Have an idea for the "next big thing" on Broadway?
Do not throw away your shot!
Teams of 2-5 students will create the beginnings of a new musical over the course of 72 hours. Each team will create and present one scene, one song, and one dance.Teams will be assigned a mentor from the winning team of the 2015 72-Hour Musical Project, Gravity - A New(tonian) Musical [anchor link], who will provide support and guidance throughout the process. Each participating team will showcase their work in front of students a panel of Bay Area theater judges.
Each musical must be inspired by the following prompt:
Conceptualize an original musical based on a piece of visual art located on campus. Check out the Stanford Arts locations on the campus arts map as well as the Harmony House, community centers, and dorm murals!
2017 Challenge Brief
First Place: Towers
Team: Camilla Franklin (’17), Jackie Emerson (’17), Jenna Shapiro (’17), Nikhil Ramnarayan ('17)
Selected Prize: A trip to New York City to further develop the musical
In the city, only the wealthiest see the sky. Without enough space to expand outwards, the only direction to build it was up. Now, 827 different social sects live on 827 floors of a network of skyscrapers, connected by skybridges. The wealthiest live on the top floors, from which they can the miraculous panorama of the sun and moon. The poorest live on the ground, where no natural light reaches. A single spire towers above the rest of the already-towering city. From it, the enigmatic Watch oversees the city’s operations.
Tess and Lucia are two young women who live in the lowest levels of the city, where they eke out a living scavenging and repurposing the objects that those who live above them have dropped. Tess, who has raised Lucia as a surrogate younger sister, has encouraged her to dream of greater and higher things. The pair are determined to make it off the ground.
But it is only Lucia who gets the chance to do so. An upper-level official takes notice of Lucia’s ability to repair and repurpose objects, and she is consequently offered a position in the Watch. For the first time, Lucia gains access to the sky and a world beyond the colorless cramped walkways. Meanwhile, Tess "sees more" too; she is forced to face the harsh light of loneliness.
From this point, their paths diverge. While an eager Lucia works to prove herself in the upper echelons of society and gains knowledge of the inner workings of the city, Tess struggles to redefine herself independently. Eventually, she begins to suspect that something at the top of the city may be more sinister than the two originally thought, and embarks on a perilous and potentially misguided mission to save her friend. As Tess ascends each floor and encounters the sometimes-bizarre people who live there, and as Lucia gains more and more power over the people below her, each is forced to reckon with her place in the world, and in each other’s lives.
TOWERS is told chronologically and features both songs and spoken scenes. We envision the genres of songs varying based in part on the values and aesthetics of the social levels pertaining to each character. While the show is in part a dryly humorous look at status and society, it is primarily a character and relationship study of the two women at its center.
Second Place: Resident Earnest
Team: Clarissa Scranage-Carter (’19), Anastasio Nikolas Angelopoulos (’20), Joss Saltzman (’20), Danielle Stagger (’19), Claire Robinson (’19)
Selected Prize: Tickets to the San Francisco tour of Hamilton
One month before his eighteenth birthday, our lead EARNEST wakes up in a sparse room without any memories of his past; he doesn’t even know his name. He is then taken by guards to a “school”, where he will be taught about morality in anticipation of a test - the “Rite of Right” - that he will take on his 18th birthday, a test which will determine whether he is ‘good’ and worthy of release.
On his first day at the school, Earnest meets GRAY, SPLIT, and EVE, who explain to him (to the extent of their knowledge) the purpose and workings of this mysterious place in which he finds himself (“You’re a Bad Guy, Earnest”). They also give him his name.
His first day also happens to be the monthly Memory Day - a day where the establishment reminds each student of a tiny memory from their past lives. Earnest is shown a memory of his little sister, and he instantly becomes attached to her (“Bad Guy, Earnest” - continued). His love for her motivates him to be as “good” as possible in order to make it out and reunite with his family.
Many prisoners have been preparing for their exam since they were 15. Earnest, however, only has one month to pass. Yet he has hope; his eagerness makes his classmates guess that he must have committed a fairly insignificant and harmless crime, and is inherently good.
Gray, prickly and skeptical, is initially irritated by Earnest, and the feeling is mutual. However, there is also some romantic tension between the two. (“What is Your Deal”). Earnest comes to find out that Gray’s memories are always blank, and therefore, she has nothing to look forward to if she passes the test. But in the time they spend together, Earnest manages to make her feel hopeful. The very next day, girl is gone. It appears that that day was her 18th birthday and she ended up passing. Before she left she leaves a note to Earnest thanking him.
