NEW YORK: The Kleban Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2021 Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre, awarding lyricist Benjamin Scheuer and co-librettists Melissa Li and Kit Yan. The prize, which in recent years has totaled $100,000 per recipient over two years, is given to the most promising lyricist and librettist in American musical theatre.
“For over three decades, the Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has been one of theatre’s most distinctive honors, and in this unique and challenging year, Ed Kleban’s legacy may be more important than ever,” Kleban Foundation president Richard Maltby Jr. said in a statement. “Particularly apropos for 2020-21, it is notable that the Kleban Prize is not given to a specific work already completed, but instead is given to writers in anticipation of work yet to be done.”
Scheuer is a London-based writer and performer who won a Drama Desk Award for his original work The Lion, which he performed in over 500 times. He has released multiple albums and is the author of two songs turned into children’s book projects, Hibernate With Me and Hundred Feet Tall, both illustrated by his wife, Jemima Williams. Scheuer and playwright Melis Aker are currently adapting Hundred Feet Tall into a musical for children. He is also writing a musical about the life of Peter Roget, writer of the thesaurus, with Rick Elice.
Li is a composer, lyricist, and performer based in New York and Baltimore. She is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Award and is a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, Lincoln Center Theater writer-in-residence, and a MacDowell Colony Fellow, among other accolades. Her musical Interstate won a distinction for outstanding lyrics at the New York Musical Festival, and her musical Surviving the Nian won the IRNE Award for Best New Play in 2007. Li’s work has been supported by Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, and the New England Foundation for the Arts, among others.
Yan is a queer and transgender creator based in New York, born in Enping, China, and raised in Hawaii. They are a 2019 winner of the Bret Adams and Paul Reisch Foundation Vivace Award and they have also been a fellow at the Dramatists Guild Foundation and the MacDowell Colony. Their work has been developed, produced, and commissioned by 5th Avenue Theatre, Keen Company, the Smithsonian, and San Diego Repertory Theatre, among others. Recent works include Interstate and MISS STEP, two transgender musicals created in collaboration with Li.
The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist of A Chorus Line. For over 30 years, the Kleban Prize has recognized and honored some of the brightest developing talents of American musical theatre.
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