The American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University has announced the new season of workshop readings written by award-winning music theater creators, directed by leading regional theater and Broadway directors and performed by students in the Music Theatre program.
The 2018-2019 workshops include: “Diamond Alice” by Tony nominee Alexander Gemignani and Ben Steinfeld, directed by Amanda Dehnert, Oct. 6 to 15; “Scotland, PA” by Adam Gwon and Michael Mitnick, directed by Tony nominee Lonny Price, Oct. 20 to 28; “The Girl Who” by Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie, March 4 to 17; and “Finn the Fearless” by 2018 Larson Award winners Andrew Farmer and Andrew R. Butler, directed by Kent Nicholson, spring date to be announced.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director David H. Bell, Northwestern’s Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre, Associate Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham and Producing Director Brannon Bowers, AMTP brings together the nation’s leading artists in music theater to work with Northwestern’s faculty, staff and students to nourish and invigorate American music theater by developing and producing new musicals.
Past AMTP workshopped musicals that have gone on to full productions or award recognition include “Found,” “Hero,” “Next Thing You Know,” “Michael Collins” and “Edges.” Featured artists from past years include Andrew Lippa, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, Michael Friedman, Michael Greif, Sheldon Harnick, Hunter Bell, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil.
The 2018-2019 season is as follows:
Oct. 6 to 15
Book by Ben Steinfeld
Music and lyrics by Alexander Gemignani
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
World War I has just ended, but for the women of London, the real war has only just begun. Alice Diamond, a resourceful street survivor, and Maggie Hughes, a widowed political activist, form an unlikely bond and make a vow to change the world. Recruiting a ragtag team of feisty, independent women, they set out to disrupt the status quo in the most unladylike fashion they know: by transforming themselves into a gang of thieves. When Alice decides that the gang’s next heist will be at the site of a massive new jewelry store, the gang protests. But Alice pursues the high-risk venture, and the consequences lead to a painful and powerful recognition of the dangers of pride, rage and greed. Based on the exploits of the historical Forty Elephants Gang, “Diamond Alice” is an exciting new musical in which a group of unconventional and dynamic women discover what it means to live life by their own rules.
Oct. 20 to 28
Book by Michael Mitnick
Music and lyrics by Adam Gwon
Directed by Lonny Price
Based on the film by Billy Morrissette and produced by Richard Shepard, Jan Stern and Abandon Pictures
The new musical version of “Scotland, PA” takes its inspiration from the film of the same title, which is itself inspired by Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Shifting that story of murderous ambition to America in the 1970s, “Scotland, PA” follows Joe and Pat McBeth, a pair of downtrodden hamburger stand employees. Pat decides that the boss and his old ideas are keeping everyone else from getting ahead, so she encourages the bewildered Joe to act. Things quickly take a turn for the deadly, and soon the McBeths find that their stars are on the rise (just as a bunch of hippies in the woods had predicted). But when a police investigator takes an interest in the duo, they must act fast to keep the truth (and the bodies) hidden before the fast food empire they fought so hard to build comes crashing down on top of them.
“The Girl Who”
March 4 to 17, 2019
By Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie
Anna is searching for her parents. Audiences will decide how she finds them. “The Girl Who” is a multi-path musical that places the audience in complete control of the story. Based on the iconic “choose-your-own-adventure” series, the audience’s choices determine Anna's decisions, morals, successes and failures -- affecting not just which path she takes, but how she does so. With 128 possible versions, audience members determine the songs they hear, the characters they meet and the worlds they visit, allowing every show to be unique and every audience to question, “What if I’d chosen differently?”
