Kain. As an actor Manzay received five AUDELCO awards and an Obie Award for Outstanding Performance for his work in The Blacks: A Clown Show.


Fighting to Fly


Written by Laurel Ollstein
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli

8/14 @ 8pm • 8/18 @ 12pm

The space race is on with astronauts circling the heavens. A world record-holding pilot stands ready to join them and alter the course of history, if only America will let her. The incredible true story of a woman, Jerrie Cobb, who dreamt of stars.

Laurel Ollstein (Playwright) is an award-winning writer, director and teacher. Her plays have been produced across the United States playing to sold-out houses and winning awards such as best overall production in the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City. Ollstein's work has been featured in festivals from New York to Singapore, and is frequently seen in play development and productions in Los Angeles and New York. Ollstein also writes essays, memoirs, screenplays and television scripts; directs plays; and serves as an adjunct professor of writing for several universities.

Giovanna Sardelli (Director) is the Director of New Works for TheatreWorks as well as a freelance director working at theatres across the country. She recently directed the world premieres of Rajiv Joseph's Archduke at the Center Theater Group's Mark Taper Forum, Describe the Night for The Alley Theatre and the Atlantic Theater, and Melissa Ross' world premiere of An Entomologist's Love Story at San Francisco Playhouse - all of which came out of TheatreWorks' New Works Festival.

When Rock Changed the World


By Rogelio Martinez

Directed by Jonathan L. Green

8/17 @ 7pm • 8/19 @ 3pm

Did Springsteen help bring down the Wall? His 1988 concert in East Berlin is the centerpiece of this tense, fascinating drama which follows Anne, an American music producer caught up in the politics of intimidation at the height of the Cold War.

Rogelio Martinez (Playwright) is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been workshopped and produced in theaters across the country and abroad. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a winner of the Princess Grace Award, and has received grants and awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts Grant, NEA/TCG, Edgerton Foundation, Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, and the James Hammerstein Award, among others. For several years Martinez was a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer's Group at Primary Stages, and is an alumnus of New Dramatists. Throughout the last 20 years, Martinez has taught at various institutions including Columbia University, City College of New York, Montclair State University, Rutgers University, and Goddard College.

Jonathan L. Green (Director) is the artistic director of Sideshow Theatre and the literary manager for Goodman Theatre, both in Chicago. His direction credits include work with Sideshow, where he was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for direction of truth and reconciliation, Greenhouse Theater Center, Steppenwolf, Diversionary Theatre and Chicago Dramatists.


Keynote Address


with playwright Suzanne Bradbeer

8/10 @ 8pm

Playwright Suzanne Bradbeer knows a thing or two when it comes to writing and developing new works. Her political drama Confederates, which was read at the 2015 TheatreWorks New Works Festival and opened the 2016/17 TheatreWorks season wowed local critics, collecting a leaping man from the San Francisco Chronicle with its theatre critic Lily Janiak calling Confederates "so well constructed that it's just as timeless as it is timely." Her plays have been shared on countless stages, and in this keynote Bradbeer will share how she summons courage from her alter ego, Roxy-with a little help from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer." Come delight in the unique creative process of this year's finalist for the prestigious Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle Hart New Play Initiative.

Suzanne Bradbeer is a playwright, librettist, and children's story writer. Her plays include Confederates (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley) Shakespeare in Vegas (Playwrights Theater of New Jersey/Dreamcatcher Rep, Spring Street Studios, 4th Wall Theatre Company), The House That Jack Built (finalist for the Stanley Drama Award), The Sleeping Girl, Naked Influence (winner of Capital Rep's NEXT ACT! New Play Festival), Full Bloom (published by Smith & Kraus), and The God Game (winner of the Ashland New Plays Festival. Bradbeer is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre (company member and member of the Playwrights Unit), the Dramatists Guild, Actors Studio P/D Workshop, and the BMI Workshop.

A Next Generation Event


A sneak peek of a new play in progress

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Michael Najar
Directed by Kathleen Woods & Meghan C. Hakes

8/12 @ 2pm

For those who have ever wondered how a "play in progress" actually progresses, Palo Alto High School choir teacher Michael Najar, Palo Alto High School Theatre Director Kathleen Woods, and TheatreWorks' Education Associate Meghan C. Hakes invite audiences along as they guide their cast through multiple versions of key scenes in a new musical about a young entrepreneur making her way through Silicon Valley. Performers will include students from Palo Alto High School as well as adult actors as this new production makes its next steps following a successful initial run this spring at the local high school. After the performance, audience members will have a chance to ask the playwright, directors, and even the young actors about their experience in developing this new work.

Michael Najar (Book, Music, Lyrics) joined the faculty at Palo Alto High School as teacher of Choral and Vocal music in 2003. At Palo Alto, he conducts four ensembles, teaches AP Music theory and is Department Chair for the Visual and Performing Arts Department. Najar received his Bachelors of Music from University of California at Irvine where he studied voice with Mahlon Schanzenbach, and conducting with Joseph Huszti. He has post-graduate study in conducting at Cal State Los Angeles with Donald Brinegar. In 2012, he received his Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from Notre Dame de Namur University. Najar's song-cycle based on Los Angeles traffic issues eventually became the fully staged musical, Love Songs in Traffic which premiered in 2006. He premiered his second musical Venture with Palo Alto High School Theater Company in 2018.