Full of optimism after bearing witness to Gray’s apparent success, Earnest begins to prepare for the morality test (“Montage”). The day of his examination arrives, and he is put through the exam (“Regrets, Earnest”). The exam consists of facing the victim of one’s crime - Earnest discovers that he killed his sister - but he passes by showing true remorse, and is released. End Act I.
Upon release, all the memories of a prisoner are returned as they pass through the boundary between the prison world and the real world (“The Break”). we begin with Gray, who we find out has lost her mind now that her memories have been returned to her; the reason her memories were blank is that she had been subconsciously suppressing them because they were so horrifying (“Thanks for The Memories”). (Are we going to say what happened to her? Maybe she was abused and killed her abuser?) We also see that Eve fails the test, despite everyone believing that she is good, because she is unable to see why her actions were wrong due to her blind optimism (“I Just Don’t Get It”). It is here that we find out that the penalty for failure is death. Split is able to pass by sort of “gaming the system”, he’s come through the system many times before (“Been There, Done That”).
We follow Earnest’s journey as he comes to terms with the fact that he killed his sister. He racks his brain and finally remembers that he killed her because she had also been through the “system” before yet still behaved like a criminal without appearing to show any compunction - he bought into the values of the system and instead of attempting to help her, he believed that she was inherently bad and felt that it was his civic responsibility to kill her (“I Had to Do It”). He also felt that it was better if he killed her himself in a humane way, rather than leaving her at the mercy of the institutional system, assuming she wouldn’t pass a second time and would therefore be killed. But in the present day, he struggles to convince himself that he is still a good person (“You’re A Good Guy, Earnest”).
Eventually, Earnest meets up with Split, who exhibits a similar although less dangerous attitude to Earnest’s sister, and Earnest gets his chance at redemption, which he achieves by being patient with Split and helping him to live a “morally good” life (“The Straight and Narrow”). In return, Split helps Earnest to understand that the concept of being inherently or entirely “good” or “bad” creates impossible standards and puts too much pressure on people to conform to a strict idea or label (“You’re Just A Person, Earnest”). End.
Team: Cainan Cole (’20), Ami Kalokoh (’20), Carlos Escobar (’20), Destiny Mahone (’20), Seneca Friend (’20)
Chipo inquisitively asks Imani about why she talks a certain way and wears clothes different from hers. Although Chipo is firing questions in an innocent manner,Imani takes it offensively and feels as if Chipo is attacking and questioning her “blackness,” even though Chipo has white dads. Imani retorts in a sassy manner by insulting Chipo and saying that she is not black American and never will be. Chipo is upset by this slight toward her identity and sings about being made fun of and how she can’t find her place. Chipo lays crying on her bed, when her father enters in an attempt to console her. She gets more upset and leaves. Chipo is then hears her mother’s voice and the spirit of her mother speaks to Chipo assuring her worth and that she can both African and American. Chipo, feeling comforted by her mother, sings about how she doesn’t care about what people have to say about her and that she knows she is no longer alone.
Team: Samantha Williams (’17), Alexander Ronneburg (’17), Jace Cazey (’17), Will Fein (’17)
We open on Sarah as a young woman complaining about her humble life at home in Indiana. She resents her parents for their mediocrity and contentment. She sings at her kitchen table about how bland the kitchen table is, finding fault with everything unexceptional about her upbringing.
Sarah travels to Chicago and sings for casting agents. This will be a sung sequence, and as she gets more desperate her performances will improve. Eventually, of course, someone takes a liking to her sound. Max is a generally unsuccessful agent, and he sees in Sarah the same opportunity she sees in him: the chance to suddenly become relevant. He proposes they fly together to Los Angeles.
Sarah returns home where her parents are waiting around the square, uninteresting kitchen table. Her father asks her to stay, not providing a reason. She refuses. With her father out of the room, her mother explains that he is sick, and that they need her to help take care of them. Sarah initially agrees to stay, though her resentment is only growing.
Max has already made the trip to LA with her demo and tells her he has shows booked for her and a flight and has started establishing important connections in the record/radio industry. He has booked her a flight. He tells her there are doors open to her, but that they will not be open forever.
Sarah leaves home, telling her parents she’ll be back very soon.
In LA, Max has in fact prepared a number of appearances for her, hoping that a record label will find her as interesting as he did. He has also been writing music for her. Soul music, largely, about loneliness and desire. She sings it with a melancholy that is - frankly - boring. Max realizes he needs to bring out the desperation that commanded his attention.
