NEW YORK, March 9, 2020 —The winners of the 2020 Richard Rodgers Awards for Musical Theater were announced today by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In the Green by Grace McLean
The Loophole by Jay Adana and Zeniba Now
Each musical received a Staged Reading Award.
In the Green tells the origin story of one of medieval history’s most powerful and creative women: Hildegard von Bingen. Before she became a healer, a composer, an exorcist, and finally a saint, she was a little girl locked in a cell with her mentor, Jutta. This new musical is the tale of two women and the journey that leads one to embrace death, and the other to celebrate the beauty and blemishes of a fully lived life.
The Loophole is the story of the self-liberation of Polly Danfield, a black scientist and cartographer stuck at a crossroads. As The Civil War rages and the call of the mysterious Alligator Queen beckons, Polly must choose: safety in hiding or love and revolution? With a folk/rap score, verse, and body percussion, this swampy epic recasts the American hero.
Richard Rodgers, who was elected to the Academy in 1955, endowed these awards in 1978 to nurture talented composers and playwrights by enabling their musicals to be produced in New York City. Former award recipients include Maury Yeston, for Nine; Jonathan Larson, for Rent; Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty for Lucky Stiff; Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley for Violet; Scott Frankel, Michael Korie, and Doug Wright for Grey Gardens; Dave Malloy for Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812; and Anaïs Mitchell for Hadestown. The Richard Rodgers Awards are the Academy’s only awards for which applications are accepted. Application forms may be found at the academy’s website here.
The members of this year’s jury were David Lang (chairman), Kristoffer Diaz, Mindi Dickstein, Amanda Green, Richard Maltby, Jr., and John Weidman.
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS
The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.
In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country.
In the Green
Grace McLean (book, music, and lyrics) is an actor, singer, writer, and composer. She performs on Broadway and Off (New Group, MCC, LCT3, Public, La MaMa, Vineyard, among others). As a writer she has developed work at SPACE on Ryder Farm, Goodspeed, The Orchard Project, The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, and The MacDowell Colony, and she is a writer-in-residence at Lincoln Center Theater. Grace toured Pakistan and Russia as an artistic ambassador with the US State Department and she received a 2017 Emerging Artist Award from Lincoln Center.
Jay Adana (music & lyrics) is a composer / lyricist / singer / actress / banshee witch. THE LOOPHOLE (Public Theater Studio, music/lyrics), THE WOODSMAN (New World Stages, lyrics), FINGERPAINTINGS (Playwrights Horizons Downtown, script/music/lyrics), THE LAST TIGER IN HAITI (Berkeley Rep/La Jolla Playhouse, music/lyrics), LE FAY (Musical Theater Factory, libretto). She has received the 2018 Jonathan Larson Award and was a 2019 Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellow. Her work has been featured by PBS, The American Theater Wing, and The Dramatist Magazine. Residencies: #BARS at The Public, SPACE on Ryder Farm. Training: #BARS workshop founded by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, BFA SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theater Arts and Film. www.jayadana.com @jayadanaflow
Zeniba Now (book and bars) is a musical storyteller and artscientist working in theatre and film as a writer and performer. Her art has been produced by PBS, The Public Theater, SoyFierce, and The American Theater Wing. Full-length works include THE LOOPHOLE; iQUIT: MILLENNIAL RETIREMENT GALA; HALLOWEENIE: A SPOOKY SOFTCORE MUSICAL; and RONA’S COMING OUT PARTY. Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellow, #BARS at The Public Residency Writer, The Independent Film School Fellow, Urban Bush Women: Summer Leadership Institute, SPACE on Ryder Farm, NYU Gallatin, The Boston Conservatory. To discover and support her work or to learn about Millennial Retirement please visit www.ZenibaNow.com @zenibanow