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Half the Sky, a New Musical Commissioned by The 5th Avenue Theatre’s First Draft Program, to be Produced as Musical Radio Play in 20/21 Digital Season
Last Edit: Official_Press_Release 11:12 am EST 11/20/20
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 04:39 pm EST 11/19/20

Half the Sky, a New Musical Commissioned by The 5th Avenue Theatre's First Draft Program, to be Produced as Musical Radio Play in 20/21 Digital Season

Music by Tidtaya Sinutoke
Book and Lyrics by Isabella Dawis
Directed by Desdemona Chiang
Music Direction by Robert Frost

(Thursday, November 19, 2020—SEATTLE) The 5th Avenue Theatre is thrilled to announce that Half the Sky, a new contemporary American musical with music by Tidtaya Sinutoke and book and lyrics by Isabella Dawis, will be the first of three Musical Radio Plays produced in its 2020/21 digital season. Released as a vivid, multi-episode podcast series that will be available for streaming in January of 2021, Half the Sky was originally commissioned by The 5th Avenue Theatre in the inaugural First Draft: Raise Your Voice Story Summit in 2018. Half the Sky is only available as a part of an Essential 5th Digital Collection subscription and is included in the Essential 5th Originals ($99 and available to purchase starting in early December), Essential 5th PLUS ($600), and the Essential 5th Premium ($1250) digital subscription packages. Complete package details available at www.5thavenue.org/subscribe.

Half the Sky is directed by Seattle-based and Princess Grace Award winning director Desdemona Chiang. The cast features Shannon Tyo (Off-Broadway: The Chinese Lady, Kentucky) as Aurelie, 5th Avenue Theatre regular Diana Huey (The 5th: Disney's The Little Mermaid, Rock of Ages) as Eve, Kendyl Ito (Off-Broadway: Soft Power, Wild Goose Dreams) as Dawa, Klea Blackhurst (Off-Broadway: Party Face, Bingo) as Liz, Broadway's Christine Toy Johnson (Come From Away) as Mae, Jama Nanthakumar (La Jolla Playhouse: Diana) as Rod, and James Seol (Broadway: A Naked Girl on the Appian Way) as Jerry.

"It's always exciting to watch a new musical take another step in its development," said The 5th Avenue Theatre's Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry. "Though creating Half the Sky as a radio play isn't something Tidtaya, Isabella, and the rest of the creative team probably imagined would be part of that journey, working under the guise of a pandemic has presented an unique opportunity for them to more deeply focus on the story and music. The power of imagination has become even more vital as the way we engage with storytelling has shifted in the last eight months"we're excited for audiences to experience a new musical in this historically beloved format.

A year after her sister's death, Aurelie sets out to fulfill her childhood dream of climbing Mount Everest. She joins an international group of mountaineers, led by a teenage Sherpa. As Aurelie embarks on her path to the top of the world, memories of her Thai American past and the unresolved rift between herself and her sister begin to surface. Borders between countries and cultures, past and present, and waking and dreaming blur in this epic journey of ambition, survival and reconciliation. A contemporary American musical on a global scale, Half the Sky is infused with the sounds of traditional Thai and Himalayan folk music.

About the Cast

Shannon Tyo makes her 5th Avenue Theatre debut as Aurelie. She was seen Off-Broadway in The Chinese Lady, Kentucky, and Bikeman. Select regional credits include The Good Book (Berkeley Rep), Fun Home (Baltimore Center Stage), Broadway Bounty Hunter (Barrington Stage), Smart People (Geva Theatre), The White Snake (The Old Globe), and Miss Saigon (Pioneer Theatre Co, MT Wichita). Her TV credits include 30 Rock, Rediscovering Christmas, and The Last O.G. Tyo has a BFA from Syracuse University.

Diana Huey returns to The 5th as Eve. Huey, a Seattle native now living in New York City, was part of Half the Sky's Weston Playhouse company. She's best known for playing Kim in Miss Saigon (Helen Hayes Award) and Ariel in The 5th Avenue Theatre and National Touring production of Disney's The Little Mermaid (Gregory Award), where she made international headlines for her exceptional performances and for facing down adversity as an Asian American actress in a traditionally white role. Her credits at The 5th include Rock of Ages, Jasper In Deadland, RENT, Mame, and Adventure Musical Theatre.

