KPOP by Jason Kim, Helen Park, Max Vernon, and Woodshed Collective and Gun & Powder by Ross Baum and Angelica Chéri are the winners of the 2018 Richard Rodgers Awards for Musical Theater. Each musical received a Studio Production Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters.
KPOP is an immersive musical set in a Korean pop music factory where stars are made—or broken. It tells the story of solo legend MwE, epic boy band F8, glamorous girl group SpecialK, and the label behind the pop madness, JTM Entertainment.
Gun & Powder is inspired by the true story of creator Angelica Chéri’s great-great-aunts, Mary and Martha Clarke, African-American twins who passed for white and were notorious outlaws. Set in Post-Emancipation Texas, the musical follows Mary and Martha’s journey of defying racial boundaries and seizing what rightfully belongs to them, until a little romance shakes everything up.
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; Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal for Juan Darien; 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; and Dave Malloy for Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. The Richard Rodgers Awards are the Academy’s only awards for which applications are accepted. Application forms may be downloaded from the academy’s website here.
The members of this year’s jury were David Lang (chairman), Mindi Dickstein, Sheldon Harnick, Richard Maltby, Jr., and John Weidman.
Jason Kim (book) is a Korean-born dramatist based in New York City. His immersive musical KPOP recently had a critically acclaimed sold-out run at Ars Nova Theater. His play The Model American opened the Nikos Stage at the 2017 Williamstown Theatre Festival. He is an IFP—Marcie Bloom Fellow in Film, a Screenwriters Colony Fellow, a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow for New Americans, an Opera Genesis Fellow, and a Librettist Fellow in American Opera Project’s Composers & The Voice. He is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab and Ars Nova’s Uncharted. He is currently Lincoln Center Theater 3’s Resident Writer. In television, he has written for HBO’s “Girls” and Fox’s “Gracepoint” and has adapted “The Middlesteins” for Showtime. Most recently, he was a Consulting Producer for “Love” on Netflix. B.A. Columbia University, M.F.A. New School for Drama. Acclaimed Beyoncé historian. www.waytooserious.com
Helen Park (music & lyrics) is a composer and arranger. Her recent works include KPOP (music and lyrics), The Large Life of Alice Liddell (music), and Last Resort (music). Her original musical Baked Goods (lyrics by Christyn Budzyna and book by Charlie Cohen) was selected winner for the 2017 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting Contest. She is currently writing original songs for Over The Moon, an animated musical film feature for Netflix and Pearl Studio. Helen is an alumnus of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program and is a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop (Advanced). helenparkmusic.com
Max Vernon (music & lyrics) is a composer/lyricist, playwright, performer, and brooch enthusiast. Described by the New Yorker as “equal parts bohemia and Broadway,” Max is a 2017 Out100 Honoree, and recipient of the Jonathan Larson Grant, New York Stage and Film’s Founders Award, New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship, and the JFund Award from the Jerome Foundation. He has been a Dramatist Guild Theatre Fellow, MacDowell Fellow, and an artist in residence at Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat and the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony. His musical, The View UpStairs, ran 105 performances Off-Broadway and was nominated for 2 Lortel Awards, 3 Drama Desk Awards, 4 Audelco Awards, and an Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Musical. It will have 7 new productions around the world in 2017-2019; original cast recording on Broadway Records. His next musical, KPOP, recently concluded a sold-out, extended run at Ars Nova this past October. www.maxvernon.com.
Woodshed Collective (co-conceiver and immersive design) is one of the country’s premier immersive theater companies. Work includes Twelve Ophelias, The Confidence Man, The Tenant, and recently the critically acclaimed Empire Travel Agency and the hit immersive musical KPOP. Driven by the belief in the combined power of stories and architecture to break down the barriers of everyday life, Woodshed’s shows aim to create genuine awe. Woodshed is led by Teddy Bergman (Artistic Director), Gabriel Hainer Evansohn (Director of Production), Meg Kelly (Managing Director), and Amy Ashton (Producer), and is comprised of artists Teddy Bergman, Gabriel Hainer Evansohn, Carl Faber, Katie Fleming, Mikhael Tara Garver, Will Irons, Jocelyn Kuritsky, Will Pickens, Jason Platt, and Stephen Squibb. www.woodshedcollective.com
Gun & Powder
Ross Baum, Angelica Chéri
Ross Baum (music) is a composer, performer, and music arranger. Gun & Powder was developed at the Signature Theatre’s 2017 Sigworks Musical Theatre Lab with public presentations in Lincoln Center’s Broadway’s Future Songbook Series and the Drama League’s 2018 DirectorFest. Other musical works include Crowndation: I Will Not Lie To David (National Black Theatre), Anne Frank: My Secret Life, and A Letter To Auntie Rosa (Diverging Elements Theatre Company). He has had residencies at Goodspeed Opera House and Two River Theater, and was selected as winner of NY City Center’s 2014 Sondheim Remix contest and Disney/NMI’s 2018 New Voices Project. As the founder and music director of RANGE a cappella, he has provided vocal arrangements for Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, Billboard, Playbill, and the E! Network. Ross is a proud graduate of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, Syracuse University’s Musical Theatre Program, and is a current member of the BMI Workshop. www.rossbaum.net
Angelica Chéri (book & lyrics) is a playwright, bookwriter/lyricist, screenwriter, and poet. The plays of her Prophet’s Cycle Trilogy include The Seeds of Abraham (Signature Theatre, Billie Holiday Theatre), The Sting of White Roses (North Carolina Black Repertory Company) and Crowndation: I Will Not Lie to David (National Black Theatre-I AM SOUL Residency). Her play Berta, Berta will have its World Premiere this year at CATF. Angelica has written for the 48 Hours in Harlem Festival and won an Obie Award for co-producing the Fire This Time Festival. She and Ross Baum have developed Gun & Powder at Goodspeed Opera, Two River Theater, the Tisch Center for New Musicals, and the SigWorks Lab, with public presentations in the Broadway’s Future Songbook concert series at Lincoln Center and in the Drama League’s DirectorFest. Angelica received her BA in Theatre from UCLA, MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University, and MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU. www.angelicacheri.com
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.