Readings of new musicals by "emerging young composers" will give DC-area audiences a first look at new musicals. For a three-week period, July 6-24, two commissioned musicals, The Hollow (by composer Matt Conner and writer Hunter Foster, directed by Eric Schaeffer) and The Boy Detective Fails (by composer Adam Gwon and writer Joe Meno, directed by Joe Calarco), will be rehearsed in preparation for public concert performances on July 23 and 24.
21/24 Signature Lab is an expansion of Signature's American Musical Voices Program — The Next Generation, funded by The Shen Family Foundation.
The 21/24 acting company includes Michael Bunce, Chris Mueller, Autumn Seavey, Michael Cafarelli, Darin Ellis, Jordi Parry, Danny Binstock, Christopher Bloch, Sherri L. Edelen, Eleasha Gamble, James Gardiner, Sam Ludwig, Channez McQuay, Amy McWilliams, Margo Seibert, Thomas Adrian Simpson, Chris Sizemore, Stephen Gregory Smith, Russell Sunday, Stephanie Waters and Bayla Whitten.
On July 22 Signature will also present a cabaret of new songs by The Next Generation composers Gabriel Kahane, Peter Foley and Marisa Michelson, as well as Matt Conner and Adam Gwon, in The MAX Theatre. Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer stated, "It's an exciting time at Signature Theatre as we provide opportunities for up-and-coming composers to develop and present their new works. Matt Conner and Adam Gwon have unique voices and I'm proud to have their new pieces begin at Signature. Our collaboration with The Shen Family Foundation and the creation of the American Musical Voices Project has provided a creative home for exciting new works for the American musical theatre. We look forward to sharing these works with our audiences."
Composer Matt Conner's world premiere musical, Nevermore, was produced at Signature Theatre in 2006 (directed by Eric Schaeffer with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick). He recently wrote the book/lyrics/music to A Carol Christmas for the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, DC, produced December 2007, as well as a new commissioned work for Signature Theatre entitled Crossing, which had its first reading in October 2007.
Foster is a musical theatre actor/singer, librettist and playwright. As a writer Foster created the libretto for an Off-Broadway 2002 musical based on the motion picture Summer of '42. In addition to his work on Hollow with composer Matt Conner, Foster is writing an adaptation of the film Bonnie and Clyde with Urinetown co-star Rick Crom. As an actor on Broadway, Foster appeared as Leo Bloom in The Producers, Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, for which he received a Tony Award nomination, and Bobby Strong in Urinetown.
Gwon is a composer and lyricist recently named one of "50 to Watch" by The Dramatist magazine. His latest musical Ordinary Days received its world premiere at Pennsylvania Centre Stage in the summer of 2008, and its UK premiere at the Finborough Theatre in London in the fall of 2008. Roundabout Theatre Company will stage it Off-Broadway this fall. Its first production with orchestrations premiered recently at the Adirondack Theatre Festival. His other musicals include the upcoming Bernice Bobs Her Hair with librettist Julia Jordan and director Joe Calarco, Ethan Frome with bookwriter Michael Ruby, and Lulu.
Meno is a novelist, writer of short fiction, playwright, and music journalist based in Chicago. After attending Columbia College Chicago, Meno spent time working as a flower delivery truck driver and art therapy teacher at a juvenile detention center. His first novel "Tender as Hellfire" was published when he was only 24 and received strong reviews from sources like Library Journal. His short fiction has appeared in literary magazines like Tri-Quarterly, Ninth Letter, and Other Voices.
Tickets for 21/24 Signature Lab performances are $20 general admission, and a pass for both 21/24 shows costs $30. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or by calling Ticketmaster at (703) 573-SEAT (7328) or visiting www.signature-theatre.org.
Signature's American Musical Voices Project, funded by The Shen Family Foundation, began in May 2006. Musical theatre composer grants have been awarded to Ricky Ian Gordon, Michael John LaChiusa and Joseph Thalken, providing each composer $25,000 a year plus health coverage for four years. Each of the grants is accompanied by a commission to create a new full-length musical to be produced at Signature Theatre during its 2009-2011 seasons. In April and May 2009 Giant by Michael John LaChiusa received its premiere at Signature Theatre. Ricky Ian Gordon's Sycamore Trees will premiere in May 2010, and Joseph Thalken's musical the following season. In addition, Musical Theater Leadership Awards have been made to four individuals in recognition of their extraordinary influence on and contribution to the advancement of new musical theatre, orchestrator Bruce Coughlin, composer Adam Guettel, singer/actress Audra McDonald, and director/musical director/orchestrator Ted Sperling.
In May 2007, the American Musical Voices Project was expanded with The New Generation, a program to help emerging composers create new works for musical theater. Composers Matt Conner, Adam Gwon, and Gabriel Kahane each received a $25,000 commission to write new musicals for Signature Theatre. The Theatre also awarded honorees Peter Foley and Marisa Michelson $5,000 grants for the development of their musical ideas.