Sundance Institute's Theatre Program will develop three new works for the stage at this year's two-week Theatre Lab at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). The Lab will run November 10–24.
The slate of works-in-development includes Pulitzer finalist Eisa Davis' music-driven exploration of black women and performance, The Essentialisn’t; Lebanese theatre artist Lina Abyad's play I Hear You Shaking, Grand Mother!; and a new musical about the women's Suffrage movement by Shaina Taub, directed by Leigh Silverman, and featuring Hamilton star Phillipa Soo, Waitress' Nicolette Robinson, Come From Away's Jenn Colella, and Head Over Heels' Bonnie Milligan.
In The Essentialisn’t, Davis uses song, electronic sound, movement, and everyday objects to examine the specific expectations around black women and performance—expectations that come from a history of captivity. Davis and vocalists Justin and Jade Hicks reanimate modernist figures from the Harlem Renaissance to imagine the art of black presence with a fresh awareness of sovereignty.
In I Hear You Shaking, Grand Mother!, three sisters arrive hastily in Beirut for a weekend. Despite being brought up in a secular home, they have all, except one, become profoundly religious. As prayers sing through the apartment, the discords within the family are exposed.
The Suffragists explores the power and passion of American women's fight for equal voting rights in the early 20th century. The new musical, commissioned by Jill Furman and Rachel Sussman, chronicles the seven years leading up to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment through the lens of the rivalry between the moderate leader Carrie Chapman and young radical Alice Paul.
The Lab company will be made up of Ally Bonino, Colella, Natalie Cortez, Holly Gould , Stephanie Hsu, Courtney Jamison, Jo Lampert, Milligan, Mia Pak, Robinson, Emily Skinner, Soo, Kuhoo Verma, Sylver Wallace, Kate Wetherhead, and Ada Westfall. Andrea Grody is music director, Cynthia Meng is associate music director, and Simone Allen is music associate.
Playwright C.A. Johnson is the Lab's dramaturg; Kamilah Forbes and Keri Putnam are the creative advisors.