Max allows her first show to be a trainwreck. In fact, he ensures it. Her mic is off. The room is mostly empty, as Max lied about his promotional efforts. Before she goes on, he talks up the importance of the show, hoping to psych her out. She starts off quiet and nervous but by the end of the performance has actually fought through the circumstances and is singing powerfully, unmiced to a growing crowd that she has summoned with her sound. Someone gives Max (as her manager) a business card. People are already interested. Max keeps this from her and tells her it was a disaster. He tells her the next booking cancelled on them. He tells her it’s time to be concerned.
Having assaulted her confidence, Max tries to build the sound that sold him on her appeal. He wants her fragile, on the verge, like Billie Holliday or Amy Winehouse (pardon the anachronism). He gives her strange advice, like “sing like you’re naked,” a very off-color song about how to be noticed.
At each show, Sarah impresses another potential investor, and still Max hides this from her. (this will be a sung montage). Max introduces her to cocaine, forcing it on her immediately before a gig. She gives an energized performance, unsurprisingly perhaps. Finally Max reveals to her all the interest he’s been getting, lying that it all came from this one show.
Sarah books a record deal and they immediately schedule a tour, but she wakes up the next morning vomiting. She’s pregnant. Her tour gets canceled; her record indefinitely delayed. She calls her parents but they have nothing to say to her. Her mother won’t even tell her if her father is still alive. Max is furious with her, and drops her as a client. He’s started to make a name for himself.
Some time later, she returns to the same executive who signed her - Anthony - and says she’s ready to tour. Her son is in the waiting room, an infant. He says can you still sing. She sings for him and he’s immediately sold. There’s something heavier in her voice now, something less hopeful. It’s a major improvement. It’s real uniqueness.
The last scene of the first act is her at her kitchen table in the LA apartment. It’s no more interesting than the kitchen table she hated so much at home, whose stability and ordinariness were insulting to her. Her young son is dressed glamorously. So is she. It’s out of place glamor. He reaches for her bottle of wine. She pulls it away. Says run along now, brush your teeth. He stands and she shrinks into the chair, recreating the Carrie Mae Weems photograph that inspired the musical. End of Act I.
Act II opens with her son, Jake, a teenager, singing in an almost unfurnished home. It’s grand and spacious but has none of the trappings of a home. He sings that he’s the real talent. He doesn’t ask for his mother to come home but rather for her fans to turn their eyes and ears to him. It’s cute, his demanding of attention, in its immaturity.
Throughout the act, Jake will daydream by dancing his fantasies in the empty cavern of a house where he’s been left behind. The one thing we notice in the house is a massive dining room table where Jake eats cereal alone. Susanna is an employed caretaker who watches Jake while Sarah tours. While she does look after him fondly, she will interrupt these danced daydreams.
We cut from Jake to the full glamour of Sarah’s now-successful career. She’s singing in New York at a lovely jazz club. After the show she meets her new manager, Peter, in her dressing room. He tells her the tour is over she can go home now to Jake. She asks “Where was the Times?” complaining that no one was there to review her show, unsatisfied with the recognition she’s receiving. She didn’t leave home to make a living as a singer; she left home to make a name. She tells him to extend the tour.
She forgets to tell Jake. And he and Susanna stand at the airport as a plane from New York empties and Sarah doesn’t get off. Susanna sings him an optimistic song about the adventures his mother must be having and the fact that she must miss him so much.
In another dressing room, Sarah is now yelling at Peter that her name should mean more. He says that her genre is losing its audience and that not all talented people stay famous forever. She sings a vindictive and proud song about how she should be in Paris, they would love her in Paris. After she tells Peter to get her three bottles of gin and two more shows.
Jake calls Peter and surprises his mother by coming to New York to see her next show. Peter picks him up at the airport and they arrive together at the club where the manager grabs Peter anxiously and runs him backstage (leaving Jake in the main club alone). Jake sings about the crowded cabaret tables in the club, which he sees as the opposite of the massive empty table where he eats his meals alone.
Backstage, Sarah is too drunk to go on and furious that Jake is in New York. She says “send him home.” She decides she wants to sing but starts to cry during her performance and when the audience seems put-off instead of sympathetic she yells “then tell me what to be next!” kicks over her stool and storms off. Her career will never recover.
Five years later (~2017), Jake lives in New York with his mother. She’s still recognizable, though people remember her only vaguely. They know she was a success, but they aren’t looking for her upcoming shows. Jake sings to her a song about how music is “the one thing you taught me.” She tells him he’ll never make it as a musician, and he shouldn’t try.