Kendyl Ito makes her debut at The 5th as Dawa. A New York City-based actor, she was most recently seen as Marcy Park in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Skylight Music Theatre and as Jing/Professor Li Biyu in Soft Power at The Public Theater. Other theater credits include Hortensia in Matilda (1st National Tour), Jeongmoon in Locusts at The Yale Carlotta Festival, Heejin in Wild Goose Dreams at The Public Theater, and Connie Wong in A Chorus Line with director Baayork Lee. Ito loves new musical/play development and has been seen in readings and concerts throughout the Manhattan area.


Klea Blackhurst joins the cast as Liz. Known for her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman, Everything The Traffic Will Allow, she recently starred Off-Broadway opposite Hayley Mills in Party Face. She played the title role in the world premiere of Hazel at Drury Lane in Chicago, a classic second banana in The Nutty Professor, premiering in Nashville and directed by Jerry Lewis with a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Rupert Holmes, and starred as Dolly in Goodspeed Opera's 50th Anniversary production of Hello, Dolly! Her most recent project, One of the Girls, celebrates the words and music of Jerry Herman. She is a distinguished alumna of the University of Utah.

Christine Toy Johnson returns to The 5th as Mae. She is an award-winning writer, actor, and advocate for inclusion. She has been featured extensively on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in regional theaters across the country, in nearly 100 film and television shows and is on "extended intermission" from the North American tour of Come From Away due to the COVID19 pandemic. Her written works have been produced and/or developed by the Roundabout, Village Theatre, Barrow Group, Prospect Theatre, Weston Playhouse, O'Neill, Abingdon and more and are included in the Library of Congress's Asian Pacific American Performing Arts Collection. Rosetta LeNoire, JACL, Asian American Arts Alliance, Obie awards for advocacy in diversity and inclusion.

Jamen Nanthakumar makes his 5th Avenue Theatre debut as Rod. Nanthakumar is a New York-based actor, originally from San Diego, and joins Half the Sky again after being part of the recent Weston Playhouse company. His recent credits include Mary Stuart (Pioneer Theatre Company), MAYA (Hypokrit Theatre Company), Diana (La Jolla Playhouse), Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Pioneer Theatre Company), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Pittsburgh Public). He has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Pace University.

James Seol makes his debut at The 5th as Jerry. He was seen on Broadway in A Naked Girl on the Appian Way (Roundabout Theatre Company) and Off-Broadway in [Veil Widow Conspiracy]; Henry VI (National Asian-American Theatre Company); American Morning (Prospect Theater Company); KPOP (Ars Nova/Ma-Yi/Woodshed Collective, Lucille Lortel Award Nomination); and Small Mouth Sounds (Ars Nova). Regional credits include The Great Leap (Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination); Vietgone, The Orphan of Zhao (American Conservatory Theatre); The Four Immigrants, Tokyo Fish Story (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley); Zombie: the American (Woolly Mammoth); Hamlet (Hartford Stage); Timon of Athens (Shakespeare Theatre Company). TV credits include The Flight Attendant (HBO Max); Living with Yourself (Netflix); Insomnia (Webseries). Seol is a graduate of the Juilliard School and the University of Virginia.

About the Writers
Tidtaya Sinutoke (ฑิตยา สินุธก) is a Thailand born, New York City-based composer. Composition credits: Half the Sky (The 5th Avenue Theatre's First Draft Commission), Sunwatcher (The Civilians R&D Group), Clouds are Pillows for the Moon (Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Kilroy's Honorable Mentions), Hart Island Requiem (The Civilians R&D Group, Polyphone Festival), and Water is Life (NYMF - How the Light Gets In). She was awarded a 2017 Jonathan Larson Grant, the 2020 Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award, and the 2020 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award, presented by the Ziegfeld Club in partnership with New York Stage and Film. She's also a recipient of the Composer-Librettists Studio at New Dramatists, Johnny Mercer Songwriter Projects, EtM Con Edison Composer-in-Residence, MTF's MAKERS Cohort, and Rhinebeck Writers Retreat. A proud member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild, Maestra, and Thai Theatre Foundation. BM: Berklee College of Music; MFA: NYU. tidtayasinutoke.com

