In April, I was fortunate to co-direct a workshop of Fallen Star: a music-theater piece I’m writing with playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen (a collaborator from the Composer-Librettist Studio, who I am also working with on play The Betterment Society). This project started with a single song and blossomed into 40 minutes of words and music (that want to be 90 minutes!) during a few weeks of intensive writing with Deen.
The piece was given further shape through the contributions of an artistic team of otherworldly genius—music director Charity Wicks, singers Blake Friedman, Nicole Mitchell, and Camille Harris, and dramaturg Cori Ellison—who spent five days developing the project with us as part of a Creativity Fund workshop at New Dramatists.
Our work culminated in an informal presentation for an audience of friends and colleagues, who generously provided us with feedback in a Critical Response Process.
This was one of those moments when I’m particularly aware of the beauty of being an artist in New York City—and the beauty of New Dramatists, a remarkable institution supporting artist-led development.
THE BETTERMENT SOCIETY
Written by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen
Directed by Jessi Hill
Music composed by Nell Shaw Cohen
Performed by Jade Wu, Lynda Gravatt, Zoe Winters, and Matt Consul
Monday, October 30, 2017, 3:00pm
New York Theatre Workshop
79 E. 4th St, New York, NY 10003
Join me for this public reading of brilliant new play The Betterment Society by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. I composed a song for voice and guitar that is threaded throughout the structure of the play.
Of this play and workshop reading, Deen writes:
“Three women on a godforsaken mountain.” This abstracted piece is curious about how place affects values, and how this in turn affects the divide between rural and urban value systems in America. It ask questions about the ways in which “community” can liberate us and/or imprison us. (And it’s also about three really fucking strong women.)
There’s something I’m trying to understand about the audience’s response so if you can come, your presence will be TANGIBLY helpful to me. There will be a brief conversation afterwards. I hope you can join us.
I first collaborated with Deen in the New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio last winter. Deen then invited me to work on The Betterment Society, which was developed through workshops at New Dramatists and a weeklong PAGE 73 Yale Summer Residency this past August.
Page 73 Summer Residency group. Photo by Page 73.
I recently had the honor of participating as a guest artist in Page 73‘s week-long Summer Residency on the Yale campus in New Haven, CT, workshopping a wonderful new play by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen with the all-star team of director Jessi Hill and actors Moe Angelos, Isabel Arraiza, Maya Sharpe, and Jade Wu. We lived and worked alongside artists developing three other projects, sharing readings of new work and exchanging ideas over daily group dinners.
Mashuq Mushtaq Deen invited me to collaborate on his play THE BETTERMENT SOCIETY after we’d worked together in New Dramatists’ Composer-Librettist Studio last winter. We’ve written a song for voice and guitar that is threaded throughout the structure of the play and creates a musical-dramatic arc for one the three women at the center of Deen’s narrative. The song was previously workshopped as part of a reading with director Jessi Hill at New Dramatists, and will receive further development on another reading in New York City this fall. I look forward to seeing where this project leads!