Jake has written a song and he sings it meekly alone at the kitchen table. It’s charming, but Sarah is terrified by the notion that her son will either a) abandon her as she abandoned her family or b) find music as ultimately taxing as she did. So, she discourages him further by giggling at his song, telling him it’s unoriginal, and demanding he bring her a drink. She retakes the position with the bottle at the head of the table.
Jake enters a new songwriters’ competition and Sarah again urges him to take criticism from her rather than judges who are bound to hate his act. Without her approval and without her there, Jake attends and wins the competition, though the other contenders are terrible (a comedic song here) and the prize is insignificant. He’s set to be the opening act at a Wednesday night show at a trashy club in Midtown. He’s given 10 minutes.
Sarah comes to the watch the show. The stage manager sees her at the bar and asks her to sing. When he realizes that she’s the mother of his opening act, he asks her to join her son for a monologue. She agrees. When she walks on stage, a surprise to Jake, he freezes. She sings his lyrics, getting them slightly wrong throughout, and when he does regain composure and join her he’s barely audible.
After the show, he’s furious. He accuses her of sabotaging him. (this is the scene we’ll be presenting, so I won’t spoil it totally).
Sarah comes to a resigned understanding about her son’s desire to remake himself in the public eye. It is a similar desire to the one she had. She wishes that he could see how empty her life was. She wishes she had found empathetic ears while she seeking fame. If someone had validated her need for approval, she may have given up her insatiable appetite for publicity and gone home to her son. But she didn’t.
Jake walks out on her; he’s found a young, as-of-yet unsuccessful manager named Max, and they’re going to try to make it in LA. She assumes the shrunken Weems position again (from the photo) and we end with Jake on his way to Los Angeles, adopting her lyric “If they only knew” to refer to the fans that would love and support him if they knew what he was capable of.
Team: Emma Jackson-Smith (’18), Jarku Tang (’18)
The play is shaped like Bell curve. Everything is symmetric.
The musical is from one night to the next. Grieg lives in the above space. He brings Willem, 23, home, for all kinds of shared intimacy. They sleep together. In the conversation afterwards they fall utterly in love. They fall asleep in each other’s arms. 100% in love, they have a dream ballet. The next morning, things are slightly off. Willem is feeling uncomfortable, and there is some real imbalance in their relationship. Grieg is trying to force intimacy where it is no longer occurring naturally, not in the light of day. They kind of both lose pieces of love as instantly as they gained them, though moments come back every now and then.
The door is open the whole time. The moments of falling in and out of love are mapped out in exact symmetry. Props enter and exit the room, are moved to and back from their previous positions, in time with the symmetric changes in relationship. Rather than the traditional story structure, with a climax followed by a brief denouement, this play spends as much time on the takedown as the buildup. Still, symmetry isn’t perfect; you don’t leave exactly the same person as you came in. [towards the end, Grieg, in a flurry of tense emotion so strong that it can only be expressed musically, throws a bucket of white paint against the deep red of the wall.
The musical is probably about half-sung, half-spoken, a la Violet. It is very simple; for now, the music is a capella folk-style music, but it will probably gain a guitar; still, minimalist music, to go with the minimalist space.
Team: Annie Zheng (’20), Amelia Taylor (’20)
Melanie, the youngest daughter of the Hardwell family, receives her acceptance to Stanford University and excitedly shares the news with her sister Quinn. Nora immediately invites Melanie to come stay with her while she visits Stanford. Nora and Quinn reminisce about the day Nora was admitted to Stanford, when they realized that it was a possibility for her to escape from poverty. They reflect on their identity as Hardwells, which to them means extreme perseverance.
While Quinn helps Mel pack, Mel questions Quinn about her life. To make her feel better, Quinn tells Mel that she is just starting a relationship with Roger from her workplace. Quinn does not tell her that she and Roger have a purely physical relationship or that she never plans on marrying.
Quinn receives a call from Mel to tell her about her first incredible day at Stanford. Her excitement for her future is palpable, but her sisters do not share her enthusiasm. Quinn realizes that she may never do anything with her life besides work at K-mart. Meanwhile, Nora is afraid that Mel does not understand how difficult college truly can be after Nora’s struggle to succeed and make her sisters proud the past four years.
With Nora’s college graduation on the horizon, she and Quinn both begin looking to the future. Nora is faced with a variety of high-paying job offers when she graduates, but realizes that she does not want to accept any of them. Quinn starts to look into the cost of community college classes and calls Nora excitedly when she realizes that once Nora graduates, Quinn could afford to pay for her own education. After hanging up the phone, Nora decides to accept the highest-paying job offered to her. She excitedly offers to host Quinn in her home, thrilled that she is finally able to achieve her goal of providing for the Hardwell family and lifting them out of poverty. Quinn begins planning to take night classes while still working at K-Mart. They realize they are breaking out of a cycle of poverty, and doing spectacularly so. The first act ends with all three sisters being proud of their identity as stubborn, forward-charging Hardwells, and considering their futures, full of hope and anticipation.
