Rhinebeck Writers Retreat Taps Peter Mills, Cara Reichel, Nathan Tysen and More to Develop New Musicals

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27 May 2014

The Peter Mills-Cara Reichel musical Death for Five Voices and Stillwater, a new musical by John Hobson, Ryan McCall and Nathan Tysen, have been selected for the fourth annual Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, which provides a secluded summer getaway for writers in the Hudson Valley.



Former National Alliance for Musical Theatre executive director Kathy Evans created the retreat, which welcomed its first group of writers during summer 2011.

Eight separate one-week residencies will be open to different teams/writers June 29-Aug. 31.

Writers are provided with transportation, housing, groceries and a $400 stipend during their stay. A limited number of travel grants up to $500 for writers living outside of New York City are also available.

The retreat does not claim any stake in future royalties from participating musicals.

The selected works follow:

John Hobson, Ryan McCall and Nathan Tysen: Stillwater
"Stillwater is a rock theatre piece revolving around a modern-day, drug-fueled, trailer park in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Rock, pop, and alt-country combine to tell the story of six unbridled twenty-somethings: a drug dealer, his recovering addict ex-girlfriend, and the neighbor who loves her; plus an indie musician on the brink of stardom, his unfaithful girlfriend, and her desperate one-night stand. As the story unfolds, the two love-triangles cleverly and catastrophically intersect. Stillwater is an angst-filled love letter to a generation rebounding from the highs and lows of Middle America."

Cory Finley and Jeremy Lloyd: In The Dark
"Leigh, a painter, and Len, a medical assistant, have just gotten engaged and they’re filled with the generosity of young love. So when Leigh’s sister Meg works up the courage to leave her abusive husband, they let her live on their couch. One day the two sisters get in a car accident and Leigh is badly injured, losing her sight. The musical vocabulary of the show–up until then a brooding, minimalist electronic soundscape–goes crazy. As Leigh’s sense of hearing becomes her primary means of processing reality, everyday sounds take on a powerful and haunted multiplicity. Len and especially the guilt-ridden Meg work hard to tend to Leigh, but she’s cold and distant in her suffering. Spurred on by the shared pain of this alienation, Len and Meg fall for one another, undertaking an affair under Leigh’s nose, and Meg’s guilt soon brings the play to a tragic climax. With the electronic score locking the audience in Leigh’s head, the musical becomes a visceral ethical exploration of love, disability, and paranoia."

Chantal Bilodeau, Mindi Dickstein and Peter Melnick: At the Beck
"At The Beck is loosely based on the events of the Cottingley Fairies. In 1917, Frances and Elsie, two young British cousins, took pictures of what they claimed were real fairies. The photos became a sensation – gaining the support of public personalities such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – and for the next 70 years, generated much media attention in England and abroad. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Elsie revealed the photos had been a hoax. Frances, however, maintained to her death that one of the photos was real. In our story, we meet the girls in 1917, just prior to them taking the first photograph, and see how this fairly innocent act had huge repercussions on everyone around them. We also catch up with the women sixty years later, in 1977, as they struggle with the consequences of having kept that secret for so long, and try to find resolution, both with the fairies and with each other. Ultimately, At The Beck is a story about friendship, about the power of believing, and about a lost child trying to find her place in the world."

Lynnette Barkley, Terry Berliner and Tony DeSare: Girl Band
"In San Francisco's Tenderloin District, a 10 year-old girl named Lillie (with her Grandmother) sets out to find a saxophone for her band class at middle school. They enter a local pawnshop and discover the perfect saxophone. Little do they know that the woman who first owned this sax, Olivia, was a member of the famed first integrated all-female swing band, The International Sisters of Swing. Thus, Lillie in the present and Olivia, in the past, embark on parallel journeys of musical adventure and discovery. Along this road they come to understand how the bonds of friendship and the power of music, handed down through generations, can change everything. The spirit of the women who fought for and expressed themselves through their music is resurrected as Olivia and a band of audacious women come alive to pass on the heart and soul of their music to one little girl with a big dream."

