TheaterWorksUSA and Paper Mill Playhouse have joined forces to produce and film a fully staged, socially distanced production of TheaterWorks' 2008 Lortel-nominated musical We the People: America Rocks! by Joe Iconis, Eli Bolin, Douglas Lyons, and more.
Rashidra Scott (Company, Ain't Too Proud), Zach Piser (Dear Evan Hansen), Josh Breckenridge (Come From Away), Orville Mendoza (Peter and the Starcatcher), and Dan Rosales (Godspell) star in the performance, which debuts on Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley's Stars in the House, streaming on YouTube, October 24.
The musical, which premiered Off-Broadway in 2008, sees America's founding fathers become a rock group to help an ambitious teen (Scott) on her journey to win her school election. We the People features a book by Iconis and songs by Iconis, Brad Alexander and Kevin Del Aguila (Dog Man: The Musical), Sam Forman and Bolin (Co-op), Iconis, Tommy Newman, Adam Overett, Erik Weiner, Mark Weiner, and Jordan Allen-Dutton. The filmed performance also includes a new finale penned by Lyons and Ethan Pakchar (Beau).
Following the streaming premiere, the filmed performance will stream to families nationwide prior to election day and be made available to schools and theatres for the remainder of the academic year.
The filmed performance allows TheaterWorksUSA to continue its mission of bringing educational live theatre to students around the country, even as the spread of COVID-19 has shuttered most live theatre worldwide. The company traditionally develops and produces hour-long original plays and musicals that tour the country playing schools and theatres, along with an annual summer production presented at Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel Theatre that is offered to NYC-area students and families for free. The company has long served as a springboard for up-and-coming theatre writers, including Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, Lawrence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, Julia Jordan, and Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. The Lightning Thief, which toured the country and enjoyed a 2019 Broadway run, was also originally developed and produced as a TheaterWorksUSA title.
"Though the show originally premiered in 2008, the topics of how the American government is structured, the Electoral College, and the importance of each and every vote certainly resonate today," says TheaterWorksUSA Artistic Director Barbara Pasternack. "We were thrilled to bring together this incredible team and update the finale to remind us all that the success of our democracy depends on every person understanding how to participate and how each voice can make a difference."
"We rehearsed a week on Zoom, which was a good start, but the true collaboration began when we were all together in a tent in the parking lot at Paper Mill," adds Greenberg. "Even behind masks, you could sense the palpable excitement to be occupying the same space. And when we finally went into the building for tech, there were tears of joy everywhere. It was like spending a week in a past life and, hopefully, a not-too-distant future life. Revisiting this insanely buoyant, witty, and tuneful show was a profound pleasure."
More information on bringing We the People to classrooms, theatres, and homes is available at TWUSA.org.