Hey everyone, Catherine Harris-White aka SassyBlack here with a major update!
I’m proud to announce that I have been commissioned by the 5th Avenue Theatre to write the first draft of MY VERY OWN MUSICAL! WTF 😳
I am so honored and blessed and I will be working heartily on it with my amazing teammate Anastacia Renee over the next 18 months!
Learn more below in the press release from the 5th Avenue!
Also I’m on sabbatical all August so see ya in September!
FOR RELEASE: The 5th Avenue Theatre Announces Second Cycle of New Musical Commissions for First Draft: Raise Your Voice
Media Contact: Rachel Liuzzi
The 5th Avenue Theatre Announces Second Cycle of New Musical Commissions for First Draft: Raise Your Voice
(Wednesday, July 28, 2021—SEATTLE) The 5th Avenue Theatre proudly announced today the five writing teams representing BIPOC writers of all gender identities, women writers, transgender writers, gender non-conforming writers, and non-binary writers that have been selected to receive a First Draft Commission in the second cycle of its new musical development program, First Draft: Raise Your Voice. The commissioned teams will have 18 months to complete a first draft of their script with the support of The 5th Avenue Theatre. At the end of the cycle, The 5th will produce a one-week reading with a final presentation in New York City, giving the commissioned teams the opportunity to showcase their work to national industry leaders.
The five writing teams include John-Michael Lyles (he/him), Catherine Harris-White (SassyBlack) (she/her) and Anastacia Renee (they/she), Erika Ji (she/her), Clare Fuyuko Bierman (she/her) and Brandy Hoang Collier (she/her), Troy Anthony (he/him), and Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones (she/they). Over the course of the next year, The 5th will give each team a weeklong Story Summit to outline their shows, a writer’s retreat, a table read with a professional cast, dramaturgical support, and one-week reading with a presentation.
First Draft was created with three goals in mind: foster new musicals by writers from populations that have been excluded from the musical theater canon; encourage and support brand new stories from authentic perspectives; and introduce new, creative voices to theater professionals and producers, amplifying their work so that it is seen, heard, and developed by the greater musical theater community.
About the 2021 First Draft Commissions
This cycle of First Draft received 136 submissions to be reviewed for selection. The selection committee consisted of Ciera Iveson, Kit Yan, Blair Russell, Elissa Adams, Jay O’Leary, and JJ Maley.
by John-Michael Lyles
Though they are both without houses in the literal sense, two lovers build roots in each other and form a home in a blossoming tent community until the pressures of pursuit and the weight of the wealthy threaten to pull them apart. Caught between harmonies and housing inequality, heartbeats and side hustles, these troubadours are forced to choose between where the heart is and where it is supposed to be.
John-Michael Lyles is a Harlem-based, multi-hyphenate creative currently involved in the Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellows class of ’21 and Musical Theater Factory’s 2nd MAKERS Cohort. Writing credits include: additional music for the Second Stage production of Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die & theme music for The Great Gay Dadcast. He is amidst collaboration with David Gomez on Shoot for the Moon, a sexy, sweaty & surreal new queer musical set in the Harlem Renaissance that follows a semester-long romance between Federico García Lorca, the renowned Spanish poet, and Mercy Wheatley, an up and coming Black boxer. His music has been featured at 54 Below, Joe’s Pub and Don’t Tell Mama, to name a few. @jmlyles1 | www.john-michaellyles.com<http://www.john-michaellyles.com>
by Catherine Harris-White and Anastacia Renee (Seattle-based writing team) Emerald Jett is a sci-fi funk musical about the trials and tribulations of a 34-year-old Black woman based in Seattle. As if navigating her way through the world in her Black Queer body wasn’t enough, Emerald soon discovers that she is in fact an alien from a Black planet with a superpower that she might lose unless she makes some much-needed changes in her life. In this take on a coming of age and stepping into power story, Emerald learns that although we are all on the hunt for life's true purpose, it is in her genetic coding to actively change her life's goals or face dire ramifications.
