For anyone who came to the National Alliance of Musical Theatre (NAMT) conference last year, and either didn’t leave a showing fast enough or came intentionally to the Songwriters Showcase, you would have seen my writing partner Troy Anthony and I presenting a little number from our original musical THE RIVER IS ME. You also there would have heard me no-shame-in-my-game style announce that we can’t wait for the NAMT folks to pick us to be in the full conference next year…and now here we are!!
We’ll be showing a 45min excerpt from THE RIVER IS ME, which will be actually pretty much all of act I minus one song and snippets of book scenes. Very pumped!!
For non-Musical Theatre nerds, NAMT is the big leagues! It’s kinda like a trade show, but for piece of theater, that allow artists to link up with producers and carryon with their piece to a future iteration. The NAMT experience gives the authors a professional Director, Music Director, Band, Cast, rehearsal space and supplies and most importantly…hope. This is a great launching pad for emerging writers–and also weirdly fancy-already-established people do NAMT too so…you know, go figure.
Dreams following NAMT include doing an out of town co-pro then moving back into NYC off-bway and crossing fingers for a transfer. Or whatever, haven’t thought about it that much…hee hee:)
Also here’s my writing partner and me*:
*images hard won through aggressive hugging on my part 🙂
Had a blast this past weekend with Brandon Ivie, care of the Village Theatre’s At The Table residency!
My writing partner Troy Anthony and I have JUST started a brand new show: I Have A Dream (which may later become “I Am A Man” except then we’d have the issue of having a song title and hook be the same as the show title, which one of us finds corny….me…I’m the one who doesn’t like it…) anyways… 🙂
I Have A Dream is about a black queer unsung hero, struggling to carve out a space where all of America can be free at last. Centering Bayard Rustin from 1955-till the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights, this new musical will look at the path to the March, as well as revisiting Martin Luther King at a time where he was being called a terrorist and Coretta at a time where she was being called a silly goose for wanting to have a say in more things even though she was a woman.
This is one of my Goldilocks time periods to write about. So so pumped!!
…and now for a teeny ol’ picture of Brandon:
Sometimes, you just have to go for it.
The scariest part about The MacDowell Colony Fellowship application is the part where they ask you to list the three artistic achievements of which you’re most proud. Woo. You look at the list of folks who have come before you —Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Thornton Wilder, and Aaron Copland to name a few — and you think, or at least I thought, Who The Hell Are You?
And then I said to myself, you are Sukari Marie Jacobs Jones, if you don’t start living now, you never will. So I typed in 1) Winning the W.K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts from Vassar College that saved my life and lets me be real writer 2) M.F.A. From NYU Tisch School of the Arts having learned what musical theater can be and my voice in writing ever more keenly and 3) not jumping out of a window after eleven years plus of rejection in musical theater world by both institutions and collaborators for being “too scary/too black.” Then I looked at the “send button”, stutter-stepping, almost shutting the web-page off, but then I finally just said eff it, putting some stank’ on the enter button.
And now I’m going!!
This is going to be me this summer!!!
So my writing partner Troy Anthony and I had a fun great-learning-experience concert this past summer at Feinstein’s 54 Below. Even though it was summer, when ticket sales are usually slow and droopy, we sold out!! I know some friends and fam didn’t get to make it to see the show…but I’m still very proud of the cast and wonderful creative production team and everyone’s hard work….and wanted to post a clip!! 🙂
**Quick obligatory shout out to our wonderful performers featured in this clip: Latoya Edwards, Tanesha Gary, Larry Owens, Jason Veasey, Francesca Ferrari and Brett Macias!!**
“Too Soon (To Say Goodbye)” closes out Act I of The River Is Me. MA and BO have been split apart when they try to escape MA’s abusive boyfriend. In this number, MA senses something is wrong and makes a choice about defying her MAN and going down to Mississippi to get her baby before she fears it is too late. Tanesha Gary singing her little heart out as MA in this clip!
“Go Go Waterman” is a song moment where the hero BO teaches his new friends about his favorite superhero and pulls them into his story by pretending they’re all magic. The indomitable Larry Owens is BO for this song.
You’ll see “Ma At The Casket,” a song moment where the protagonist BO has been lynched and his MA has to come and identify the body. Friend and saint Tonya Pinkins is singing this one!
I’m very excited to announce that The River Is Me will have a featured little presentation of sorts at NATIONAL ALLIANCE for MUSICAL THEATRE this year in the Songwriters Showcase!!
