Four Inaugural First Draft Commissions From the First Draft: Raise Your Voice

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We are thrilled to announce that four writing teams have been selected to receive a First Draft Commission (a commission that will support writers solely through the development of the first draft of their script) following the inaugural First Draft: Raise Your Voice Story Summit. The commissioned teams will have one year 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 four writing teams include Emily Chiu (she/her) and Lauren Taslitz (she/her), Jasmine Joshua (they/them), Alexei Cifrese (she/her, he/him), and Heather Ragusa (she/her), Kit Yan (he/him, she/her, they/them) and Melissa Li (she/her), and Tidtaya Sinutoke (she/her) and Isabella Dawis (she/her). Over the course of the next year, The 5th will give each team a two writer’s retreats, a table read with a professional cast, and one-week reading with a presentation.

Selected from more than 80 submissions, nine teams participated in a Story Summit that took place at The 5th Avenue Theatre September 24 – 28, 2018. The teams had one week of intensive writing time at The 5th with the support of three dramaturgs. At the end of the week, each team had ten minutes to pitch their musicals to a panel of industry professionals representing both regional non-profit theater and commercial theater. The panel made recommendations to The 5th on the four teams to advance to a full first draft commission.

About the First Draft Commissions

2018 FD SS Lauren Taslitz and Emily Chiu 02 credit Mark Kitaoka
l-r Lauren Taslitz (she/her) and Emily Chiu (she/her) at the First Draft Story Summit. Photo credit Mark Kitaoka

Bha Zhang
Emily Chiu (music & lyrics)
Lauren Taslitz (book & lyrics)

After the death of her Ah Ma (grandmother), Alice (a 25-year-old Taiwanese-American) is determined to make her grandma’s special bha zhang (a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves) for her mother for Mother’s Day but cannot track down the recipe among her Ah Ma’s family and friends. Desperate for connection both to her Ah Ma and to her own heritage, Alice sets out on a fevered quest to discover the recipe, which forces her to wade into the pool of her own grief.

2018 FD SS Jasmine Joshua, Alexei Cifrese, and Heather Ragusa 04 credit Tracy Martin
l-r Alexei Cifrese (she/her, he/him), Jasmine Joshua (they them) and Heather Ragusa (she/her) at First Draft Story Summit. Photo credit Tracy Martin

Here and Their
Jasmine Joshua (book, music, and lyrics)
Alexei Cifrese (book and lyrics)
Heather Ragusa (music and lyrics)
Local writing team

In a small town in Big Sky Country, Sam O’Malley’s grandma has requested a family reunion with everyone there—including Aunt Meredith. In an attempt to get to know this estranged relative through traditional means (Google), Sam discovers that Aunt Meredith is, in fact, ‘80s lesbian punk rock icon, Vicki Vektor. As Sam tumbles down the internet rabbit hole, new and confusing concepts like “your gender isn’t the same as your sex” and “trans umbrella,” unearth a lot of personal realizations and questions. Questions that can’t be asked in a conservative Catholic family. But maybe Aunt Meredith can help…

2018 FD SS Kit Yan and Melissa Li 03 credit Tracy Martin
Kit Yan (he/him, she/her, they/them) and Melissa Li (she/her) at the First Draft Story Summit. Photo credit Tracy Martin

Kit Yan (book and lyrics)
Melissa Li (book, music, and lyrics)

Pam is an unremarkable transgender woman in her mid-forties living a basic life in a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey. After her estranged father suddenly passes away, she discovers his secret passion for competitive aerobics. Determined to get closer to the man she never knew, she convinces a ragtag group of trans friends to compete in the regionals with her, but in order to win, she must defeat her high school arch nemesis.

2018 FD SS Isabella Dawis and Tidtaya Sinutoke 01 credit Tracy Martin
l-r Isabella Dawis (she/her) and Tidtaya Sinutoke (she/her) at the First Draft Story Summit. Photo credit Tracy Martin

Half the Sky
Tidtaya Sinutoke (music)
Isabella Dawis (book and lyrics)

A Thai American woman sets out to fulfill her dream of summiting Mount Everest. With the company of a precocious teenage Sherpa and other hopeful climbers from around the world, she is constantly tested by the demands of the climb. As she comes face to face with the mountain’s frozen history, the borders between countries and cultures, past and present, and waking and dreaming begin to blur.

The Story Summit

The inaugural First Draft: Raise Your Voice Story Summit was a thrilling week, bursting with creativity and conversation at The 5th. Writers were in all corners of the building, from the rehearsal halls to dressing rooms on up to a small conference room in the administrative offices on the 7th floor. Three dramaturgs—Matt Perri (he/him, Resident Music Supervisor at The 5th), Allison Narver (she/her, Seattle-based director and artist), and Elissa Adams (she/her, Associate Artistic Director at Theatre Latte Da in Minneapolis) traveled from room to room, listening, asking questions, and giving feedback. The week ended with a powerful ninety-minute pitch session for a panel of national new works leaders and commercial producers followed by a celebratory dinner at Wild Ginger.

The week was moving, inspirational, and provocative. We cannot wait to see what comes next for all the teams who participated.

Check out photos of the week!


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