The private industry reading, to be held this month in New York City, will feature Janet Metz (Fiddler On the Roof, Marie Christine, Falsettoland), Allyson Tucker (Ragtime, Man of La Mancha, Follies), Charissa Bertels (A Christmas Story, If/Then), Greg Carter, Aizzah Fatima, Siraj Huda, Pomme Koch, Hanley Smith and Vishal Vaidya.
The New American Musical Award is a developmental prize that aims to resource early and mid-career musical theatre writers with the opportunity to further develop a work in progress. The inaugural recipient, Timothy Huang’s Costs of Living, was featured at NAMT and went on to receive the 2016 Richard Rodgers Award.
Houston, according to B-Side, “chronicles two families dealing with leukemia: a Jewish family from Chicago and a Muslim family from Jordan. As the two fathers are isolated in a hospital bubble, waiting for a life-saving bone marrow transplant, MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX, becomes the backdrop for an unusual, and often funny, love story between their children, and an uncommon, but beautiful friendship between their wives, who are able to find true connection, and kindred spirits in one another.”
“The reason why we created the award is that we found that there was not an opportunity for the writers to further their shows along without the pressure of having to do a big industry presentation,” said B-Side artistic director Jasper Grant. “We give the writers a three-week opportunity to work on their play.”
In the three weeks given by B-Side, the writers will meet the performers before being sent away on a retreat with the show’s dramaturg, John Michael DiResta. In the final week, the creative team and actors will reconvene to develop the project.
This year, B-Side received over 65 submissions for the award (most were completely original works not based on pre-existing stories or material). Houston stood out to the company because “it’s new, uncharted territory,” Grant explained. “It’s really a play with dance. There’s no singing. Eli is creating music based on the movement.” Houston will feature approximately a dozen dancers.
Writer Rustin and songwriter Bolin will collaborate with choreographer Monica Bill Barnes on the project. All three reunite to work on Houston after studying together at Northwestern University.
Grant added that Houston is “universal in this tumultuous time. Such boundaries are set up in the play because of where [the characters] come from. It’s the idea of removing those boundaries and letting love in, which is so beautiful and what the world needs.”
For more information, visit b-sideproductions.org.
(Updated September 16, 2016)