At the beginning of act two, Nora is helping Quinn move into her apartment. Nora realizes that the duties of caring for her sisters have now passed from Quinn to her and worries that she cannot take the pressure on top of her work stress. After a few weeks of living with Nora, Quinn discovers that Nora works at all hours of the day without fail. When Nora breaks down after receiving negative feedback from her boss one day, Quinn confronts her and asks her if she is unhappy. Nora finally admits that she has been unhappy ever since she arrived at Stanford because she had felt so much pressure to succeed.
Quinn comforts her distraught sister and reminds her that Quinn had worked to put Nora through college in order for her to have a better life. However, when Quinn implies that Nora has not been truly successful because of her unhappiness, Nora snaps at her, refusing to believe that her years of struggle have not yielded success. She immediately shuts Quinn out and returns to her work, causing tension in their relationship.
At that time, Quinn discovers that she has become pregnant with Roger’s baby. She knows that Roger will not help her raise this child, leaving her as a single mother who will be forced to work menial labor to support her child. Quinn remembers her mother, a hard-working high-school dropout who died two years ago, and how Quinn’s current situation is very similar to her life. Quinn laments the fact that her life has become nothing more than a reflection of her mother’s tragedy. She realizes that Nora has failed to find happiness, and Quinn herself has failed to break out of her mother’s footsteps, meaning she has made no real advancements in life.
Meanwhile, Melanie is struggling academically and emotionally at Stanford. Poverty’s effect on her is deeper than she has anticipated. Self-conscious of her disadvantaged background, she is hyperaware of every difference between her and her peers. She is also unprepared for the academic workload, and has just gotten her midterm results back to discover that she is almost failing all of her classes. She reflects on how weak her confidence in herself and the once-golden future have become.
The three sisters privately lament their failed futures, realizing that the grip of poverty is stronger than once thought. They question their own abilities and their once blind faith in a better future. Their conviction of themselves as always-persistent “Hardwells” has been shattered, along with their identity as a cohesive family unit, as an argument tears through the siblinghood for the first time in years.
Quinn continues to live at Nora’s apartment and use her money. She realizes that she despises being dependent on Nora. Melanie comes to stay at Nora’s apartment for winter break after completing her first quarter. When her sisters discover that she has failed two of her classes, she breaks down and confesses that she plans on dropping out of Stanford because the schoolwork is too difficult for her and she does not fit in with the other students.
Nora and Quinn become angry with Melanie, reminding her that they worked hard for years in order to support her and earn their places in the world. They tell her that she needs to learn how to work for herself if she wants to be successful. In an effort to justify her actions, Melanie claims that they wouldn’t have to work this hard if they had been born into a different family. Angrily, Quinn points out that these circumstances were by no means a curse-- Melanie has also been surrounded by advocates for tenacity and self-confidence, whom have propelled her to Stanford in the first place. They sit together and reminisce about their mother. Quinn realizes that she does not want to continue the cycle of poor, uneducated mothers, and makes the decision to give her child up for adoption.
That night, the sisters redefine their vision of the word “Hardwell.” They realize they have been too hinged on single-faceted definitions of success. Hardwells need to be not only tenacious, but also self-forgiving, and unafraid to face emotional truths. Mel realizes the extent to which her life has been paved by those who came before her, and resolves to return to school. Quinn recognizes that independence has always been her greatest priority and decides to move away from Nora’s residence. She realizes that she has made the same mistake as Nora, and has failed to focus on her own priorities. Nora’s vision of success is still unclear. She resolves to leave her job and take time to travel and self-reflect instead, and become her own person once again.
Team: Lea Zawada (’19), Jack Swiggett (’19)
We open with a burst of color and sound on the island of Tempono. This place has remained uncontacted by the larger world and has developed a culture based on large group ceremonies, pearl diving, a roped bridge system in the treetops, and sleeping communally under a vast blanket each night. Tempono’s soundscape has a jazzy twist. In the first song (“Tempono Beat”) we meet the islanders as they attack an oncoming boat from the modern mainland. In an isolated interlude we meet Yassu, the daughter of the Island leader. Yassu is curious about the people from the other land and her mother warns her of their danger. We also see a spark between Yassu and Desto, another boy on the island. That night, Yassu is at her post, watching on the treetops for incoming ships. She sings of her island life and her yearning for more (“From My View”). Near the end of the song, Darrin arrives by boat. Darrin comes from the mainland, Keebik, a land obsessed with producing technology and science, and fueled by the ambition and efficiency of its people. Darrin is a part of a team of researchers.