“Finn the Fearless”
Book by Andrew Farmer
Music and lyrics by Andrew R. Butler
Directed by Kent Nicholson
The lovable, ragtag crew of Shepard and Shepard’s Gator Show of Floridian Marvels and Oddities is on a goodwill diplomatic mission across the north, sharing their favorite folktale, Finn the Fearless – a yarn about a weird little fella from up north who goes on a hero’s quest to scare his heart awake so he can feel things the way other people do. Led down south by a fierce-tempered maiden named Annabelle, he finds himself in the heart of Florida, the vacation home of the Devil himself (who wears flip-flops and prefers to be called “Ol’ Scratch”). Scratch bets Finn he can scare his heart awake through three hair-raising trials. If Finn completes them, he gets his wish; if he doesn’t, Ol’ Scratch gets Finn’s soul. With help from Annabelle, who’s on a redemption mission of her own, Finn faces vampiric retirees, an alcoholic were-gator and an army of damned folk heroes, ultimately weaving together an unlikely ending for himself that breaks the mold set by Yankee fairytales.
All readings will be presented at the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Admission is free and open to the public. Event times and locations will be available soon on the AMTP website.
American Music Theatre Project is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.
More news at Northwestern Now
Find experts on our Faculty Experts Hub
Follow @NUSources for expert perspectives
Alexander Gemignani (music and lyrics “Diamond Alice”) is an actor, composer/lyricist, musical director, orchestrator, educator and artistic director. Broadway acting credits include Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” (Enoch Snow - Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Nominations), “Les Misérables” (Valjean - Drama League nomination), “Sweeney Todd” (Beadle - Drama Desk nomination) and “Assassins” (Hinckley - Theatre World Award). Off-Broadway performances include “Road Show” at the Public (Addison Mizner - Drama League nomination) and “Avenue Q” at the Vineyard Theatre (Brian). Favorite regional credits include “Hamilton” in Chicago (King George III, original cast) and the title character in the world premiere musical “Saint-Ex” at The Weston Playhouse. His solo show, “All At Once,” premiered at the Kennedy Center as a part of Barbara Cook’s Spotlight Series. He has served as guest faculty for the University of Michigan’s Department of Musical Theatre and in 2013, and created a new orchestration and music directed “Ragtime” for Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He is a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writing Workshop and a graduate of the University of Michigan. In 2018, he served his first summer as artistic director for the National Music Theater Conference at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut.
Ben Steinfeld (book “Diamond Alice”) is an actor, director, teacher and co-artistic director of the acclaimed Fiasco Theater. As an actor, Ben has been seen on Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” and as James Monroe in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” His off-Broadway acting and directing work for Fiasco includes the Baker in “Into the Woods” (Lucille Lortel Award nomination) at the Roundabout, “Cymbeline” at Theatre for a New Audience and the Barrow Street Theatre (off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Revival) and “Measure for Measure” at the New Victory Theatre (New York Times Top Ten of 2014). Steinfeld recently appeared off-Broadway in the new musical “One Thousand Nights and One Day.” Regional theater work includes McCarter, Long Wharf, the Old Globe, Trinity Rep and many others. His television and film acting work includes HBO’s “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” the upcoming film “Callahan,” “The Good Wife” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” He is the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from NYU’s Gallatin School, where he is an adjunct professor and artistic associate. He is a graduate of Brown University and the Brown/Trinity MFA Program.
Amanda Dehnert (director “Diamond Alice”) is a director, adaptor, playwright and composer. Recent directing credits include “West Side Story” at Carnegie Hall; “Timon of Athens,” “Into the Woods” and “My Fair Lady” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; the world premiere of “Cloudlands” for South Coast Repertory; “The Fantasticks” for South Coast Repertory, Long Wharf Theatre and Arena Stage; “Cabaret” for Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Canada; “Not Wanted on the Voyage” for American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern; and a staged reading of “Two Gentlemen of Verona – The Rock Opera” for Shakespeare Theatre, D.C. Other favorite credits include the premiere of “Eastland: A New Musical” for Lookingglass Theatre Company (direction and orchestration); “Richard III” at The Public Theatre Mobile Shakespeare Unit (director and composer); “Death of a Salesman” for Dallas Theatre Center (director and composer); “Julius Caesar” for Oregon Shakespeare Festival (director and adaptor); and “Romeo and Juliet” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” for Chicago Shakespeare Company (director, adaptor and composer). Writing credits include the world premiere of “The Verona Project” for California Shakespeare Theatre (also composer); and “Peter Pan (a Play)” for Lookingglass Theatre Company. Dehnert is an associate professor of theater at Northwestern University’s School of Communication.