Janet Allard and Niko Tsakalakos: Alexander Supertramp
"In 1992 the body of a young man was found in the Denali Wilderness of Alaska. Who he was and how he ended up there came to light through Jon Krakauer’s book 'Into the Wild,' and more recently, Sean Penn’s movie by the same name. Alexander Supertramp follows the journey of Christopher McCandless, a twenty-something year old from a well-to-do East Coast family who rejects his upper middle class upbringing and, seeking more than a conventional lifestyle can provide, donates all his money to Oxfam and sets out on an Odyssey across the country. When he heads into the Alaska bush, he entertains no illusions that he’s trekking into the land of milk and honey; peril and adversity are exactly what he is seeking and what he finds. The story incorporates Christopher’s actual photographs and journal entries as well as interviews with his family and the people whose lives he touched along the way."

Seth Moore, Liz Carlson, and The Lobbyists: SeaWife
"SeaWife is a concert play that follows Percy, a harpooner aboard the whaling vessel Dardana, sailing its last voyage of the Atlantic. Percy begins the play as a rare conservationist during the golden age of the whaling trade – one of the first major American industries – until he is driven to the voracious killing of leviathans after experiencing the greatest evils of man. Drawing from the deep well of 19th century nautical literature, SeaWife is an original ghost story told through a modern theatrical event that utilizes 1830s tropes, found object puppetry, and an intimate performance experience by the composers and co-creators, The Lobbyists."

Peter Mills and Cara Reichel: Death for Five Voices
"Death for Five Voices is an original musical drama based on an historic event. On October 16, 1590 the noted Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo brutally murdered his wife and her lover. The story begins five years earlier, just after the death of Carlo’s older brother has unexpectedly made Carlo the new Prince of Venosa. Carlo’s domineering mother quickly arranges a marriage to his first cousin, the renowned beauty Maria d'Avalos. But Carlo has little appetite for his new role as Prince; music is his passion—a passion encouraged by his uncle Alfonso, a powerful bishop who hopes to recruit Carlo as a composer of sacred music. Absorbed in his music, Carlo becomes estranged from Maria, who begins an affair with Carlo's friend, Fabrizio Carafa. When Carlo's mother learns of the affair, she urges Carlo to defend the family's honor, leading to the fateful murders. In the aftermath, a shattered Carlo turns to writing sacred music as a kind of penitence."

Max Vernon: The View UpStairs
"When Wes, a jaded young designer from 2014 is brought in to renovate the boarded up UpStairs Lounge space, he instead finds himself transported back to the day of the fire. In the past, Wes' notions of intimacy and community are challenged as he learns firsthand the very real danger of being queer back in the early 70's. The View UpStairs looks at some of the complicated ways in which gay culture has evolved over the last forty years, while illuminating a forgotten history."

Andrew Butler and Andrew Farmer: Finn the Fearless
"There's a boy who never felt fear. He goes south to find the devil’s house, braving choking vines, blistering heat and awful slithering things, to learn what fear is from the place it calls home. And he gets his wish…though it takes its shape as a bet from Ol’ Scratch himself. The boy takes the bet, suffers its trials, and finds that the only fear worth feeling is found in love. Finn the Fearless is dark folk tale told through the musical idioms of the American South. The songs are sung by the characters in the story, embodied by the band of storytellers, each number bringing you further into Finn's forsaken, inescapable South."

The Rhinebeck Writers Retreat is supported by the ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund, The Dramatists Guild Fund, The Noël Coward Foundation, Stacey Mindich Productions; Rick Farrar and Jeff Zadroga; Amy Faxon; Michael A. Jenkins; Peter Risafi and Steven Wheeler; Harry, Cathy, Gabriella, and James Rubin Foundation; and Alec Stais and Elissa Burke.

To apply visit RhinebeckWriters.org.