Yassu is curious and chooses not to sound the island alarm, but instead lets Darrin ashore. They meet in secret and bond over the boat. Yassu is fascinated by how shiny it is and how it keeps him afloat (“Tin“). Darrin sees a bit of his own, lost daughter in Yassu and convinces Yassu to come back to Keebik because he can give her opportunity and culture and show her the wonders of the modern world. Darrin smuggles Yassu back in a barrel, unbeknownst to his fellow researchers (“Hush”).
The scene changes. They arrive in Keebik and Yassu is buffeted around marching lines of workers in a terrifying musical number (“Worktime“), in which there is a twinkling interlude about “Plastic” delivered by a family at their domestic dinner table. Musically, Keebik has a distinctly metronomic, deliberate sound-- which is cut through by Yassu’s jazz line. The song ends as Darrin pulls Yassu from the traffic. There is a brief scene in his apartment in which Darrin gives Yassu the dress that used to be his daughter’s. Darrin reveals details about his daughter’s death and his longing to be a good father this time (“Raise Her”).
This is followed by a scene and song in which Yassu tries desperately to fit in with society and fails miserably (“Neighbor Girl”).
Meanwhile, members of Darrin’s research team scrub the boat and come across a sign that Yassu was aboard the ship. The top tracker, Kark, is particularly hungry to find this Island girl and excited by the prospects of a hunt.
In her room, Yassu realizes this world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and decides her home wasn’t so bad after all (“My Primitive World”). Darrin hears her speak of her home and realizes the mistake he has made in bringing her to Keebik. Yassu runs away while Darrin (who is the leader of the research team) receives a phone call from Kurk that they have found evidence of an island girl and that Kurk is hot on her trail. Darrin leaves in search of Yassu, while Kurk hunts for her too and Yassu races to get home (“The Distance Between Us”). In the last moments of the song, as Darrin is about to get to her, Kurk catches her and boxes her up.
Meanwhile on Tempono the islanders have discovered the missing daughter. They fear she has been taken by the evil ships that they have tried so hard to keep away from their island. They mourn the loss of Yassu through an elaborate and traditional ceremony (“Stolen”). Dest refuses to believe she is gone forever, and sets out on a palm raft to save her (“Towards You“).
Lights up on the Laboratory. This is a whole new level of efficiency, gloss, flashy equipment and order. The Lab workers (led by Bern) deliver a neurotic song about efficiency in the workplace (“Tisk-Tasking”), involving an intricate dance sequence of rolling carts and a clacking, beeping soundscape.
It’s after hours in the lab. There is one lit circle on stage, blindingly bright. Yassu is wandering it’s perimeters, stuck inside it. She feels lost and out of place (“Like Them”). Throughout the song, other lights appear on the stage as we see other trapped characters. They all don’t fit in society for different reasons. They are being studied.
Meanwhile Dest arrives on Keebik’s shores and receives a clue about where to look for Yassu.
Darrin at the Lab enters in a research coat, leading a team of lab workers. They sing a dark song about scrutinizing the trapped characters (“Specimen”), and Yassu is bewildered by the betrayal of Darrin. Darrin gives Yassu a sign that he is on her side and will rescue her. Dest appears at the lab and sees that Darrin as the leader of this lab.
Dest traps Darrin in an experimental machine in the lab (fight sequence) and goes to rescue Yassu. (“Heart Beat”). There is an escape scene in which all of the trapped characters make it out of the lab, and Yassu rescues Darrin from the experimental machine at the last moment. There is a chase sequence of lab members and prison-breakers.
In the final scene, Darrin watches from ashore as Yassu and Dest assemble their boat rigging and prepare to depart. Darrin says goodbye. (Reprise: "The Distance Between Us")
During the curtain call, we hear the Island Celebration Song of the return of Dest and Yassu to Tempono.
Achilles: A Korean-American Rhapsody
Team: Muse Lee (’19)
“Mother tells me...
If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,
my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.
If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,
my pride, my glory dies . . .
true, but the life that’s left me will be long...”
After killing another child in anger over a dice game, Patroclus’ father sends him to live with Peleus and his son, Achilles. The two grow up together and become the famous heroes who fight side-by-side in the Trojan War.
“Achilles: A Korean-American Rhapsody” is a modern take on this story.
