Melisa Tien’s SWELL to Premiere Online at HERE

Created by 26 artist-collaborators, Swell weaves together ten original, new music compositions by ten composers.

Melisa Tien

Playwright, lyricist, and librettist Melisa Tien is the creator and producer of the upcoming live, online song cycle Swell, presented by HERE from March 17-21, 2021. This contemporary work about immigrants and children of immigrants, written by immigrants and children of immigrants, is directed by Elena Araoz with music direction by Tian Hui Ng.

“Right now, the U.S. feels like it’s on the brink of so many things – politically, economically, socially. Immigrant stories, especially ones that humanize the people they’re about, help highlight those who are often left behind when, for example, a medical disaster happens. Swell reminds us these are real people, simply trying to make their way, like everyone else,” Melisa said of the piece’s subject and timeliness.

Swell features the work of composers and lyricists Joshua Cerdenia, Carolyn Chen, Justine F. Chen, Or Matias, Tamar Muskal, Polina Nazaykinskaya, Leyna Marika Papach, Izzi Ramkisson, Kamala Sankaram, Jorge Sosa, Stavit Allweis, Konstantin Soukhovetski, and Melisa Tien, who draw from their personal histories and cultures. Hailing from Mexico, India, Israel, Japan, Trinidad, the Philippines, Russia, and Taiwan, the composers’ unique, surprising, and deeply human stories are expressed through voice, piano, cello, and violin.

Performers include mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn, soprano Mimi Hilaire, tenor Alok Kumar, and baritone Ricardo Rivera. Instrumentalists include members of the Victory Players Nathan Ben-Yehuda, Clare Monfredo, and Elly Toyoda. Additional collaborators are Video Designer Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Audio Engineer Jon Robertson, Video Engineer Kris Kirkwood, Production Stage Manager Neelam Vaswani, and Assistant Stage Manager Alyssa K. Howard.

As an online presentation, Swell is building upon the wealth of knowledge that has accumulated over the past year in live, online productions. It will feature singers singing together remotely, and aims to incorporate accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, through captioning, an interpreter, and a new application that conveys music in a dynamic visual format.

Melisa summarizes the origins of the piece: “The seed for Swell started when I attended a new music festival a few years ago and was struck by a piece of Nathalie Joachim’s. It was tied to her home country of Haiti and I recall being so moved by it, partly because it put me in mind of Taiwan, where my own family is from. I started to wonder where the other U.S.-based new music writers were, who came from outside the U.S. I couldn’t think of any, yet I was convinced there had to be new music writers out there who identified as immigrants, or children of immigrants, who had stories to tell, and I wanted to hear them.”

Half of the program will be presented on Wednesday, March 17 at 8pm ET, and the second half will be presented on Thursday, March 18 at 8pm ET. The full program will stream on Friday and Saturday, March 19-20, at 8pm ET, and on Sunday, March 21 at 6pm ET. Audiences can purchase a sliding-scale ticket ($5-50) and will receive details for a password-protected video on HERE’s website.

Melisa Tien is a playwright, lyricist, librettist, producer, and educator. She is the author of the plays Untitled Landscape, Best Life, The Boyd Show, Yellow Card Red Card, and Familium Vulgare, co-author of the music-theater works Swell, Daylight Saving, and Mary, and co-producer of the audio experience/podcast Active Listening. A New Dramatists resident playwright, Melisa is a recipient of a grant from the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music, and Theatre, a commissionee of the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Project, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Playwriting/Screenwriting. She teaches experimental theatrical writing at Sarah Lawrence College. BA, UCLA; MFA, Columbia University. www.melisatien.com.

Read the full article from Broadway World here.

“The Free Wheelin’ Insurgents” by Psalmayene 24 Featured in “Indigenous Earth Voices”

Psalmayene 24

Proving that a theater can be groundbreaking even when its grounds are closed, Arena Stage is launching a virtual spring season that includes a film about Indigenous North Americans and their relationship to the land — entirely written, directed and acted by Native people.

“Indigenous Earth Voices” will premiere in May, the fourth in a series of pandemic-era films that Arena Cultural Director Molly Smith has produced since the start of the outbreak that shuttered theaters around the world. Following the template of the other docudramas, which included “May 22, 2020” and “The 51st State,” “Indigenous Earth Voices” features the verbatim words of Native American and First Nation subjects from the United States and Canada as fashioned into monologues by Indigenous playwrights and actors.

“It’s a ‘heart’ project for me,” Smith said in a phone interview. “I just realized that more than half my life I’ve spent with Indigenous people, whether being in Alaska or being married to a Yankton Sioux.” Before coming to Arena in 1998, Smith spent 18 years at the Juneau company she founded, Perseverance Theatre, and her wife, Suzanne Blue Star Boy, is an artistic adviser on the film.AD

The movie is a key ingredient in a wholly reimagined 2021 for Arena. In a plan announced last July, its in-person performance season was to have started up again last month, with the world premiere of Eduardo Machado’s “Celia and Fidel.” Now that play, which was forced to close last March, and four other productions will be presented later, and subscribers have been offered refunds or exchanges.

