The two projects in workshop Jan. 14-28, 2007, are The Women of Brewster Place – The Musical, a new musical by Tim Acito; and Song for New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting, an ensemble piece created by and featuring the New York-based theatre company, Mabou Mines.
The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at White Oak is an extension of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program's summer Theatre Laboratory held at Sundance, Utah and "focuses on supporting company-created work and innovative musical theatre."
The Sundance Institute Theatre Laboratory at White Oak "offers theatre artists the time and support to rehearse, rewrite, and develop their work over a two week period."
Philip Himberg, producing artistic director of the Theatre Program, will oversee the Lab, along with an experienced team of professionals who assist the artists during each phase of development.
Mame Hunt and Otis Ramsey-Zöe will serve as dramaturgs, and dramaturg Shelby Jiggetts and playwright Doug Wright participate as creative advisors. "The two projects selected for support at the White Oak Lab reflect the broad landscape of work that is supported by the Sundance Institute Theatre Program," stated Himberg. "We're excited to be able to support the Mabou Mines new project, Song for New York, a ground-breaking work that synthesizes the poetic and the historic into a provocative performance event. Tim Acito's The Women of Brewster Place is a new interpretation of Gloria Naylor's ground-breaking novel set in the 1970s and features a wide range of musical styles from that decade."
Lyricist-librettist-composer Acito is best known for his Off-Broadway musical, Zanna, Don't!.
"White Oak has been pleased to host dozens of conferences and performing arts, especially dance, residencies over the years," stated John Lukas, vice-president of the White Oak Conference & Residency Center. "This collaboration is an important component in artists' residency activity at White Oak and this partnership with the Sundance Institute Theatre Program expands and deepens our relationship with the theatre community. We have the highest regard for the Sundance Institute's developmental process, and are pleased that White Oak can play a role in advancing the work of these innovative artists."
The Women of Brewster Place "explores the comic, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring lives of seven African-American women living in an urban housing project in the early 1970s, telling their stories through gospel, soul, R&B and good old-fashioned, old-school funk."
The workshop at White Oak will be directed by Molly Smith, artistic director for Arena Stage in Washington D.C. Musical direction will be by Bill McDaniel and casting by Alan Filderman. The work was announced to play Arena in 2006-07, but taken off the slate to undergo more development.
Song for New York "is a celebration of and for the city of New York" conceived and directed by Mabou Mines co-artistic director Ruth Maleczech. "Maleczech has envisioned an interplay of choral speech, dance, music and visual art at waterfront locations where the audience onshore looks to the performance staged on a barge."
Poems about each of the five boroughs have been commissioned from five New York City writers (Migdalia Cruz, Maggie Dubris, Patricia Spears Jones, Kane Kandel and Imelda O'Reilly) and adapted by composer Lisa Gutkin into songs. Between songs, a Greek chorus of men recites "the yarns" written by historian Nancy Groce.
White Oak is located on a 7,500-acre property in Yulee, FL. It was conceived by Howard Gilman as a sanctuary for animals, and a place of peaceful yet productive retreat for the people and activities he cared about. In 1982, Gilman established the White Oak Conservation Center on the property for the conservation and propagation of threatened and endangered species.
White Oak, which houses the Baryshnikov Dance Studio, has also hosted residencies by performing artists and dance companies; national and international conferences; and seminars and workshops directly related to the Foundation's primary fields of interest: performing arts, wildlife conservation and cardiovascular research.