As previously announced, the two projects selected for this season's Lab in Yulee, FL, are The Women of Brewster Place – The Musical, by Zanna, Don't composer-lyricist Tim Acito; and Song for New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting, an ensemble piece created by and featuring Mabou Mines, the New York-based theatre company.
The Women of Brewster Place is based on Gloria Naylor's award-winning novel. It explores "the comic, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring lives of 10 African-American women living in an urban housing project in the early 1970s."
The Brewster Place workshop cast includes Adriane Lenox (Tony Award, Doubt), Marva Hicks (Caroline, or Change, The Lion King), Harriet D. Foy (Mamma Mia!, Once On This Island), Terry Burrell (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Nikki James (The Wiz at La Jolla Playhouse; All Shook Up on Broadway), Monique Midgette (Marie Christine), Bernadine Mitchell (Bessies' Blues at San Diego Rep), Tijuana Ricks (of the film "The Architect"), Soara-Joy Ross (Dance of the Vampires) and Shelly Thomas (Brooklyn, the Musical).
The workshop at White Oak will be directed by Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington D.C. Musical direction will be by William Foster McDaniel.
Mabou Mines' Song for New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting "is a celebration of and for the city of New York conceived and directed by Mabou Mines co-artistic director Ruth Maleczech." Her collaborators include Julie Archer (visual artist), David Neumann (choreographer), Lisa Gutkin (composer), Robert Kaplowitz (sound designer), Paul Kandel (male chorus director), Irina Kruzhilina (costume designer), Christine Sciulli (light artist) and T. Kevin Fisher (technical director). 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).
Between songs, a Greek chorus of men recites "the yarns" written by historian Nancy Groce. The male chorus is comprised of Robert Collier Sublett, Desean Terry, Robert Besserer, Jr., Jason Postell Pringle and Charles Hendricks.
Joining Philip Himberg, producing artistic director of the Theatre Program, are dramaturgs Mame Hunt (lead dramaturg) and Otis Ramsey-Zöe (CenterStage, Baltimore). Additionally, dramaturg Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony (Disney Creative Entertainment) and playwright Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife and Grey Gardens) will provide feedback during the final week of the workshop as creative advisors.
The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at White Oak is an extension of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program's summer Theatre Lab focuses on supporting company-created work and innovative musical theatre. 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.
The Sundance Institute Theatre Program convenes the profession's leading artists and most promising new talent with a range of offerings designed to provide a creative environment in which to develop new work with dramaturgs and full casts. The Theatre Lab at the Sundance Resort and the Playwrights Retreat at Ucross support playwrights and directors at different crucial points in the creative process, and the Theatre Lab at White Oak focuses on the development of new work in musical and ensemble theatre.
More than 80 percent of Sundance-supported plays have gone on to be produced on stages in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe in the last 10 years. Some of the past projects that have been supported by the Sundance Institute Theatre Program include The Laramie Project, Yellowman, Grey Gardens, Spring Awakening and I Am My Own Wife.