11 Women Creatives You Need to Know at NYMF This Year

Off-Broadway News   11 Women Creatives You Need to Know at NYMF This Year
Get to know some of the next generation of musical theatre makers.
Sheryl and Carrie Berk, Shayna Toh, and Star Johnson
Sheryl and Carrie Berk, Shayna Toh, and Star Johnson

The New York Musical Festival (NYMF) kicked off its 14th year July 10. Over the course of four weeks, the annual New York event showcases brand-new shows, works in development, concerts, emerging and established artists, and more. The Festival is a great opportunity to get to know the next generation of musical theatre makers—here are 10 to keep an eye out for.

Star Johnson — #BlackGirlJoy
In the history of the Tony Awards, only two women of color have been nominated for Best Original Score—a statistic that Star Johnson really wants to change. The D.C. writer and composer is the founder of OpenStage, a monthly new works showcase in her hometown that gives local writers a forum to workshop new pieces. For her NYMF debut, Johnson is bringing a night of hip-hop, soul, and pop-infused musical theatre to the stage in a special concert titled #BlackGirlJoy. The show features a cast and creative team made up of young artists of color, and is running for three performances only: July 27, 28, and 29 at The Green Room 42 @ Yotel.

Julie Dunlap and Sara Stotts — Motherfreakinghood!

Sara Stotts_MotherFreakingHood.jpg
Sara Stotts

Julie Dunlap and Sara Stotts met as grad students at the University of Kansas, where they became friends and roommates. Fast-forward a few years, and Dunlap is a writer and television talk-show host in Lawrence, Kansas, and Stotts is a physical therapist and musician in Chicago. Both are mothers. With six children between them, their experiences of motherhood—the good, the bad, the sad, and the ugly—were what inspired their first full-length musical collaboration: Motherfreakinghood! The show weaves the stories of three women with a sound that ranges from rock and pop to funk. Performances run August 1–6 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

Natalie Elizabeth Weiss and Bekah Brunstetter — Camp Wanatachi
Bekah Brunstetter might be making waves in the world of TV (she is currently a writer and co-producer on the Golden Globe-nominated This Is Us), but the playwright has an impressive theatre resume as well. Her plays include The Cake (Ojai Playwrights Conference), Going to a Place Where You Already Are (South Coast Repertory), and The Oregon Trail (Portland Center Stage), to name a few. For Camp Wanatachi, Brunstetter has paired up with fellow playwright and composer Natalie Elizabeth Weiss, who, in addition to collaborating with members of Wooster Group and Elevator Repair Service, has developed an original orchestral piece for the Brooklyn Philarmonic. After a hit run at La MaMa in 2011, their show Camp Wanatachi, the teen lesbian love story, is making a return for a NYMF concert staging. Travis Stewart, who has composed electronic music for the show, completes their creative team. Performances run July 30–August 1 at The Green Room 42 at Yotel.

Sheryl Berk, Carrie Berk, and Jill Jaysen — Peace, Love and Cupcakes
Mother and daughter duo, Sheryl and Carrie Berk, have teamed up with playwright and producer Jill Jaysen to turn their popular book Peace, Love, and Cupcakes into a full-length musical. Sheryl is a New York Times best-selling author and has ghostwritten for a number of high-profile celebrities—i.e., Britney Spears. With a pop-infused score by collaborator Rick Hip-Flores, the story follows a middle school student’s fight to end bullying through a cupcake club. “The goal of the musical is to inspire kids to embrace their individuality and use their voices to positively impact the world around them,“ explains Jaysen, who has partnered with NoBully.org for the NYMF production. Performances run July 27—30 at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.

Shayna Toh — Firefly in the Light
Sophomore student Shayna Toh is not wasting any time in kicking off her professional career. Her short play, Where Your Dream Takes You, was showcased at Singapore Repertory Theater before she was even in high school, and her first musical, Firefly in the Night, was written when she was just 17. Composer, playwright, and musician Toh made her New York City debut with a reading of Firefly, a pop-rock musical about ambition, loyalty, and identity. Performances ran July 12–19 at Playwrights Horizons Rehearsal Studio.

Rachel Covey — Painting Faye Salves
Another young star to keep an eye out for is Rachel Covey, a theatre major from Northwestern Universtiy who began her career as a child actor in Enchanted and is now writing and directing her own work. In Painting Faye Salvez, a grieving family remembers a teenager who has been missing for three years. Covey teamed up with director Kyle Brown for the NYMF readings; Brown worked with Tony-nominated director Liesl Tommy on Eclipsed and Kid Victory. Performances ran July 13–20 at Playwrights Horizons Rehearsal Studio.

Jami-Leigh Bartschi — My Dear Watson
Along with playwright, composer, and music teacher, Jami-Leigh Bartschi lists lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan on her resume. The Orlando artist is turning her obsession into a musical with My Dear Watson, which follows the legendary friendship of Holmes and Dr. John Watson. For her NYMF debut, Bartschi teamed up with an all-female creative team: assistant director Jaz Zepatos, pianist Pati Sayers, and violinist Eri Park. Performances ran July 11–16, so keep a lookout for future updates on My Dear Watson.

The festival runs through August 6 at locations around midtown Manhattan. For the complete NYMF line-up and more information, visit www.nymf.org/.


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