The Kleban Foundation and New Dramatists announced May 1 that Lindsay-Abaire — already a Pulitzer Prize winner for his drama Rabbit Hole — was the Kleban recipient in the category of "most promising musical theatre lyricist."
Known for his plays Kimberly Akimbo, Fuddy Meers and Wonder of the World, the writer is just now dawning as a lyricist. He was nominated for a Best Play Tony Award for Rabbit Hole, for which he has written the screenplay (Nicole Kidman will star in the film version). His composer for Shrek, opening on Broadway in fall 2008, is Jeanine Tesori.
Adjudication of the award for most promising librettist resulted in a tie between Laura Harrington and co-librettists Bill Solly and Donald Ward.
The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize award winner for the musical A Chorus Line. The will made provision for two annual awards, each in the amount of $100,000 payable over two years, to be given to the most promising librettist and lyricist in American musical theatre. In the industry, it's the major prize devoted to American musical theatre lyricists and librettists.
In addition to bringing attention and prestige to the winning writers, the award has a practical side: Usually, the writers cited are struggling and emergent, and the cash prize gives them the freedom to focus on their creative writing without distraction (that is, without the worry to pay the rent in the short-term), or it allows them to invest in developmental readings, recordings and workshops of their shows, if they so choose. The 2008 awards will be presented on June 4, 2008, in a private ceremony at ASCAP.
The judges making the final determination this year were Beth Blickers, Linda Kline and Gilbert Parker.
Lindsay-Abaire is the book and lyric writer for Shrek the Musical, which premieres on Broadway this fall. Most recently, he was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Rabbit Hole, which premiered on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theater. The play also received five Tony Award nominations including Best Play, a Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award nomination, and the Spirit of America Award from the Barbara Barondess MacLean Foundation. In addition to his work in theatre, he wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Newline feature "Inkheart," and is currently at work on screen adaptations of his plays Rabbit Hole for 20th Century Fox, and Kimberly Akimbo for Dreamworks and Killer Films. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists, which administers the Kleban, and a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Juilliard School, as well as a member of the WGA and the Dramatists Guild Council.
Harrington's recent credits include Alice Unwrapped (music and Lyrics by Jenny Giering); Crossing Brooklyn (music by Jenny Giering), produced 2007 by Transport Group Off-Broadway; Resurrection (music by Tod Machover), produced by Houston Grand Opera; N (Bonaparte), seen at Pilgrim Theatre, Boston; Hallowed Ground, a Boston IRNE Award for Best New Play and a New Orleans "Big Easy" Award-winner; Martin Guerre (music by Roger Ames), seen at Hartford Stage Company, directed by Mark Lamos and nominated for three Connecticut Critics Circle Awards, including Outstanding Musical; Marathon Dancing, directed by Anne Bogart for En Garde Arts in New York City; The Perfect 36 (music by Mel Marvin), seen at Tennessee Repertory Theatre and the NAMT Festival; Lucy's Lapses (music by Christopher Drobny), Portland Opera and Playwrights Horizons. She is currently writing a series of choral cantatas with Roger Ames and a new opera with Deborah Drattell. She teaches playwriting at M.I.T and is a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley and elsewhere. She has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in playwriting and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England. Other awards include a Bunting Institute Fellowship at Harvard/Radcliffe, a Whiting Foundation Grant-in-Aid, the Joseph Kesselring Award for Drama, a New England Emmy, and a Quebec Cinemateque Award. She is a New Dramatists alum and a member of the Dramatist Guild.
Bill Solly and Donald Ward have co-authored the books for eight musicals, the best-known being The Great American Backstage Musical and Off-Broadway's Boy Meets Boy. Sweet William, submitted for this year's Kleban Award, "imagines what might have happened in the year 1586 when the young Will Shakespeare left his home in Stratford-on-Avon and set off on the road to London." Their Tent Show "tells the story of Moses as seen through the eyes of his father-in-law, Jethro." Their other musicals are Starring in Alphabetical Order, 100 Miles from Nowhere, It Must be Magic and an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. In addition to writing the music and lyrics for all of the above, Bill Solly has written the musicals Smile & Say Hello (with Chris Weikel), based on his CD "Gay Friendly," Let the Piper Come and many musicals for children, of which the best-known is The Cat in the Castle. Donald Ward has published two mystery novels, "Death Takes the Stage" and "Our Little Secret" and has completed a third, "Nothing Like a Dame." Both authors are members of the Dramatists Guild. Bill Solly is also a member of ASCAP.
Submission guidelines and an application for the 2008-09 Kleban Awards are available at the New Dramatists website, www.newdramatists.org. The postmark deadline for the next competition is Sept. 15, 2008.