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Robi Hager, Georgina Escobar, Thalia Ranjbar, Kat Cartusciello, Adam Chanler-Berat, Julian Hornik, Laura Zlatos, Coyle Girelli, Ben Thornewill, Jeffrey James, Justin Halpin, Arpita Mukherjee, Adam Gwon, Michael Mitnick, André McRae, Jae Broderick, Justin Huertas, Rheanna Atendido, Cheeyang Ng, Desdemona Chiang, and Eric Sorrels.

Rhinebeck Writers Retreat Names Summer Residents

Residents are provided a home, travel, food, a $550 stipend, and a flexible $1,000 writers’ choice fund to support the development of their musical.

RHINEBECK, N.Y.: Rhinebeck Writers Retreat will host 21 musical theatre writers of nine new musicals for nine consecutive weeklong residencies between June 25 and August 27. Each writing team will live in a private home in the Hudson Valley where they’ll be able to focus solely on writing their musical for one week. Residents are provided a home, travel, food, and a $550 stipend. They will work with a member of Rhinebeck Writers Retreat’s sounding board of artistic advisors for dramaturgical support. This year includes the addition of the Writers’ Choice program, a flexible $1,000 fund the writers can use to support the development of their musical, made possible by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Robi Hager and Georgina Escobar’s Little Duende will be in residence from June 25 to July 2, with lead support by Liz Armstrong. In Little Duende we meet Adelita, an adventurous and curious young elf eager to find what lies beyond the horizon. When the evil spirit of La Mancha kidnaps her mother and destroys her home, Adelita is forced to travel north to the land of the Hadaseñas in hopes of being reunited with her again. Using fairy tales and mythological themes, Little Duende comments on real world matters as it explores the border crisis, dual citizenship, and the consequences of a dark family secret.

Thalia Ranjbar and Kat Cartusciello’s Nima and the Jen will be in residence July 2-9, with underwriting support by Paul Feuerman and Bruce Grivetti. Using ancient Persian storytelling devices as seen in the Shahnameh or One Thousand and One Nights, Nima and the Jen is a new Persian musical about family, redemption, and the longing for culture that comes from being children of immigrants. When Nima’s grandmother (Mandana) passes away, Nima discovers a box of drawings and important documents that date back to Iran during the Islamic Revolution. A quest to uncover family secrets leads them back in time to Tehran, 1968.

Adam Chanler-Berat and Julian Hornik’s Assisted will be in residence July 9-16, with lead support by the ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund. Assisted follows a docu-theatre playwright who embarks on a project set in the memory care unit of an assisted living facility, which allows him to grow closer to his interview subjects as well as face destabilizing truths about himself and the facility he has become enmeshed in.

Coyle Girelli, Ben Thornewill, and Laura Zlatos’s Reincarnation Blues will be in residence July 16-23, with lead support by Liz and Bill Mills. Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Michael Poore, Reincarnation Blues tells the story of Milo, who has been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times to be with his one true love—Death herself, or Suzie, as he calls her.

Arpita Mukherjee, Justin Halpin, and Jeffrey James’s A Song for What Could Be will be in residence July 23-30, with lead support by Molly McEneny. In A Song for What Could Be, one retired and one emerging songwriter are paired to write a song together for a charity album, but they can’t see eye to eye on anything. As they embark reluctantly on their collaboration, they find themselves pulled into directions they had never imagined.

Adam Gwon and Michael Mitnick’s The Bozos will be in residence from July 30 to Aug. 6, with lead support by The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund. The Bozos is about Katie, a 12th grader with Down syndrome who asks her best friend, one of the most popular boys in school, to the Last Chance Dance. Everything spirals out of control as the pressure of graduation reveals uncomfortable truths and the friends maneuver to a new understanding of the world ahead of them.

Jae Broderick and André McRae’s Jenny and June will be in residence Aug. 6-13, with lead support by the National Foundation for Musical Theatre. Based on the true story of June & Jennifer Gibbons, the famously silent twins, Jenny and June tells the story of their struggle to be heard. Born in Wales to parents from Barbados, they were a mystery for much of their lives, speaking only to each other, but they lived amazing inner lives as incredible artists and writers.

Justin Huertas and Rheanna Atendido’s We’ve Battled Monsters Before will be in residence Aug. 13-20, with lead support by Steve and Paula Reynolds. When you’re the youngest sibling in a family of secret warriors who for generations have protected Seattle from monsters and demons, living up to your Lola’s expectations is, in a word, daunting. Loosely adapted from the 16th century Filipino epic poem Ibong Adarna, playwright Justin Huertas returns to his “Lizard Boy” roots with a sweet and intimate actor-musician musical adventure.

Cheeyang Ng, Eric Sorrels, and Desdemona Chiang’s The Phoenix will be in residence Aug. 20-27, with lead support by the Noël Coward Foundation in honor of Geoffrey Johnson. In the world of traditional Chinese dance, Li Feng Yi is the best of the best. But when a life-threatening injury ruins her career, Feng Yi goes on a journey to heal her body, mind, and soul.

Find out more about this summer’s writers here.

The nine musicals were selected from 210 applications representing 453 musical theatre writers, which were reviewed by 29 readers in the first round and six readers in the final round. This year’s readers included director and Rhinebeck alum Rebecca Aparicio; Bookwriter Brian Hill; writer and Rhinebeck alum Timothy Huang; writer and Rhinebeck alum Khiyon Hursey; founder and executive producer of Octopus Theatricals Mara Isaacs; and artistic director of TheaterWorksUSA Barbara Pasternack. All the writers’ costs are covered by donors, as noted above.

Now in its 13th summer, the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat seeks to provide a sanctuary for musical theatre writers to develop their musicals in the heart of the Hudson Valley through fully funded residencies, and to promote awareness for the creation of this uniquely American art form.

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