Catherine Harris-White (SassyBlack) is a multifaceted creative force with a focus in the performing and literary arts. Hailing from Seattle, this Goddess of “psychedelic soul” & “hologram funk” explores sound through deep electronic compositions. A graduate of Cornish College of the Arts, Catherine has fostered a thriving solo career, writing, composing and producing all of her music with over 15 projects released since 2014. In addition to her own compositions, she has composed music for Microsoft, WNYC, University of Washington, 5th Ave Theatre (15 Minute Stories) and the film Seattle Women Black Panthers: Keepers of the Dream. As a writer, she has written interviews, reviews and opinion pieces for CRACK Magazine, Okayplayer & Tom Tom Magazine and used to co-write the column “Ladies First” for Seattle Weekly. Along with her music, which has been featured on Adult Swim, BET’s series Twenties as well as the Michelle Obama Spotify Playlist Vol. 1, her acting prowess has been featured on HBO’s Vinyl and Comedy Central’s Broad City. Her musical journey is available for listening and purchase through Bandcamp, Spotify & all other streaming platforms. SassyBlack.com
Anastacia-Renee is a writer, educator, interdisciplinary artist, TEDx Speaker and podcaster. She is the author of (v.) (Black Ocean) and Forget It (Black Radish) and, Here in the (Middle) of Nowhere and Sidenotes from the Archivist forthcoming from Amistad (an imprint of HarperCollins). Recently she was selected by NBC News as part of the list of "Queer Artist of Color Dominate 2021's Must See LGBTQ Art Shows." Anastacia-Renee was former Seattle Civic Poet (2017-2019), Hugo House Poet-in-Residence (2015-2017) and Arc Artist Fellow (2020). Her work has been anthologized in: Home is Where You Queer Your Heart, Furious Flower Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, Afrofuturism, Black Comics, And Superhero Poetry, Spirited Stone: Lessons from Kubota’s Garden, and Seismic: Seattle City of Literature. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in, Hobart, Foglifter, Auburn Avenue, Catapult, Alta, Torch, Poetry Northwest, Cascadia Magazine, Ms. Magazine and others. Renee has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Ragdale, Mineral School, and The New Orleans Writers Residency. https://www.anastacia-renee.com/
Yoko's Husband's Killer's Japanese Wife, Gloria by Erika Ji, Clare Fuyuko Bierman, and Brandy Hoang Collier Did Yoko Ono really break up The Beatles? Was Gloria Abe actually responsible for her husband killing John Lennon? And if Asian women will inevitably be blamed for the actions of their white husbands, shouldn’t they at least get a say in the matter?
Erika Ji is a Chinese American cross-genre composer and storyteller. Her work has been featured Off-Broadway and around the world by Broadway's Future Songbook at Lincoln Center, the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, the Nadia Boulanger Institute, and the Musical Theatre Factory at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. Most recently, she and Clare Bierman were winners of the 2021 New Voices Project for their immersive circus experience VISARE. As a conductor, pianist, and vocalist, Erika has performed on national TV for CBS Sunday Morning, at the Warﬁeld Theatre in San Francisco, and for house concerts across the country. A Tisch Fellow at the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, Erika grew up in California, studied computer science and philosophy at Stanford University, organized the Viennese Ball in San Francisco, and built products at Dropbox before deciding to follow the music.
Brandy Hoang Collier is a queer, Vietnamese-American playwright, poet and composer from San Antonio, TX. She earned her BA in Music and English from Texas A&M and her MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU Tisch. Selected librettos include “Cambio de Temporada,” a bi-lingual musical with composer Pablo Concha, and “Red Flag,” a ten-minute musical with composer Stephen Wagener Bennett (adapted for and performed on The Latest Draft Podcast). She also composed the music for “La Voisin: A Feminist AF Musical” with librettist Gabriella Balsam and co-composer Deniz Demirkurt. Her new sci-ﬁ musical “The Blazing World” (book and lyrics by Collier, music by Sean Eads) is presenting a virtual adaptation in the 2021 Polyphone Festival of New and Emerging Musicals. Collier is also Co-Founder and Artistic Director (as well as designer, builder, and general problem solver) of Root Beer Occasion Theatre Company in Brooklyn. Among other projects, Collier orchestrated Root Beer Occasion’s inaugural event, “The Living Room Stories Play Festival,” and their bad play contest “The Garbage Revue” (including the staged reading of the ﬁnalists).
Clare Fuyuko Bierman is a playwright and lyricist raised in a Japanese-Jewish home with some rabbits, a snake, and a bunch of finches. She has worked for many environmental artists in San Francisco, including the FutureFarmers, Studio for Urban Projects, and the Climate Music Project. Written works include VISARE (composer Erika Ji, winner of the New Musicals Inc. New Voices Project), Greenwich, 1957 (composer Joshua Vranas, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater), Emma and the West (composer Joshua Vranas, Virginia Voices New Musical Theater Showcase), Death and Taxes (composer Brooke Trumm, HARP Theatricals), and The Very Furious Kugel (Spooky Action Theater). As an improviser, she has performed across the US and Europe. Originally from Los Angeles, she has received her MFA in Musical Theater Writing from New York University.
by Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones
The Messenger is a Black Indigenous musical journey that shares an intimate story between a 16-year-old girl and her grandmother. It is a story about the responsibilities of communicating the messages of the land amongst and beyond one's community. As Cheyenne’s grandmother takes her on a journey, the audience is introduced to the complexities, sacredness, and love of what it means to take on the role of a Messenger within a community.
Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones is the Creative Director of artistic company Spiritual is Political and Executive Director of organization, In Solidarity (formerly Women of Color in Solidarity). Through her work she has traveled throughout North America and the Caribbean’s to engage in dialogue and education about the intersections of arts & politics. Their politic is one that centers the narratives, experiences, and visions of Blackness beyond a monolith. As a creative director they center the breadth of Black Indigenous Queer Technologies. Technologies that disrupt white dominant concepts of time, gender, borders, and extreme systems of punishment that have altered a natural order. She is currently partnering with Cambridge 22 City-View as producer and director to revamp their 2018 show Women in Conversation. Cheyenne’s work has been featured on TEDx, The Void Academy, CRWN Magazine, Medium Magazine and The Queens Museum to name a few. She started her career in Boston, MA as an actor where she appeared in historical pieces such as Aftershock: Beyond The Civil War directed by The History Channel, Fences directed by Up You Mighty Race Company, and Voices of Hope: Autobiography of Barbara Jordan directed by Elizabeth Peabody House. Cheyenne was trained by artistic director Jaqui Parker, appearing in Parker’s Our Place Theatre Company shows Don’t Say Aint, Fine & Dangerous Country, Darfur Monologues, and The Trail to name a few. She has also been directed by and a member of Wheelock Family Theatre.
By Troy Anthony
Champs is a coming-of-age story about an awkward 16 year-old Black queer boy named Al (aka Brakes) growing up in 1992 Louisville, KY who works at Champion’s Rollerdome repairing and enhancing roller skates. Though Al is an ideal employee and a wiz at fixing skates in a hurry, he secretly dreams of joining the number one all-star baddest skate dance crew in Kentucky--The Pretty Boyz. There’s only one problem: he doesn’t know how to skate. When one of the crew goes M.I.A. weeks before the most important skating competition of the year, Al’s boss, Uncle Ankles, forces Al into the skating crew where he must learn all of the group routines, prepare a skating solo, and ultimately work with his crush/bully--the Pretty Boyz crew captain. Encouraged by his overworked police officer father, overprotective church-obsessed mother, and a sister that can’t stop playing with her new film camera, Albert pushes himself out of his comfort zone to be a part of a world that he thought he knew. But Albert is not the only one having trouble keeping his balance. The plagues of aggressive policing, constant harrassment and racial profiling have reached a peak and Black communities all over the country are saying, “We’re not going to take this anymore.”
Troy Anthony, originally from Louisville, KY is a composer, director, and theater-maker based in NYC practicing Black queer joy. He has presented his music at Joe’s Pub, Musical Theater Factory (MTF), Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, JACK, Prospect Theater Company, the National Alliance of Musical Theater Conference, and 54 Below. He has received commissions from The Public Theater, The Shed, Atlantic Theater Company, and The Civilians and has enjoyed residencies with The O’Neill Theater Center and Village Theater. He was in the inaugural cohort of MTF’s Maker Program. Troy’s work lives at the intersection between art, social justice and community practice. In this spirit, he leads the Public Theater’s Public Works Community Choir and recently founded The Fire Ensemble as a home to develop his work and to share the joy of creating community inside of choral singing.
About The 5th Avenue Theatre
The 5th Avenue Theatre is one of America’s leading musical theater companies. We enrich the community we love with the art form we love—giving the Pacific Northwest a front-row seat to original powerhouse productions that go on to light up marquees and audiences all the way to Broadway. From the page to the stage, we bring passion and epic scale to every musical we create. With big talent. Bigger-than-life productions. And did we mention dazzle? As a nonprofit theater company and our region’s largest performing arts employer, we spread the joy of great musicals with people of all ages across our region and state. Each year, we reach 75,000 young people through our nationally acclaimed education programs. Programs designed to develop new musicals ensure that the next generation of great musicals will be there to tell the stories that captivate tomorrow’s audiences. On the national stage, we are a leading voice for the power of this American art form to lift the human spirit.
For more information about The 5th Avenue Theatre, its season and its programs, please visit www.5thavenue.org<http://www.5thavenue.org>.