Kathleen Woods (Director) is Theatre Program Director at Palo Alto High School. For TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, she directed Sistersoul, Fraulein Dora, and assistant directed The Front Page with TheatreWorks Artistic Director Robert Kelley. Woods has extensive experience directing new works including projects with Bay Area Playwrights Festival, City Lights Theater Company, and the original musical, Young Americans, which was presented by Palo Alto High School at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Meghan C. Hakes (Director) is the Education Associate and Master Teaching Artist at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. In 2014 she received her MFA from Penn State in Directing for Musical Theatre. She received her BFA in Musical Theatre Performance from Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre and Dance in St. Louis. She has directed, choreographed, performed and taught across the country and in Canada. Representative companies include: The Alley Theatre, Main Street Theatre, Main Street Theatre for Youth, The Drayton Festival, New Voices Rising, the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre (where she was the Associate Artistic Director), Penn State University and Penn State Centre Stage.

Late Night Special Event

The Kilbanes: Rock 'n' Roll 'n' More

Created and performed by Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses

8/17 @ 10pm

The Kilbanes have electrified the Bay Area with an irresistible blend of rock concert and story-telling musicals. Their acclaimed Weightless lit up San Francisco at Z Space, Eddie the Marvelous highlighted the 2016 New Works Festival, and their latest, Gurley, is in development at TheatreWorks. This innovative rock journey is one not to miss.

The Kilbanes are an Oakland-based theatrical rock band led by married songwriting duo Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses. Their rock opera Weightless had its world premiere production at Z Space this spring. Their first rock opera, The Medea Cycle, was selected for Bay Street Theater's 2018 New Works Festival. Their musical Eddie the Marvelous, Who Will Save the World, got its start at Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor and had several readings in the 2016 New Works Festival at TheatreWorks. This summer Eddie will be part of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's 41st National Music Theater Conference.


8/18 @ 4pm

Playwrights from across the nation, both new to TheatreWorks and returning to the Silicon Valley stage, will present 10 minutes of their works in progress to the Festival community under the direction of Cara Phipps. This sextet of exciting short plays by women from across the country explore, expose, and celebrate today's world from a powerful female perspective. The event will feature work by Suzanne Bradbeer, Patricia Cotter, Dipika Guha, Velina Hasu Houston, Syche Phillips, and Geetha Reddy.

Cara Phipps (Director) is a theatre-maker whose focus is new work and re-imagining classics. Recent credits include developing new plays with The Playwrights' Center and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie BFA program along with assisting at The Jungle Theater. She received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and her BA from the University of Portland.


8/19 @ 12pm

The Festival's featured playwrights and composers share their anecdotes and insights into creating brave new works for American theatre. Audiences are invited to bring questions and become a part of the conversation with writers who are shaping the theatre. This event will include a special presentation by the playwrights of tomorrow, the winners of 1440 Countdown, TheatreWorks Education Department's 24-hour playwriting festival for high school students.

The 2018 New Works Festival is presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's New Works Initiative, which has received a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts this year. The program seeks out new material and serves as a collaborative matchmaker for writers and composers. The Festival has launched many new works onto TheatreWorks' main stage and to national productions, including Broadway's Tony Award-winning Best Musical Memphis. The festival has given playgoers their first looks at new works by such luminaries as Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lippa, Joe DiPietro, David Hein & Irene Sankoff, Marsha Norman, Paul Gordon, Rajiv Joseph, Beth Henley, and Wendy Wasserstein.

Award-winning stage director Giovanna Sardelli was appointed TheatreWorks Director of New Works in May 2014, and has helmed several well-received productions for the company's main stage including Crimes of the Heart, The Velocity of Autumn, The Lake Effect, and the world premieres of Rajiv Joseph's The North Pool, and Matthew Lopez' Somewhere. Sardelli recently directed the world premiere of Joseph's Archduke for the Mark Taper Forum, the world premieres of his play Describe the Night for The Alley Theatre and the Atlantic Theater, and An Entomologist's Love Story by Melissa Ross for San Francisco Playhouse - all of which came out of TheatreWorks' New Works Festival. She has staged World Premieres of plays by Theresa Rebeck, Lynn Rosen, Joe Gilford, Jeff Augustine, Lauren Yee, and Zoe Kazan among others, and the West Coast premiere of Matthew Lopez's The Whipping Man, receiving an NAACP nomination for Best Director. She has worked Off-Broadway at many theatres and has directed numerous productions for Dorset Theatre Festival, where she is Resident Director, as well as Actors' Theatre of Louisville, The Old Globe, Hartford Stage, and others. Sardelli has also developed plays at centers around the country including the Sundance Theatre Lab, The O'Neill Theater Center, Playwrights' Center, New York Stage & Film, and Ensemble Studio Theatre.

With some 100,000 patrons per year, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has captured a national reputation for artistic innovation and integrity. It often presents Bay Area theatregoers with their first looks at acclaimed musicals, comedies, and dramas, directed by award-winning local and guest directors, performed by professional actors cast locally and from across the country.

Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

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