Adam Gwon (music and lyrics “Scotland, PA”) is a composer and lyricist whose musicals include “Ordinary Days” (Roundabout Theatre), “String” (Village Theatre), “Cake Off” (Signature Theatre, Helen Hayes Award nomination), “Cloudlands” (South Coast Rep), “The Boy Detective Fails” (Signature), and “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” (Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma). Honors include the Kleban Prize in Musical Theatre, the Fred Ebb, Frederick Loewe and Richard Rodgers Awards, Second Stage Theatre’s Donna Perret Rosen Award, the Weston Playhouse New Musical Award, the ASCAP Harold Adamson Award and the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs’ John Wallowitch Award. His recordings include “Ordinary Days” (Ghostlight Records), Audra McDonald's “Go Back Home” (Nonesuch), “The Essential Liz Callaway” (Working Girl Records) and “Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Album.”
Michael Mitnick (book “Scotland, PA”) is a writer whose plays include “Sex Lives of Our Parents” (Second Stage, The Kennedy Center), “The Siegel” (Edgerton New Play Award, South Coast Repertory), “Spacebar: a Broadway Play by Kyle Sugarman” and The Happiness Trilogy: “Elijah,” “Ed, Downloaded” and “Babs the Dodo.” He co-wrote/composed the musical “Fly By Night” (Drama Desk-nominated Best Musical, Playwrights Horizons). His songs have been sung at Lincoln Center, The Guggenheim, Joe’s Pub, 54 Below and on HBO. Film work includes “The Giver” and the upcoming film “The Current War” with Benedict Cumberbatch. Michael is a graduate of Harvard University and has an MFA in playwriting from The Yale School of Drama.
Lonny Price (director “Scotland, PA”) directed Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard” on Broadway and at the English National Opera and “Sweeney Todd,” starring Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel, at the English National Opera and Lincoln Center. His Broadway credits include “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” starring Audra McDonald (also for HBO and on the West End), “110 in the Shade,” “‘Master Harold’ ... and the Boys,” “Sally Marr…and Her Escorts” (co-written with Joan Rivers and Erin Sanders), “Urban Cowboy” and “A Class Act” (Tony nomination, best book, with Linda Kline). His work with the New York Philharmonic includes “Company,” “Sondheim: The Birthday Concert” (Emmy Award) and “Passion” starring Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald and Michael Cerveris. He directed television adaptations of his “Sweeney Todd” (Emmy Award), “Company” (which played in more than 700 movie theaters across the U.S.), “Camelot” and “Candide.” For his first feature film, “‘Master Harold’... and the Boys,” (starring Freddie Highmore and Ving Rhames), he received a best director award from the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. His documentary, “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened,” premiered at the New York Film Festival and was named one of New York Times’ Top 10 Films of 2016.
Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie (writers “The Girl Who”) make up Noisemaker, the award-winning writing partnership. Both graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the pair work throughout the United Kingdom and internationally creating innovative, original work to challenge the expectations of musical theater. Noisemaker credits include “My Left/Right Foot,” a National Theatre of Scotland and Birds of Paradise co-production (Fringe First Winner and Herald Angel Winner 2018), “Songs from the Seven Hills” at the Sheffield Crucible, “Ceilidh” at Noise Opera, Glasgow (2018 European Championships), “Atlantic” at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, AMTP and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland co-production (Herald Angel Award Winner 2017), “Little Red and the Wolf” at Dundee Rep Theatre (Nominated for U.K. Theatre Awards and Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland 2016), “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” at Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, “Forest Boy” at New York Music Theatre Festival, The Other Palace, London and Edinburgh Fringe (S and S Award and New York Musical Festival 2016 Publishing Award) and “Freakshow” at The Roundhouse and The Arches (Scottish Daily Mail Drama Award 2012).
