NEW YORK CITY: The American Theatre Wing has named the recipients of the 2019 Jonathan Larson Grants, which recognize emerging composers, lyricists, and book writers in honor of Jonathan Larson. This year’s winners include writing team Julia Gytri and Avi Amon, Emily Gardner Xu Hall, Andy Roninson, and Ben Wexler.
In addition to a gift of $10,000, the grant winners receive support in the form of residencies and concerts. The 2019 recipients will also receive a $2,500 Saw Island Foundation Recording Grant to support the recording of a demo. The winners will present their work at an awards ceremony on March 19 in New York City.
“The Jonathan Larson Grants are one of the annual highlights at the Wing,” said Heather Hitchens, president and CEO of the American Theatre Wing, in a statement. “The young artists we have selected this year represent the next generation of theatre makers, helping to shape our cultural dialogue for years to come. Along with our Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative and the National Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge, these Jonathan Larson Grants demonstrate our serious commitment to developing and nurturing courageous, bold new voices in the industry,”
Gytri is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her theatrical works include Blind (National Asian Artists Project 2013, with Yan Li), Salonika (the Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, with Avi Amon), and The White City (O’Neill National Music Theatre Conference 2014, Richard Rogers Award Finalist 2015, Musical Theatre Factory New Orchestrations 2015, Yale Institute 2016). Gyrti has enjoyed artistic residencies at the Weston Playhouse (2016, 2018), and her works have been performed at Lincoln Center, 54 Below, the Prospect Theatre, and universities across the country.
Amon is a composer, sound artist, and educator. His music has been heard at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ars Nova, Atlantic Theater, BAM, Drama League, Edinburgh Fringe, Exponential Festival, JACK, Juilliard, Lincoln Center, La Mama, Prospect Theater, and Spoleto Festival USA, among others. Projects with Gytri include Salonika (Berkeley REP Ground Floor) and The White City (Yale Institute, O’Neill NMTC, Richard Rogers Award Finalist). Other credits include: Rated Black with Kareem Lucas (New York Theater Workshop), Jeune Terre with Gabrielle Reisman (Playwrights Center), and several sound installations in a 100-year-old grain silo in Buffalo, N.Y. In development: Inshallah/Mashallah, a 3-D audio opera (Target Margin Theater), Paul Swan is Dead and Gone with Claire Kiechel (Civilians), and The Black History Museum with Zoey Martinson (HERE Arts Center). He has been in-residence with Exploring the Metropolis at JCAL, Hi-ARTS, Judson, New Dramatists, Target Margin, Weston Playhouse, and Yale. Amon is the resident composer at the 52nd Street Project, and teaches at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.
Emily Gardner Xu Hall is a composer-lyricist, playwright, and actor whose writing focuses on feminist perspectives inclusive to people of color. For her musical theatre writing, she won the “Go Write a Musical” Lilly Award for a Female Composer-Lyricist with supervision from Broadway producer Stacey Mindich. Book/music/lyrics (adaptations): Untitled Cherry Orchard Musical (Musical Theatre Factory), Cymbeline. Book/music/lyrics (original): I am This for You (Ars Nova ANT Fest), Nascent Phase (Bushwick Starr). Collaborations (musicals and plays) include Nomad Motel (Atlantic Theatre Company), Black Is Beautiful… (Public Theater Under the Radar Festival), The Cardinal (Cornerstone Theatre Company), Ruth Bader Ginsberg Project (Goodman Theatre). She has developed work at Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, New York SongSpace, CATWALK residency, and is an alum of New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio and a member of the BMI workshop. She holds a BA in music and English from Wellesley College, and an MFA from NYU’s Graduate Acting Program.
Roninson is a New York City-based composer-lyricist, orchestrator, and music director. As a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, he was awarded the Robert B. Sherman Scholarship and the Jerry Harrington Award for Creative Excellence. He participated in the 2017 Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project. He is the creator and host of “TAKE A TEN,” the all-original ten-minute musical podcast. Episodes have had live productions at theatres and schools around the world and have won numerous awards including Best Musical (2x) at Theatre Now New York’s SOUND BITES festival, the 2016 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting, and the top prize at the 40th Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Short Play Festival, which included publication by Samuel French.
Wexler is a composer, lyricist, and teaching artist. Music and lyrics: Washington Square (book, Kirsten Childs), and The Orchestra (Whitman/Grove Theatricals commission); music for Ship Show (Yale Institute), Speech and Debate (Sycamore Pictures) and The Insurgents (LAByrinth). Wexler is the artistic director of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, which merges Broadway Artists, justice-oriented organizations, and policy experts. Projects include collaborations with New York City Council, Alliance for Quality Education, and Columbia Law School, where he is an adjunct lecturer. Ben is resident composer for A Broader Way, an arts empowerment program founded by Idina Menzel and Jeanine Tesori. He has served as the associate to Tesori for Encores: Off-Center and Fun Home, Violet, and Sunday In The Park With George, all on Broadway. Wexler has trained through New Dramatists, BMI (Harrington Award, 2013), and was a 2014-15 Dramatists Guild Fellow. He holds a BA from Yale University.