Voices of new American Musical Theatre showcased at Cape Theater
by Dennis Forney
The Cape Gazette, July 25, 2003 — A group of graduates of the
Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program lit up the
stage at Cape Henlopen High School July 21.
The two-hour program showcased songs and three short musicals performed by
professional actors and the writers and composers themselves. An audience of
about 130 listened intently to original music and lyrics that may or may not
make the long and arduous journey to the major stages of the nation and world.
The pieces deal with everything from light comedy involving stylish dogs to
serious pieces about romantic relationships between people, racism and the
civil rights movement, and politics and war.
Blood Drive, a one-act musical by Rachel Sheinkin and Joel Derfner,
evolved from an advertisement seeking blood donors. Both comic and serious,
the piece demonstrates how all the dynamics of life — love and fear and
expectation and disappointment and hope — can be distilled and carried
deep into the souls of viewers through clever lyrics and engaging music. A trio
with lines of counterpoint and beautiful harmony rises from a casual observation
that the donor has blood of a rich, beautiful color — “Blood Like
Burgundy Wine” — and the trip to the blood donation site rises into
the atmosphere of heady romance.
The rich and distilled art form of musical theater — with still moments
where realization turns on like a bulb — reveals itself when the hero
of the musical — a freelance proofreader — is informed that his
blood is Type O. “Typo!” he repeats, in a flourishing affirmation
that his life is worthwhile. Of course, in the grand tradition of American optimism,
the affirmation is sealed in stone when the hero learns that Type O belongs
to universal donors.
Many of the original pieces deal with the sharing of souls — the universality
of mankind. The trip to the blood donation site becomes a physical and spiritual
sharing of those souls. When the donor learns — from the ad — that
one pint of blood can “save up to three lives,” he implores: “if
you have a choice, save all three.”
Sarah Schlesinger splits her time between Lewes and New York City, where she
is chair of the Tisch School’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program.
It is the only university program in the world teaching this essential art
form. In her program notes for the evening of New American Musical Theater,
Schlesinger wrote: “Our goal is to help each student find his or her own
voice—not to imitate the work of the past. We encourage them to constantly
rediscover new ways in which music and words can be combined to create theater
that both speaks to our most basic, universal concerns and reflects the times
in which we live.”
Schlesinger teamed up with the Coastal Concerts and Henlopen Theatre Project
organizers to bring the graduates to Lewes. The goal is to give the students
a few days at the coast and to showcase their works for the benefit of the local
“As a long-time resident of Lewes, I am excited to see a connection growing
between these writers and composers and our town,” wrote Schlesinger.
This year’s show marks the second year of what is hoped will be a long
tradition of bringing these new voices to the area.
“In future years, we look forward to bringing readings of new full-length
musicals, more song nights, songwriting classes for area children, and public
conversations about changing directions in American Musical Theater in what
we hope will be an expanding collaboration with the community of Lewes,”
The graduates were housed in the homes of many people in the Lewes community
and many said they look forward to returning next year for the third annual
Evening of New American Musical Theater.
Count My Blessings
(lyrics by Mindi Dickstein)
(lyrics by Diana Hansen-Young)