“Parachute children”: that’s what they call children who immigrate to America on their own--usually from Asia--to seek better academic opportunity. Alone and without family, they are sent to live with host families who, often, are themselves struggling English language learners.
In America, Pat meets Aya, whose family he’s staying with. Things aren’t much better in America--just different. Neither of them are particularly good students, though that doesn’t carry as much stigma here as it does in Korea. Neither of them can quite shake their involvement in crime. However, at least they have each other.
Aya grapples with both deeply missing and deeply resenting her mother. The specter of what her mother would think of her hangs over her constantly. While it keeps her from joining Pat’s gang, it also complicates her feelings for Pat, as she carries memories of her mother’s transphobia.
At last, Aya partakes in a night of violence with Pat’s gang, resulting in both of them being arrested and sentenced to ten years in a women’s prison, along with several other members of the gang. While incarcerated, Aya reflects back on how she ended up where she did.
Aya and Pat both take on a night job cleaning the facility, as demonstrated good behavior might increase their chances of parole. However, the night shift becomes a hotbed of gang activity. Aya falls into gang leadership, which she later renounces.
One night, when gang tensions come to a head, Pat fights in her place. Aya waits for morning, anxious to know whether or not Pat returned safely. This situation serves as the framework for my ten-minute piece.
Achilles is through-sung, blending elements of musical theater, hip hop, pungmul (a form of Korean folk music that’s been compared to the American blues), and pansori (a traditional Korean storytelling music genre with a single vocalist and drummer).
Team: Ariana Johnson (’17), Olivia Popp (’20), Paul Gregg (’17), Mirae Lee (’17), Leena Yin (’17)
This musical is the story of an unconventional modern family, the product of divorce and remarriage, told from the perspective of Maria, 28. Concerned that her family has begun to fall apart as dictated by social expectations for "broken families" like hers, she looks back into her past to find answers before entering into her own marriage. We travel with her backwards in time, revisiting in reverse chronology a series of vignettes featuring the family's daily tragedies and joys that defined her childhood. Her family—mother, father, stepmother, younger sister and half-brother—pass in and out of the ever-shifting living room that is their stage as they redefine what it means to be and to love in a "broken family."
Team: Abigail Brooke (’17), Francesca Conover (’17), Megan Calfas (’18), Angelene Dascanio ('15), Peter Litzow (’18)
The musical follows the lives of three 22 year-old women who live in the same house in Long Island during different time periods in American history. The stories are told in parallel, simultaneously revealing events chronologically for each character. While the women sometimes share space onstage, and simultaneously interact with set and props, they are like ghosts to one another; unseen, but perhaps, sometimes felt.
The earliest woman, Helen, lives in 1865 at the end of the Civil War and builds the house using her inheritance from her late husband, a Union general who died in the war. Helen finds herself independent for the first time. Grieving her husband and unsure of how to live without the guidance of men, she decides to build a grand new home for herself on Long Island to mark this new chapter in her life. During the building process, Helen grieves her lost love and slowly falls in love with the architect, a working-class man named Nathaniel. Though their love is taboo, they persevere and eventually wed. When her inheritance eventually runs out, she and Nathaniel have to sell items from the house. The only item Helen cannot part with is the necklace her first husband gave her--so rather than sell it, she hides it within the house...
The second woman is Ruth--a giddy, small-town girl experiencing 1920s city life for the first time. She is sent to New York to further her education and assist her older, unmarried aunt, but Ruth is much more overcome by the thrills of her environment. She parties, fishes for a boyfriend, and aspires to be a dancer. However, her naivety and extremely poor dancing skills inhibit her from attaining her unrealistic goals. When an accident occurs with her aunt, Ruth realizes her call to be a responsible adult and struggles to fulfill everyone’s expectations, including her own.
The third woman, Amy, is a 1990s chick living in the house with her two friends/roommates who are dating. While the house is old, creaky, and the cheapest to rent, Amy finds an artistic attraction and appreciation for the place. While living away from home for the first time and trying to make a name for herself as an artist, Amy hungers for an opportunity to express herself, but doesn’t know how. Ultimately, Amy and her roommates have to move out because the house is being demolished. She reflects on her time spent there and wonders if she is leaving part of herself behind to become rubble, or if she is taking a piece of the house with her as she journeys onward.
