Virtual presentations of Sunwatcher, a new chamber musical composed by Tidtaya Sinutoke and featuring book and lyrics by Isabella Dawis, winners of the 2020 Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award, will be part of Ancram Opera House’s 2021 Ancram Opera House’s Summer Play Lab & Residency and The Civilians’ tenth annual R&D Group FINDINGS Series in June.
A Noh-inspired musical, Sunwatcher is the story of astronomer Hisako Koyama (1916-1997) – intertwined with the ancient Japanese myth of the sun goddess Amaterasu, in a retelling inspired by the structure of classical Noh theatre. Hisako was a woman with no formal scientific training – also a survivor of the 1945 US air raid of Tokyo, the deadliest bombing in history – who managed to rise to the stature of Galileo. She did so by drawing the sun in painstaking detail every day for 40 years, a landmark achievement for solar science. Sunwatcher is a celebration of Hisako’s extraordinary dedication to ordinary observation, reminding us how seemingly small acts can have an immense impact over time and space.
Ancram Opera House’s 2nd annual SUMMER PLAY LAB featuring artist-lead virtual community workshops and online performances will include 20 minute presentations of Sunwatcher, produced by Cultural Consultant Ikumi Kuronaga and helmed by Nana Dakin on Friday, June 18 and Thursday, June 24th at 8pm featuring singers Francesca Dawis and Gemma Nha, dancers Akiko Aizawa, Natsuko Hirano, and Kazue Peck. The production team includes Video & Production Designer Suzu Sakai and Audio Mixer Megumi Katayama.
There will also be a Creative Movement Workshop scheduled on Saturday, June 19 at 10am. RSVP here
Ancram Opera House in southern Columbia County is an intimate showcase for fresh, contemporary work by visionary theater and musical artists where audiences can connect with performers in immersive, immediate ways. Additional programming will be announced in the coming months. For more information and the latest details, visit www.ancramoperahouse.org.
The FINDINGS Series is the annual culminating works-in-progress event for R&D Group members. The R&D Group is comprised of writers, composers, and directors who worked with The Civilians for nine months to develop seven original pieces of theater through the creative investigation of a pre-selected subject. Artists for this tenth anniversary season were selected from a competitive application process. The open call received a record number of applications, a 60% increase from last year.
The tenth annual FINDINGS Series will run from June 16-30 and will be streamed online. All of these works-in-progress readings are free and will require a reservation. To RSVP, please fill out this form: www.thecivilians.org/rsvp
Applications open June 4 for the 2021-22 R&D Group. The Civilians seek writers, composers, directors, and generative theatermakers to join the eleventh cohort of its R&D Group. Participants will have the opportunity to create and develop their own investigative work of theater, contribute to bi-monthly meetings among a cohort of investigative theatermakers, and present a work-in-progress showing as part of the annual FINDINGS Series. The application for the 2021-22 R&D Group can be found on The Civilians website or http://thecivilians.org/applyhere. All applications must be submitted by 6:00pm on July 6, 2021, for consideration.
TIDTAYA SINUTOKE (ฑิตยา สินุธก)is an award-winning Thai musical theatre composer, writer, and musician based in New York City. As an immigrant from Thailand, educated and living in America, her music reflects a life-long multicultural journey. Her themes in writing are to write musicals that celebrate Asian/-American women and immigrant stories through combining contemporary musical theatre sounds with traditional world music tonality. Composition credits include: HALF THE SKY (The 5th Avenue Theatre’s First Draft Commission & 20/21 Digital Season), SUNWATCHER (The Civilians R&D Group), and DEAR MR. C.
Tidtaya was awarded a 2017 Jonathan Larson® Grant, a 2020 Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award, and a 2020 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award, presented by the Ziegfeld Club in partnership with New York Stage and Film. She was a recipient of the 5th Avenue Theatre’s First Draft Commission.
Her works have been developed and supported by the Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists, Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, Kilroy’s Honorable Mentions, Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals, Robert Rauschenberg Residency, EtM Con Edison Composer-in-Residence, the Kurt Weill Foundation, and Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.
Tidtaya is a proud member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild, Maestra, MUSE, and Thai Theatre Foundation. BM from Berklee College of Music; MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Isabella Dawis is a performer and playwright. Trained as a classical musician, she collaborates with artists of all disciplines to create genre-crossing new works.
Isabella is bookwriter/lyricist for the musical HALF THE SKY, the story of an Asian American woman climbing Mount Everest — for which she and composer Tidtaya Sinutoke won the 2020 Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award. In January 2021 HALF THE SKY was presented as an episodic audio musical, as part of the 5th Avenue Theatre’s Digital Season. HALF THE SKY is an inaugural First Draft commission by the 5th, with further development at Theater Mu’s New Eyes Festival, Theater Latté Da’s NEXT Festival, the O’Neill Center, and the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.
Isabella’s chamber musical with Tidtaya Sinutoke, SUNWATCHER, the true story of Japanese female astronomer Hisako Koyama, is currently being developed/presented with the Civilians’ R&D Group, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Global Forms Festival, and Ancram Opera House Play Lab — with a recent residency at Goodspeed Musicals’ Johnny Mercer Writers Grove and a feature in the Weston Playhouse’s Songs for Today series. Isabella also recently collaborated with composer/lyricist Emily Gardner Xu Hall on the 24 Hour Plays: Viral Musicals.
As a playwright and librettist, Isabella’s work has been supported by Musical Theatre Factory, the Kurt Weill Foundation, New York Theatre Barn, the Bushwick Starr, Broadway Buskers, Town Stages, Central Square Theater, the Skeleton Rep, New England Conservatory, and the Schubert Club. She was a 2019-2020 Rockwell Scholar at the Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts.
Isabella recently starred opposite her sister Francesca as twins L and M in Jiehae Park’s PEERLESS at Theater Mu. Other recent credits include SWEAT (NYC’s Center for Contemporary Opera), THE MAGIC FLUTE (Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra), New York Philharmonic Biennial (soprano soloist), and the American Theatre Wing’s SpringboardNYC. Originally from Minneapolis, Isabella grew up acting onstage with companies including Theater Mu, the Minnesota Opera, the Children’s Theatre Company, the Guthrie Theater, and Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.
Isabella holds a B.M. summa cum laude and highest distinction in piano performance from the University of Minnesota, where she studied with Prof. Alexander Braginsky as a National Merit Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa member. As a pianist, Isabella appeared in concert with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Dakota Valley Symphony, and the Minneapolis Civic Orchestra. She then went on to study classical voice with Lisa Saffer at New England Conservatory in Boston.
When not performing, Isabella works as an accompanist and piano teacher. She often performs with her sister, singer/actor/violinist Francesca Dawis.
Development of SUNWATCHER has been supported by Ancram Opera House Play Lab, The Civilians’ R&D Group, The Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals, New England Conservatory, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Global Forms Festival, and the Weston Playhouse’s “Songs For Today.”
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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