New Works Initiative Workshop Series to Develop New Music Theatre Work

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New Works Initiative presents music theater developmental workshop based on the work of James Agee and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men premieres at Montclair State University.

New Works Initiative Workshop Series to Develop New Music Theatre Work

Montclair State University’s Department of Theater and Dance has selected an original music theatre work to be developed on campus as part of the New Works Initiative (NWI) workshop series. Playwright Molly Rice, director Rachel Chavkin, and composer Stephanie Johnstone will be creating a music theatre work based on James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

NWI launched last spring with a developmental workshop for Jason Grote and Marisa Michelson’s musical, Scheherazade. Since then, Scheherazade has received additional development support from New Dramatists (NYC) and TheatreWorks (Palo Alto, CA), and is now moving toward a world-premiere production.

NWI is a special project of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Montclair State University, committed to the development and production of new original works in theatre and dance. Modeled after the Sundance Lab in Utah and the O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut, Montclair State’s New Works Initiative aims to be a home where the American professional performance community can experiment with and develop exciting new professional work that incorporates Montclair State’s theatre and dance students.

This year’s selected production will be performed April 28 – May 1, 2011 on the Montclair State campus and the public is invited to experience the work of these emerging talents. Full descriptions and credits follow.

NWI will be accepting submissions for Spring 2012 beginning May 1, 2011. For more information, visit:

New Works Initiative is generously supported by Robert S. and Holly J. Gregory.

Montclair State University
Montclair State offers the advantages of a large university -- a comprehensive undergraduate curriculum with a global focus, a broad variety of superior graduate programs through the doctoral level, and a diverse faculty and student body -- combined with a small college's attention to students.

New Works Initiative 2011
Montclair State University
Performance Schedule

Book by Molly Rice
Directed by Rachel Chavkin
Original Music Composed by Stephanie Johnstone

April 28 at 7:30 p.m. April 29 at 7:30 p.m. April 30 at 8:00 p.m. May 1 at 2:00 p.m.

L. Howard Fox Theatre
Based on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, The Agee/Evans Project is a music-drenched chronicle of James Agee and Walker Evans’ descent into the nightmarish existence of three Alabama sharecropping families. It explores Agee's tendency to simultaneously grieve, fetishize, and exalt abject need; the seepage of Walker's subjective vision into his seemingly objective images; and the deeply wounded relationship between America's "haves" and "have-nots."

Molly Rice’s (Book Writer) works include Don't Stop, Hiroshima 2010: The Apology Module, Watch, Texas Diner Diptych, and the original musicals Saint Enid and the Black Hand, The Mercury Sloop, and Canary (music with Ray Rizzo). She teaches at Brown University and Marymount Manhattan College.

Rachel Chavkin (Director) is the founder and artistic director of the TEAM (the Theater of the Emerging American Moment), a NYC-based theatre company that creates new work to dissect and celebrate the experience of living in America today. With the TEAM, she has directed/co-authored Particularly in the Heartland, A Thousand Natural Shocks, Give Up! Start Over!, Howl, based on the poem by Allen Ginsberg, and Architecting, produced by the National Theater of Scotland.

Stephanie Johnston’s (Composer) was selected as the youngest member of the New Dramatists’ Guild’s Composer/Librettist Studio in 2006. Music theater works include: Tully (In No Particular Order) (New York Musical Theater Festival 2007, for which she was awarded for Excellence in Music), Thanksgiving! A! Pageant! (AdNauseum Lyceum), and The Apostle Project (Theater Mitu/NYTW).


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Diane Reed
Montclair State University
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