Six theatre artists will be the focus of the 18th annual Sundance Institute Retreat at Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, taking place January 23 – February 10. Designed to support theatrical writing in its earliest stages, the residency is dedicated to uninhibited creativity, peer mentorship and professional growth.
This year’s group of artists includes experienced composers, playwrights, a performer, and multihyphenate combinations; the residency comprises focused writing and creative time punctuated with organic, sporadic, collaborative time to reflect on process and the world at large.
“The collective strength of this year’s group lies in their dissimilar backgrounds and approaches,” said Philip Himberg, Artistic Director of Sundance Institute’s Theatre Program. “There are vast differences in creative process and experience from artist to artist. The theatre, and the possibilities it offers as a way of expressing their shared humanity, is where these artists can come together to create.”
For the first time and as part of a multi-year strategy, the Institute welcomes an artist from the Middle East / North African region to the Ucross residency: Kamal Khalladi joins as part of the Theatre Program’s ongoing initiative to support and amplify the development of contemporary Arabic language theatre. The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art supports the presence of MENA artists at Theatre Labs and Residencies.
Himberg, along with Sundance Institute dramaturg Mame Hunt, will be on hand to respond to new pages as needed. Also onsite: Jumana Al-Yasiri, Manager of the Sundance Institute’s Middle East and North Africa Programming.
The retreat is one of 25 residency Labs the Institute hosts each year for independent artists in theatre, film, new media and episodic content, and is made possible through the generosity of the Ucross Foundation. Over 90 artists have benefitted from time at Ucross Foundation with the Theatre Program, including Charlayne Woodard, Jeanine Tesori, Doug Wright, Annie Baker, Adam Guettel, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tanya Saracho.
The 2017 Sundance Institute Retreat at Ucross Foundation artists are:
Kurt Carr (artist/composer/songwriter/producer)
As a native of Hartford, Connecticut, Kurt Carr attended the University of Connecticut where he studied classical voice and piano. It is evident that his musical education is the catalyst behind his very eclectic musical varieties. Carr has performed his music in European cathedrals, World-Renowned churches, and in some of the most prestigious venues – The White House, The Kennedy Center, Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, The Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.
Kamal Khalladi (playwright/director)
Kamal Khalladi is from Morocco; his play Damage was presented as a staged reading at the Royal Court Theater in November 2008 and at Masrah Al Madinah in Beirut, Lebanon in January 2009. He was chosen to participate in the PEN World Voices Festival in New York 2010 for the event I come from there, New plays from the Arab World. He attended the Royal Court Theater International Residency for Emerging Playwrights in 2008 and is the winner of the Sharjah Prize for Arab creativity in 2010. His monodrama play Visa (2012) and Salmon meal (2015) were selected among the top 10 plays and published by the Organization of Fujairah Culture and Media in Arabic and English versions.
Billy Porter (performer/director)
Billy Porter is a Tony Award, Grammy Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award winner for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Lola in the Tony Award winning Best Musical Kinky Boots. Recent television and film credits include The Get Down, The Humbling, Law & Order SVU. He solo recordings include: Untitled, At The Corner Of Broadway and Soul, Billy’s Back On Broadway and the forthcoming Soul Of Rogers. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and UCLA (screenwriting). Some directing credits include: Being Alive, Rent (associate Off-Broadway), The Colored Museum, TopDog/UnderDog, The Wiz, Once On This Island (NAACP Award). His play While I Yet Live had its premiere Off-Broadway in Fall 2014.
Theresa Rebeck (playwright)
Theresa Rebeck’s plays include Mauritius, Seminar and Dead Accounts, Spike Heels, Loose Knit, The Family of Mann, The Water’s Edge, The Scene, The Butterfly Collection, The Bells, Bad Dates, The Nest, Omnium Gatherum, View of the Dome, Poor Behavior and The Understudy. Her work has been produced on and off Broadway, regionally and internationally. Novels include Three Girls and Their Brother (Crown) and I’m Glad About You (Putnam), which will come out in paperback this spring.
Benjamin Velez (composer/lyricist)
Benjamin Velez is a Columbia University graduate where he studied film and wrote the 114th Annual Varsity Show. He has been a member of the BMI workshop since 2010 and won the Jerry Harrington Award in 2012. His work has been featured at the Yale Institute for Music Theater, NYMF, Joe’s Pub, NEO, Cutting Edge Composers, the Civilians, 4@15, and the York Theater where his original musical Afterland was workshopped with director Mark Brokaw. Originally from Miami, he is now happy to call himself a Brooklynite.
Leah Nanako Winkler (playwright)
Leah Nanako Winkler’s play Kentucky recently received its world premiere Off-Broadway at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in coproduction with Page 73 and Radio Drama Network and a subsequent West Coast Premiere at East West Players. Other plays include Two Mile Hollow (2016 CAATA conference at OSF, Kilroys honorable mention), Death For Sydney Black (terraNova collective, Kilroys honorable mention) and more. She is a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Playwrights Group, a 2016 2018 Time Warner fellow at the Women’s Project and a member of EST.