Weston announces 2020 Ghostlight musical award winner

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WESTON — The writing team of Tidtaya Sinutoke, music, and Isabella Dawis, book and lyrics, has won the 14th annual Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award for their new musical, "Half the Sky."

The only award of its kind in the country, the Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award brings the creators of a promising new project together with a small ensemble of actors to rehearse, perform, and record selections from the winning score in Weston, in New York, and in the studio with Grammy winner Kurt Deutsch of Ghostlight Records.

"Half the Sky" is " a beautiful and original musical that traverses the vast terrain of an expedition up Mount Everest and how it changes one family forever," Weston's executive artistic director, Susanna Gellert, said in a media release. "Weaving together stories of burgeoning friendships, ambitious athleticism, and the magical spirituality of the mountain, this is a musical with a breathtaking score and richly lyrical storytelling. I am so proud that Weston will be contributing to its development and future."

Nominated by Mei Ann Teo, producing artistic director of Musical Theatre Factory, "Half the Sky" follows Aurelie, who sets out to fulfill her childhood dream of climbing to the summit of Mount Everest, together with a group of hopeful mountaineers from around the world and a precocious teenage Sherpa. As she grapples with the grueling demands of the mountain, Aurelie finds she must also confront her Thai American family's past and the rift that separates her from her younger sister. Borders between countries and cultures, past and present, and waking and dreaming begin to blur. "[This musical] pulls together the most intimate and epic human impulses into story and song," Teo said.

Tidtaya Sinutoke is a Thai-born, NYC-based composer and a Jonathan Larson Grant recipient. Her composition credits include "Half the Sky" (5th Avenue Theatre's First Draft Commission), "Clouds are Pillows for the Moon" (Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Kilroy's Honorable Mentions), "Hart Island Requiem" (The Civilians R&D Group, Polyphone Festival), and "Water is Life" (NYMF - How The Light Gets In). She is a recipient of the Composer-Librettists Studio at New Dramatists, Johnny Mercer Songwriter Projects, NYFA IAM Mentoring Program, Robert Rauschenberg Residency, EtM Con Edison Composer-in-Residence, Catwalk Arts Residency, Johnny Mercer Writers Colony, Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Theater MU's New Eyes Festival, Theater Latt Da's NEXT Festival, Sokoloff Arts Fellowship, Musical Theatre Factory's MAKERS Cohort, and Jonathan Larson Grant. Tidtaya is a proud member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild, and Thai Theatre Foundation.

As a playwright and librettist, Isabella Dawis's work has been supported by Musical Theatre Factory, the O'Neill Center, Town Stages, and Central Square Theater. She is a 2019-2020 Rockwell Scholar at the Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts in NYC. Recently, Isabella starred in Jiehae Park's "Peerless" at Theater Mu, opposite her sister Francesca. As a soprano and actor, other recent credits include the New York Philharmonic Biennial, Center for Contemporary Opera, Joe's Pub, 54 Below, the 24 Hour Plays, and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. Isabella is from Minneapolis, where her credits include the Minnesota Opera, the Children's Theatre Company, and the Guthrie Theater.

"Half the Sky" was an inaugural 2019 First Draft Commission by the 5th Avenue Theatre, with additional development at Theater Mu's New Eyes Festival and Theater Latt Da's NEXT Festival.

Two free public concerts of "Half the Sky" will be held at Walker Farm on Saturday, March 7, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Kurt Deutsch of Ghostlight Records will produce the free demo recording. To reserve a free ticket, visit westonplayhouse.org/nma.

Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm is located at 705 Main St., Weston.

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