It’s the 29th Annual NAMT conference, and it is a REALLY BIG DEAL that my wonderful writing partner Troy Anthony and I were asked to participate this time ’round with a few song selections from The River Is Me! As NAMT mentions on the website, “[t]he purpose of the Festival is to create a nurturing environment for discovery, development and advancement of the musical theatre art form. NAMT seeks to do this with a focus on quality, diversity and new voices.” NAMT is like Yale for musical theatre writers — you have to work hard to get there, and there is no coasting after you get in, but if you’ve done well enough to earn a spot in the conference, you’ve earned yourself a pedigree and chance for networking that really can shore up your chances of life happiness/success, which are the exact same thing for me 🙂
So there’s the conference conference and then there’s this little jewel of a “Special Event” called the Songwriters Showcase, where newbies and oldbies can showcase new songs.
This winter, Troy and I hope to find a theatre or agent who can formally endorse us so we can apply to be in the NAMT Conference proper.
Anyhoo, the industry-packed event is tomorrow at 2pm. Very nervous, but overall very proud of the work we get to share with the theater world and very excited!! Cross fingers for us!! 🙂
I’m a black woman writing musical theater. In case it’s not blatantly apparent from what is current on and off Broadway…..it’s not easy for people of color writers, and nearly impossible for women of color. My writing partner Troy Anthony and I have been offered the opportunity to share our new musical THE RIVER IS ME, at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Tuesday, August 15th at 930pm–ONE NIGHT ONLY!!
This is actually a HUGE deal because they do a show every single night and have for years and of that roster, I’m one of only a few black musical theater authors. If anyone has about $25 dollars and the desire to support a couple of black, up-and-coming-and-hungry-and-smart musical theater writers who are writing a musical about a black boy lynched for whistling at a white woman in 1955 Mississippi who comes back to life as the super hero he dreamed about when he was a living boy, PLEASE COME THROUGH! Let’s share the story of THE RIVER IS ME together and unseat fear and hate. Let’s show mainstream musical theater that people of color exist. Let’s see what an audience looks like when people of color are being honored by being considered by the writers and put in 3D character form on a stage. Come see THE RIVER IS ME now (i.e. August 🙂 ) and say you saw it “when!!”
So excited to be sharing work in a fancy Harlem-Renaissance-esque salon this evening! It’s called the Creo Emerging Writers Salon and will take place at SongSpace, located at 1841 Broadway. My partner and pal Troy Anthony and I will be sharing two new songs from our original musical, The River Is Me — a music theatre ghost memoir from the P.O.V. of Bo, a chubby funny, comic book-loving, 14 year old black kid murdered for whistling at a white woman in 1955, who, once murdered, is not destroyed, but rather returns to walk the earth to seek vengeance on his killer and check in with his Ma to make sure she’ll be alright as he becomes the hero he dreamed of when he was a living boy.
We’ll be sharing “You Dream” and “Bye Bye Baby.” In the former, we see Ma and Bo’s relationship as being a mixture of mother/child, brother/sister due to how close they are in age. In “You Dream,” coming at toward the top of the show, Ma has just allowed Bo to leave her in Chicago (with her less-than-kind-boyfriend) to spend the last week of his summer vacation with Uncle in Mississippi. Ma gets to missing her son, and calls him on the phone to try to get him to come home. Bo avoids the answer, distracting Ma with a game of make-believe. Ma doesn’t believe she can dream anymore, but Bo thinks otherwise.
In “Bye Bye Baby,” which falls midway after the act break, we have seen Baby Doll’s husband Roy torture and murder Bo, and then throw Bo into the river, then Bo transforms into a water-based super hero, then Ma mourns the loss of her son, nearly fainting at the casket. Then Baby Doll speaks. In this song, Baby Doll gives her “testimony,” stating, from her P.O.V. what happened the day the black kid whistled at her.
I will be in RED lipstick this evening, and SINGING the songs with my fabulous partner and homie Troy Anthony. Can’t wait! Also there was talk of delicious food so you know I’m pumped for that! 🙂
I WON THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
W.K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts
This Fellowship is made possible by a bequest from the estate of W.K. Rose, a distinguished scholar and teacher, who was a member of the Vassar English Department from 1953 until his untimely death in the fall of 1968.
Mr. Rose wrote:
My object in creating this fellowship is to provide a worthy young artist with a chance to be free after college to get on with his work as an artist. It is also my hope that this fellowship will attract to Vassar in greater number the kind of student that it proposes to aid.
My life is forever changed.
I totally picked the right college!!! Thanks VASSAR! 🙂 Thanks W.K. Rose.