Isabella Dawis is the bookwriter and lyricist for Half the Sky — an inaugural 5th Avenue Theatre First Draft Commission, for which she and Tidtaya Sinutoke won the 2020 Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award. Half the Sky has also been developed at Theater Mu, Theater Latté Da, the O'Neill Center, and the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, with selections featured in the Kurt Weill Foundation's Lotte Lenya Competition Songbook. Isabella and Tidtaya are also collaborating on a new chamber musical, Sunwatcher, about Japanese female astronomer Hisako Koyama (Civilians R&D, Weston Playhouse's Songs for Today). Isabella's writing has been supported by Musical Theatre Factory, the American Theatre Wing, New York Theatre Barn, Broadway on Demand, Bushwick Starr, Broadway Buskers, the 24 Hour Plays, Central Square Theater, the Skeleton Rep, New England Conservatory, and the Schubert Club. 2019-2020 Rockwell Scholarship, Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts. B.M. piano performance, University of Minnesota; Classical Voice, New England Conservatory.

About the Director
Desdemona Chiang is a stage director based in Seattle, WA and Ashland, OR. Co-Founder of Azeotrope (Seattle). Directing credits include Guthrie Theater, Alley Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, California Shakespeare Theater, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Playmakers Repertory Company, Studio Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, ACT Theatre Seattle, American Shakespeare Center, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Village Theatre, Theatre Latte Da, Heritage Theatre Festival, Book-It Repertory, Aurora Theatre Company, Theatre Latte Da, Seattle Public Theatre, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire Theatre Company, Azeotrope, Impact Theatre, Playwrights Foundation, Golden Thread Productions, Washington Ensemble Theatre, One Minute Play Festival, Ohio Northern University, University of Washington, and Cornish College of the Arts, among others. Assisting and dramaturgy credits include: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Playmakers Repertory Company, A Contemporary Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, Intiman Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Magic Theatre, Theatreworks, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, among others. Intersection for the Arts Triangle Lab Artist-Investigator. Adjunct Faculty, Cornish College of the Arts. Awards/Affiliations: Princess Grace Award (Robert and Gloria Hausman Theater Honor), Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Theatre, SDC Sir John Gielgud Directing Fellowship, Drama League Directing Fellowship, TCG Young Leader of Color, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and Directors Lab West. Gregory Award Recipient for Outstanding Direction. BA: University of California at Berkeley. MFA Directing: University of Washington School of Drama.

About the Music Director
Robert Frost is a New York City-based music director, pianist, and educator. Select music director credits include Half the Sky (The 5th Ave Theatre/Theatre Latte Da); Minor Character (New Saloon/Under the Radar); (An Audio Guide for) Unsung Snails and Heroes (MTC); Miss Blanche Tells It All (NYMF); We Live In Cairo and Cardboard Piano (O'Neill Theater Center); Guys and Dolls and My Fair Lady (Arkansas Shakespeare Theater). As a pianist and music director, Robert has also worked with Ogunquit Playhouse, Arkansas Rep, The Cher Show Lab, Berkshire Theater Group, New Georges, NYU, Celebrity Cruises, New Dramatists, and Lincoln Center. As an educator, Robert has worked with Brown University, Hunter College, and Connecticut College. Robert serves on the voice faculty of New Studio on Broadway at NYU and The O'Neill Theater Center's National Musical Theatre Institute.

Additional staff includes Michael Matlock (music assistant), Brendan Hogan (sound design/mixing), Derek Smith (copyist), Benjawan (Pia) Suwannakateskaul (Thai language coach), Nima Sherpa (Sherpa consultant), and Chalin Tulyathan (casting).


About The 5th Avenue Theatre

The 5th Avenue Theatre is one of America's leading musical theater companies. We enrich the community we love with the art form we love—giving the Pacific Northwest a front-row seat to original powerhouse productions that go on to light up marquees and audiences all the way to Broadway. From the page to the stage, we bring passion and epic scale to every musical we create. With big talent. Bigger-than-life productions. And did we mention dazzle? As a nonprofit theater company and our region's largest performing arts employer, we spread the joy of great musicals with people of all ages across our region and state. Each year, we reach 75,000 young people through our nationally acclaimed education programs. Programs designed to develop new musicals ensure that the next generation of great musicals will be there to tell the stories that captivate tomorrow's audiences. On the national stage, we are a leading voice for the power of this American art form to lift the human spirit.


For more information about The 5th Avenue Theatre, its season and its programs, please visit www.5thavenue.org.

Special thanks to Half the Sky contributing sponsor Princess Grace Foundation. Additional thanks to The 5th Avenue Theatre's 2020/21 Season sponsors ArtsFund and U.S. Bank.
Link http://www.5thavenue.org
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