Keen Company is proud to announce its first musical commission: a new musical by Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days, Scotland, PA). Keen presented Gwon’s Ordinary Days in Fall of 2018 to great acclaim, including a nomination for the 2019 Drama League Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway).
“I am so grateful to the NEA and The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund for their support in helping Keen commission and develop a new musical by Adam Gwon. When I assumed the Artistic Director position, it was my dream to commission a new intimate musical. Smaller musicals that speak honestly and poetically are rare to find, yet they are in high demand for companies around the country. Ever since I met Adam Gwon, and subsequently produced and directed his musical Ordinary Days, it became clear that he would be the perfect fit for Keen’s first ever musical commission. His heartfelt writing and skillful drawing of complex relationships, coupled with his emotional searing melodies, beautifully examine today’s world. Thanks to the NEA’s and The Shen’s support, we look forward to working with Adam closely over the next few years to bring more of his work to fruition,” said Keen Company Artistic Director Jonathan Silverstein.
Partial support for this commission comes from a Grant for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects like this one from Keen Company that help support the community’s creative economy,” said NEA Acting Chair Ann Eilers. “Keen Company in NYC is among the arts organizations nationwide that are using the arts as a source of strength, a path to well-being, and providing access and opportunity for people to connect and find joy through the arts.”
Additional support for the commission has been provided by The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, which concentrates its musical theater grants on providing funding support for the works of exceptionally gifted and highly original musical theater composers. The Foundation’s mission is to encourage originality, innovation and high artistic aspiration in the musical composition component of musical theater, and its grants are made to selected not-for-profit organizations to support original commissions, theatrical productions and, in certain circumstances, cast recordings of the works of composers who have the potential to advance the art form. Currently, the Foundation’s grants are focused almost exclusively on its commissioning programs and on major New York productions of works by its commissioned composers. The Foundation’s Musical Theater Composers Initiative concentrates its funding support on the works of a select group of exceptionally gifted musical theater composers whose writing is distinguished by originality, innovation and an advanced harmonic sensibility. To date, that group of composers has remained relatively small and consists primarily of Stephen Sondheim and, among the next generation of composers, Michael John LaChiusa, Ricky Ian Gordon, Adam Guettel, Gabriel Kahane, Marisa Michelson, Jeanine Tesori and Joseph Thalken. Since 2002 the Foundation has committed grants to not-for-profit organizations to commission 20 new musicals, primarily through Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA) and the Public Theater (NY); and to provide major funding for more than 35 productions of works by Stephen Sondheim, more than 75 productions of works by commissioned and other contemporary composers, and more than 20 cast recordings.
Adam Gwon is a musical theater writer named one of “50 to Watch” by The Dramatist magazine and hailed “a promising newcomer to our talent-hungry musical theater” whose songs are “funny, urbane, with a sweetness that doesn’t cloy” by The New York Times. His musicals have been produced on six continents, in more than half a dozen languages. Off-Broadway: Scotland, PA (Roundabout Theatre, Drama Desk Award nomination, New York Times Critic’s Pick), Ordinary Days (Roundabout Theatre; Keen Company, Drama League Award nomination – Best Revival), Old Jews Telling Jokes (Westside Theatre, New York Times Critic’s Pick); Regional: String (Village Theatre),Cake Off (Signature Theatre, Helen Hayes Award nomination; Bucks County Playhouse), Cloudlands (South Coast Repertory), The Boy Detective Fails (Signature Theatre), Bernice Bobs Her Hair (Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma); West End: Ordinary Days (Trafalgar Studios). Other projects include The Waves in Quarantine (a film collaboration with Lisa Peterson and Raúl Esparza), songs as a staff writer on the hit webseries Submissions Only, and for Stephen Schwartz and John Tartaglia’s The Secret Silk on Princess Cruise Lines. Adam is the proud recipient of the Kleban Award, the Fred Ebb Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Frederick Loewe Award, the Second Stage Theatre Donna Perret Rosen Award, the Weston Playhouse New Musical Award, the ASCAP Harold Adamson Award, and the MAC John Wallowitch Award, as well as commissions from Roundabout Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, Signature Theatre, South Coast Repertory, the Kimmel Center, and Broadway Across America. His songs have been heard at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and more, performed by such luminaries as Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara, and Brian d’Arcy James. Recordings of Adam’s work include the cast album of Ordinary Days (Ghostlight Records), Audra McDonald’s “Go Back Home” (Nonesuch), “Artists in Residence” (Broadway Records), “The Essential Liz Callaway” (Working Girl Records), Tracy Lynn Olivera’s “Because,” and “Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project” (Entertainment One). Adam has been a fellow at MacDowell, Hermitage Artist Retreat, the O’Neill Music Theater Conference, and the Dramatists Guild, is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is a member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild. He served on the Tony Awards Nominating Committee from 2015-2018, and currently sits on the Board at Roundabout Theatre Company and Primary Stages.