All three women find the house to be a catalyst for beginning a new chapter of their lives. Not only does it empower them to make the next step, but it also protects their vulnerability and supports their search for identity. Throughout the show, the women’s lives unknowingly interweave as they inhabit the same space and find objects hidden within the house by the women who came before them. In the musical, the key supporting actors for each woman are intended to be played by the same two actors--emphasizing the parallel importance yet shifting manifestation of relationships in each of their lives. The development of the plot involves spoken scenes, as well as songs and dances. The live presentation will include an integrated musical performance that illustrates all three women’s introduction to the house as their new environment. This House would likely be the opening number, and the titular song.
ANDY DONALD is currently the Associate Artistic Director at the American Conservatory Theater. Previously, he created the position of Producer of Artistic Development and Community Programming at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Some of his producing/commissioning highlights at NJPAC include: The Hip Hop Nutcracker (w/ United Palace; international tour); Carefree: Dancin’ with Fred and Ginger (dir. Warren Carlyle; national tour); NJPAC Stage Exchange (new play commissions guaranteeing world premieres at NJ regional theaters); Jimmy Fallon in Conversation with Stephen Colbert, John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown (filmed, HBO), American Songbook (w/ Ted Chapin; filmed, PBS), Meredith Willson’s The Music Man (all black cast, w/ Two River Theater, dir. Robert O’Hara), Second City Does New Jersey, Jessie Mueller & Jarrod Spector (debut) Prior to NJPAC, he served as Artistic Director of Naked Angels in New York City for four seasons, where his producing credits include Next Fall (Broadway, Tony Nomination), This Wide Night (with Edie Falco and Alison Pill, 5 Lortel nominations), Outside People (Vineyard Theatre), Naked Radio (weekly podcast), Oh the Horror!, Armed and Naked in America, and A Long and Happy Life. He also started the “3-Step Formula,” a bi-coastal new play development series in Los Angeles and New York, and spearheaded the merger of Naked Angels with the New School for Drama, establishing the company as the resident professional theater inside the university's graduate program. He also served as producing associate at NYSF/Public Theater and Second Stage Theatre, as a pilot development assistant at ABC and HBO, and as artistic director of the Charlie B. Theater Company for four seasons (Los Angeles). Education: BFA, NYU/Tisch; MFA, Columbia University; recipient of the Barbara Whitman Prize for Theatre Management & Producing.
GRETCHEN FEYER is currently serving as the Managing Director of Berkeley Playhouse. She was most recently Associate General Manager at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. Gretchen spent six years in New York City, where she was Company Manager for over a dozen plays and musicals at The Public Theater, including Love’s Labour’s Lost at Shakespeare in the Park and Richard Nelson’s Apple Family Plays. Before joining the Public she held various management and producing positions at Encores! New York City Center, New York Musical Theater Festival, Prospect Theater Company, The Acting Company, La Vie Productions, and Cesa Entertainment. Gretchen spent two summers as Company Manager for the Weston Playhouse Theater Company in Vermont (where she met her husband, music director Dan Feyer), and helped reopen the Napa Valley Opera House as Artist Services Manager and House Manager. Gretchen was born and raised in Oakland and St. Helena, California. She holds a BA in Theater from the University of Vermont and an MFA in Theater Management from Florida State University.
THE KILBANES are an Oakland-based theatrical rock band led by married songwriting duo Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses. Their first rock opera, the medea cycle, has played in clubs and theaters in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas. Weightless, commissioned by Z Space and Encore Theatre, won “Best of Fringe” at the SF Fringe Festival in 2012 and a concert version made the SF Chronicle's "Top Ten Theater Picks of 2016". Eddie the Marvelous got its start at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Ground Floor program in 2014 and continued development at Theatreworks' New Works Festival in 2016. The Kilbanes have collaborated with award-winning Bay Area playwright Lauren Gunderson, composing music for her plays Ada and the Engine and By and By. In addition to their work in the theater, The Kilbanes tour as a rock band and have performed in over 20 cities across the United States. kilbanes.com
Gravity co-creators Joel Chapman, Weston Gaylord, Matt Herrero, Jessia Hoffman, and Ken Savage are artists and friends from their time working together on various musical projects at Stanford University. After winning the Stanford Arts' 72-Hour Musical competition in January 2015, they used their prize money to go on an artist retreat in Ashland, Oregon where they sought inspiration from watching shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They presented their first draft of Gravity in October 2015 at Z Below in San Francisco and Roble Theater. In March 2016 with the support of Z Space Artistic Director Lisa Steindler and Encore Theatre Company, they presented a second draft of Gravity at Z Below. Gravity was invited to do a special performance in May 2016 for the Bay Area Stanford+Connects which was broadcast to thousands of people all over the world. In August 2016 they were invited to join the TheatreWorks New Works Festival as part of their Next Generation Musical series.