Brind School Buzz


Pictured above: the cast of Crush with authors Stew and Yasmine Lever (center front)

A new musical featuring book and lyrics by Yasmine Lever and music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald will be one of the works featured in the second annual New Play Festival to be held at the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia early in 2013. The authors of a new play and a new musical will be in residence at the school for two weeks in January to develop their work, giving student actors and dramaturgs the opportunity to experience first-hand the process by which new work is developed. This year, the Brind School received nearly two hundred submissions for the festival, and Assistant Professor P. Seth Bauer and students in the Brind School’s Dramaturgy class reviewed the submissions and selected the finalists.

The musical CRUSH and the play A FRONTIER, AS TOLD BY THE FRONTIER will be the featured works  in this season’s New Play Festival. CRUSH, a new musical with book and lyrics by Yasmine Lever and music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, is a star-crossed love story set against the backdrop of race riots in contemporary London. A FRONTIER, AS TOLD BY THE FRONTIER a play by Jason Gray Platt, is a dystopian fantasy about a group of four orphaned children and their caretaker, among the last bastion of a population torn by civil war, who inhabit an abandoned government-run theme park.

Public presentations of CRUSH will be presented on Friday February 1 at 7pm and Saturday February 2 at 3pm; A FRONTIER will be presented on Thursday January 31 and Saturday February 2 at 7pm. All performances will be held in the Philadelphia Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St., on the University of the Arts’ campus on the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia. Visit or call 215-717-6450 for reservations.

The New Play Festival began last weekend with EQUINOX, an evening of one-act plays written, produced, directed, designed and performed by Brind School students, under the leadership of DPP junior Savanah Knechel.  A reading of BLACKFACE, a new play by DPP senior Haygen Walker, was held on Monday, January 28 as part of the preparations for that work’s April premiere.

The Festival includes another event on Saturday, February 2 at 1pm, when Philadelphia Young Playwrights will present two one-act plays written by area high school students, directed and performed by students from the Brind School. In addition, on Sunday, February 3 at 1pm the New Play Festival will present a reading of SELF:SAME a new work by Irish playwright Ciara Ní Chuirc that will receive its premiere production later in February in a Brind School production directed by Senior Directing major Brey Ann Barrett as her senior project. Both events will be held on at the Philadelphia Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St. This ten-day array of events attests to the fact that new play development is a lively and important part of the artistic life of the Brind School.

More complete details on this year’s New Play Festival, including biographies of the principal artists, can be found below. Tickets for the performances can be reserved online at or by telephone at 215-717-6450; all performances are free.


Reading of student one-acts - Monday January 28, 7pm, Laurie Beechman Cabaret Theater at the Arts Bank
Performances of “A Frontier” - Thursday January 31 and Saturday February 2 at 7pm, Arts Bank
Performances of “Crush” - Friday February 1 at 7pm and Saturday February 2 at 3pm, Arts Bank
Philadelphia Young Playwrights presentation of short plays by high school students - Saturday February 2 at 1pm, Arts Bank
Reading of “Self:Same” by Ciara Ní Chuirc - Sunday February 3 at 1pm, Arts Bank



In an abandoned government-run theme park, a group of four orphaned children and their caretaker find themselves among the last bastion of a population torn by civil war. When one of the children decides to leave the park, the fragile equilibrium of the group begins to unravel. Jason Gray Platt’s dystopian fantasy was a finalist for the 2011 O’Neill Playwrights Conference and was workshopped by Columbia Stages in MFA New Voices Festival at the Cherry Pit in New York City.

JASON GRAY PLATT’s work has been produced and developed around the country by American Repertory Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Round House Theater, the Institute for Contemporary Art/Boston, Red Bull Theater, Page 73, Ensemble Studio Theater, Columbia University, The Inkwell, The Inconvenience, The Abingdon Theater, and Samuel French. He received his MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University, where he studied under Charles Mee.

A FRONTIER will be directed by JILL HARRISON, who most recently directed A BRIGHT NEW BOISE at Simpatico Theater Company. Jill is the Festival Director for PTC @ PLAY, the Philadelphia Theater Company’s New Play Festival, and holds an MFA in Directing from Temple University.

book and lyrics by Yasmine Lever
music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” CRUSH is the tale of a doomed inter-racial romance set against the backdrop of race riots in contemporary London. An earlier version of CRUSH was presented in New York City last summer in an Equity workshop directed by Kent Gash.

Heidi Rodewald has spent more than a decade as a performer, arranger, producer and composer for both The Negro Problem and the multi-disciplinary ensemble known as Stew. Credits include PASSING STRANGE, Berkeley Repertory Theatre/the Public Theater/the Belasco Theater (2006/2007/2008); composer, Karen Kandel’s Portraits: Night and Day (2004); and co-writer with Stew of the screenplay We Can See Today, Sundance Screenwriters Lab/Directors Lab (2005). Heidi also wrote and performed with the seminal female punk band Wednesday Week.

Works include PASSING STRANGE, for which he received the 2008 Tony award for ‘Best Book of a Musical.’ Wrote lyrics and co-composed music for the same. Two-time Obie winner: ‘Best New Theater Piece’ and, as a member of the PS acting family, ‘Best Ensemble.’ A four-time Tony nominee, Stew leads, along with his collaborator Heidi Rodewald, two critically acclaimed bands: The Negro Problem and Stew. Works: “Post Minstrel Syndrome” (TNP 1997), “Joys and Concerns “(TNP 1999), “Guest Host” (S 2000), “The Naked Dutch Painter” (S 2002), “Welcome Black” (TNP 2002), “Something Deeper Than These Changes” (S 2003) and the cast album of PASSING STRANGE (2008). Artist-in-residence at the California Institute of the Arts (2004/5); PASSING STRANGE: Berkeley Repertory Theater/the Public Theater/the Belasco Theater (2006/2007/2008). But what Stew will ultimately be remembered for is having composed “Gary Come Home” for SpongeBob SquarePants.

SWOON: Theater 503, CRUSH, Equity workshop director Kent Gash. PLAY FOR CHANGE, Equity workshop New York University (music Dimitri Landrain). MONSTERS, Leicester Square Theater, PUNK PRINCESS (music Stew and Heidi Rodewald, director Jackson Gay), New York Musical Theater Festival 2009. Yasmine’s short plays, short musicals and short operas have been past of numerous festivals and shown all over New York and London including The Flea Theater, The Duplex, Lincoln Center New Voices Now, Theater 503, The Hard Rock Cafe. She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of The Arts Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program in 2012.

CRUSH will be directed by CHARLES GILBERT, Director of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts. Gilbert’s recent directing credits include Sondheim’s ANYONE CAN WHISTLE (Prince Music Theater) and Gertrude Stein’s cubist lesbian romance A LYRICAL OPERA MADE BY TWO (Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theater). Among his credits as a writer and composer are LEADING LADY (book by Seth Bauer), GEMINI THE MUSICAL (book by Albert Innaurato) and the 1979 musical ASSASSINS, source of the idea for the Sondheim musical of the same name.

Music direction will be provided by ERIC EBBENGA. A winner of multiple Barrymore Awards for his music direction, Ebbenga’s work has been featured at the Arden Theater, Philadelphia Theater Company and 11th Hour Theater Company, and he teaches in the Brind School at the University of the Arts.

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