TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has launched its first-ever official Commissioning Program, which will designate the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Commissioning Fund and Susan Fairbrook Playwright Fund towards the creation of new theatre.
The Tony-winning company is launching the program with two musicals and a play. How to Build a Revolution (working title) features music and lyrics by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Paula Cole, with a book by Lynn Rosen and Pia Wilson. Described as an "irreverant new rock musical," the work focuses on second wave feminist icons Betty Friedan, Helen Gurley Brown, and Flo Kennedy. The musical held a developmental workshop with TheatreWorks' Writers Retreat last month with Giovanna Sardelli at the helm. The work has also received developmental assistance from the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and Goodspeed Musicals.
The second musical is written by Bay Area playwright and composer Min Kahng, and currently has the working title Happy Pleasant Valley: A Senior Sex Scandal Murder Mystery Musical. The musical centers on a vlogger—in hot water for making ageist remarks on her channel—who endeavors to save her grandmother from being kicked out of her senior living facility, only to learn that the eviction stems from a string of male residents who pass away shortly after sleeping with her, which might just be a frame job. The work received a workshop in December 2022 led by director Jeffrey Lo.
Lo is also the recipient of the Susan Fairbrook Playwright Fund, providing the play commission. Details on the work being developed have not been revealed. A reading of Lo's Writing Fragments Home was streamed by TheatreWorks in 2021.
Over its more-than-50 year history, TheatreWorks has established itself as an incubator for new works. Though this program is the first formal commissioning program, the theatre previously commissioned such works as The Sparrow and the Bird Man by Chris Smith and Raquel Bitton; Molly’s Delicious with music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and a book by Craig Wright; and Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, with music by Brendan Milburn, lyrics by Valerie Vigoda, and a book by Joe DiPietro. The latter, co-commissioned with La Jolla Playhouse, played an Off-Broadway run in 2017 that was filmed on stage and is available to stream on BroadwayHD.
For more information on the program and theatre's other new works initiatives, visit TheatreWorks.org.