NEW YORK, March 1, 2021—The winners of the 2021 Richard Rodgers Awards for Musical Theater were announced today by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Each musical received a Studio Production Award.
The Monster by Chelsea Marcantel, Michael Mahler, and Alan Schmuckler
Oratorio for Living Things by Heather Christian
TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix by EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn
The Monster is a modern-day reimagining of Frankenstein, delving into the original’s themes of creation and responsibility. Victoria launches software to bring communities into harmony online: the very first social network. But as the scope of the technology expands, she finds her moral center tested. Deep inside the recesses of the internet, there remains a trace of what makes us human—if only we can find it before our time runs out.
The way we spend and articulate our time is perhaps the most defining of trace fossils we will leave behind us as humans. Oratorio For Living Things is a modern oratorio for 12 voices and orchestra that seeks to illuminate and beatify the time that blurs the line between scientific and spiritual revelation. The oratorio visits time on three scales: the quantum, the human, and the cosmic.
T and L drive their 1966 Ford Thunderbird Convertible off the edge of the Grand Canyon and into a fantasy-driven, irreverent, queer, rock musical—TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix—where strong female characters don’t “always gotta die.” T and L attempt to sort out their new identities, how those identities impact their relationships with each other and The Band, and seek out the queer-happy ending they’ve always deserved.
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 by nonprofit theaters 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 here.
The members of this year’s jury were David Lang (chair), Lynn Ahrens, Kristoffer Diaz, Mindi Dickstein, Amanda Green, Michael R. Jackson, 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 300 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.
CHELSEA MARCANTEL, MICHAEL MAHLER, & ALAN SCHMUCKLER
Chelsea Marcantel is an LA-based writer, director, and collaborator. Reared by Cajuns in southwest Louisiana, Chelsea has lived and made theatre among the people of the Midwest, Appalachia, the Mid-Atlantic, and the West Coast. In 2016 she completed a Playwrights Fellowship at The Juilliard School. Her plays include Airness, Everything is Wonderful, Tiny Houses, and the online experience Citizen Detective. Chelsea is a member of The Writers Guild of America, The Dramatists Guild, and The Kilroys. She is represented by ICM and managed by Heroes & Villains.
Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler are a songwriting team with experience in theater, TV, film, and digital mediums. As a team: stage musicals Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Kevin McCollum), The Secret of My Success (NBC/Universal); musical TV pilot Boyfred (ABC/Sony/Shoe Money Productions); and animated feature My Little Pony 2 (Hasbro, Ron Fair). Stage musicals in development: lyrics, Night at the Museum (Kevin McCollum), music by Alan Menken, book by Shawn Levy & Bob Martin; An American Tail (NBC/Universal). Mahler: lyrics, Miss Saigon (West End, Broadway, tour); music and lyrics, October Sky (NBC/Universal). Schmuckler: music/lyrics/song producer, Kidding (Showtime); winner, Kleban Prize for lyric writing, Webby Award (podcast musical Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me, Wondery Media). They are represented by Diana Glazer (theater) and Brice Gaeta (TV/film) at ICM Partners.
Oratorio for Living Things
Heather Christian is an Obie Award winning composer/performer. Recent composing/performing credits include her own work Animal Wisdom (The Bushwick Starr), I am Sending You the Sacred Face (Theater In Quarantine—Vultures Best Theater Experiences of 2020), and Prime: A Practical Breviary (Playwrights Horizons Soundstage—IndieWire’s #1 Podcast Episode of 2020). She was named one of TimeOut NY’s Downtown Innovators To Watch, was a 2018 Sundance Time Warner Fellow, and is a 2019 Harold and Mimi Steinberg Trust commissionee. She has released 11 records as Heather Christian & the Arbornauts. www.heatherchristian.com
TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix
ELLAROSE CHARY & BRANDON JAMES GWINN
EllaRose Chary (she/hers) is an award-winning writer and advocate for inclusion in media. She is a Dramatists Guild Fellow, O’Neill, Kleban, NYFA, Jewish Playwriting Contest and Kernodle Finalist, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat Triple R, Ars Nova, and Catwalk resident and a Harvard TDM Guest Lecturer. Her work has been featured by The Civilians, GPTC, The Rose Theater, Encores! Off-Center, The Tank, and UArts Polyphone Festival. She believes the future of theater is universal healthcare. MFA: NYU Tisch; BA: Brown University. www.ellarosechary.com
Brandon James Gwinn (he/they) is a composer-lyricist, pianist, vocalist, and music producer. Musicals: TL;DR (The Tank, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat), Cotton Candy & Cocaine (Ars Nova, Theatre C), Small Town Story (American Theatre Group, NY Theatre Barn, Village Originals, NAMT Grant). Producer: BJG: Not Too Late; Alexis Michelle’s Lovefool (Broadway Records); Trixie Mattel’s Two Birds & One Stone (Billboard #1, iTunes Top Albums #1). MFA NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing. ASCAP. NARAS Grammy Voter. Dramatists Guild Member and Fellow. www.brandonjamesgwinn.com