Andrew R. Butler (music and lyrics “Finn the Fearless”) is a writer, composer and performer based in Brooklyn and hailing from the Florida Panhandle. He received the 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant with collaborator Andrew Farmer. His sci-fi folk musical “Rags Parkland Sings Songs of the Future,” premiered at Ars Nova in Fall 2018. Collaborations with Farmer include “Blessing” (Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Playwrights Horizon Downtown commission, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat); “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” (TheatreWorks USA commission); “Finn the Fearless” (Ars Nova Uncharted Residency, Theatre Aspen and Polyphone Music Festival); and “American Cryptids” (the Civilians R&D Group). Other work includes music and lyrics for Anna Kerrigan’s “The Dixon Family Album” at Williamstown Theatre Festival (Sagal Fellowship); co-music and lyrics for Jaclyn Backhaus’s “Folk Wandering” (Pipeline Theatre Co.); music and lyrics for “Edelweiss” and “The Hole Story” with On the Rocks Theatre Company. Butler co-wrote and performed for Political Subversities at Joe’s Pub; and is co-founder of experimental theater company harunalee (Ars Nova’s Makers Lab, The Public’s Under The Radar Festival, LaMama and the Bushwick Starr). Andrew holds a BFA in drama from NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing.
Andrew Duncan Farmer (book “Finn the Fearless”) is a writer, performer, comedian and recipient of the 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant with collaborator Andrew R. Butler.
Projects with Butler include “Blessing” (Playwrights Horizons Downtown commission, Yale Institute for Music Theater); “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” (Theatreworks USA commission); “Finn the Fearless” (Ars Nova Uncharted); and “American Cryptids” (Civilians R&D Group, Joe’s Pub). Recent plays include “The Gray Man” (Pipeline Theatre Company); “The Fall of Hotel Mudafier…” (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Farmer is co-creator of “I Heard Sex Noises,” currently in development as a television series with Imperative Entertainment. A contributing writer at Vogue and Reductress, his stories have been featured in New York Magazine, The Moth and The Huffington Post. He’s a member of The Story Pirates, Gentlemen Party and Political Subversities and his comedy has been performed in numerous places including the Upright Citizens Brigade and the Museum of Modern Art. He holds a BFA in drama from Playwrights Horizons Theater School at NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts.
Kent Nicholson (director “Finn the Fearless”) is a director and producer.
Regional directing credits include “Once,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Amadeus” and “A Light in the Piazza” (South Coast Repertory); “How to Write a New Book for the Bible” at South Coast Repertory, Berkeley Repertory and Seattle Repertory; “Looking for Christmas” at The Old Globe; “Lizzie” at Theater Under the Stars and Village Theater; “Grey Gardens,” “Vincent in Brixton,” “Ambition Facing West” and “All My Sons” at TheatreWorks; “Saint Ex” at Weston Playhouse; and “Small Tragedy” and “Satellites” at Aurora Theater Company. Off-Broadway producing credits include “Far From Heaven” by Richard Greenberg, Michael Korie and Scott Frankel; “Bella: An American Tall Tale” by Kirsten Childs; “Iowa” by Jenny Schwartz and Todd Almond; and “Fly By Night” by Kim Rosenstock, Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick. Regionally, he produced the world premieres of “Memphis” by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan; “Striking 12” by Groovelily; and “Emma” by Paul Gordon. He was associate artistic director at Magic Theatre, created the New Works Initiative at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto and The Uncharted Writers Group at Ars Nova. He also has served on the boards of The Playwrights Foundation and The National Alliance for Musical Theatre. Nicholson currently serves as Associate Producer of Musical Theatre at Playwrights Horizons.
our most recent top picks
Blue Man Group ★★★