The digital roster replacing them will also include a free streaming series called “Arena Riffs”: three original filmed musicals, each 20 to 30 minutes and debuting in March and April. Actor-director Psalmayene 24 will unveil his “The Freewheelin’ Insurgents,” a “pandemic-era hip-hop musical,” to be joined by as yet untitled projects by the indie-folk duo Shaun and Abigail Bengson and composer Rona Siddiqui.

Shannon Dorsey during filming in Rock Creek Park.
Shannon Dorsey during filming of “The Free Wheelin Insurgents,” by Psalmayene 24 in Rock Creek Park. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

“These are fully conceived and created for the virtual form,” Smith said, adding that the short versions may be developed into longer productions, possibly even for live stagings. “The artists in all three have said they have a hunger to continue to build on these projects, so we shall see.”

Psalmayene 24 was shooting “The Freewheelin’ Insurgents” in the District’s Rock Creek Park on Sunday, with four other actors: Louis Davis, Shannon Dorsey, Gary L. Perkins III and Justin Weaks.AD

“It’s the story of a cadre of hip-hop theater artists who are meeting to rehearse in Rock Creek Park,” said Psalmayene 24, who wrote three songs for the piece, with choreography by Tony Thomas and music direction by Nick “tha 1da” Hernandez.

“It explores issues like violent versus nonviolent protest, love and mental health,” he added. “And these artists are grappling with the inability to do what they love doing the most, which is live theater.”

Washington theaters have been increasingly active in creating content online, even if the monetary returns are meager. Arena has been particularly active in filmmaking. As Psalmayene 24 noted: “That’s one of the positive things that have come out of the pandemic. It’s forcing us to be creative. That’s what we need as artists: We need to be locked in a box to figure out how to break out.”

Arena will again offer digital classes with actors, playwrights and others, including such artists as Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Nehal Joshi and Machado. But perhaps the most noteworthy offering is “Indigenous Earth Voices,” by virtue of the unusual fact that a major American theater company is providing a breadth of opportunity to Native artists who struggle for national recognition.

Read the full article by Peter Marks for the Washington Post here.

Arizona Theatre Company Puts on ROMERO FEST Celebrating Elaine Romero

SHOW DATES: 3/1/21 – 3/31/2021

RomeroFest

In collaboration with The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre and Winding Road Theater Ensemble, ATC is producing RomeroFest, a month-long celebration of the diverse, thoughtful and impactful works of ATC Playwright-in-Residence Elaine Romero with digital performances by theatre companies across the U.S. and in Mexico in March.

Among the theatre companies presenting Romero’s work virtually, either live or by video, are ATC, The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre; Winding Road Theatre Ensemble; Foro Shakespeare; Artists Repertory Theatre; Seven Devils Playwrights Conference; Colorado College; The Justice Theater Project; The School of Theatre, Film and Television, University of Arizona; Teatro Milagro; InterAct Theatre Company; and Theatre Ariel. A full list of plays and when they will be available will be announced in mid-February.

The Festival opens March 1 at 5 p.m. with a digital “Scholar Kickoff” featuring a town hall-type panel discussion about Elaine’s work and its impact.

Opening event panelists include Dr. Anne Garcia-Romero, Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame; Dr. David Crespy, Professor of Playwriting, Acting, Dramatic Literature and Theatre History at the University of Missouri, Columbia; and Dr. Jimmy Noriega, Associate Professor in the Theatre and Dance Department at Wooster College. The panel will be moderated by Tanya Palmer, Associate Professor, Head, MFA in Dramaturgy at Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama & Contemporary Dance.

Learn more here.

Join the Reading of MOUNTAIN MAMAS by Daryl Lisa Fazio

Join the reading of MOUNTAIN MAMAS by Daryl Lisa Fazio presented by the Barter Theatre beginning January 26, 2021.

Synopsis: Patsy Armstrong is a coal miner. Just like her daddy, Earl. And just like her mother, Wanda, who was one of the first women ever hired underground in a union mine and, at 60 years old, is still there. As of this week, Patsy’s back in her mother and daddy’s house, after a mining accident that left her with no ability to move or communicate. Her bright 18-year old daughter, Livvy, now lives there too. In a home that’s full of humor and generosity and rowdiness and grit. But a home—not to mention a whole dang planet—that’s under more pressure than maybe it’s ever been. When the family gets news about the settlement from Patsy’s accident, Livvy jumps into the fray. And Patsy, now forced to listen and observe more than she ever did as a healthy person, is plagued by nightmares and revelations she’s able to share only with us. It doesn’t take long for her to realize she has to learn a new way of being if she’s gonna save her entire world.

Visit the Barter Theatre online here.