Generation Now | 2024 Update

The five theatres of the landmark Generation Now partnership (Latino Theater Company, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Native Voices, Penumbra, and Children’s Theatre Company) are pleased to announce the progress made in the development of multiple commissions by BIPOC artists, of new works for multigeneration audiences. 

The current commissions which will be available for licensing through Plays for New Audiences post production include Michi Barall’s Drawing Lessons, Dustin Tahmahkera’s Comanche Girl on the Moon, Gabriel Rivas Gómez’s Level Up, Kalani Queypo and Chadwick Johnson’s The Mainlanders, and Folklórico, a work exploring the world of folklórico dance created by Latino Theater Company.

“We are thrilled to be working in partnership with the extraordinary leaders of Generation Now,” said Children’s Theatre Company Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius. “These are all remarkable individuals who lead critically important theatre companies. Creating these new plays together offers a way for the American theatre to develop important new audiences, find equitable and respectful ways to partner and give voice to artists whose stories need to be told. It is an honor and a joy to bring this work to life and to have the expertise and insights of these artists remaking our field.”

Each of these are co-commissions in which both theatres were involved in the selection of the artists and the subject matter, and have worked together on the play’s development through readings, workshops, and dramaturgical conversations. It is anticipated that each of the projects will go through multiple drafts and revisions before its premiere.

The aim of Generation Now is that each play or musical will be produced by each of the commissioning theatres. These may be co-productions or completely independent productions. The co-productions may involve sharing actors, creative teams, and designs, or simply sharing the physical production or some other way of collaborating. The co-commissioning theatres will determine how each of their projects will be produced.

The goal of the Generation Now partnership is to expand the canon of work produced for multigenerational audiences and create a model of transformative partnership for the theatre field. With funding received from the Mellon Foundation in 2021, the consortium is committed to co-commission and co-develop 16 new plays by both established and emerging BIPOC artists for multigenerational audiences over five years. The partners strongly believe that if we are to have an extraordinary theatre culture in this country, we must start young, and it must be intergenerational, inclusive, inspiring, transformative, and lifelong.

General Information 

  • An intersectional partnership such as Generation Now is unprecedented in the American theatre.
  • All commissions will receive at least two developmental workshops at the co-commissioning theatres.
  • All of the artistic directors of the partner theatres are leaders in their field.
  • There are monthly, open-ended convenings of the round table of all the leaders involved with Generation Now.
  • Generation Now also provides an opportunity for the partner theatres to exchange best practices.
  • Six of the eight currently commissioned BIPOC playwrights are writing for multigenerational audiences for the first time.
  • Before any conversation happens with a playwright, both organizations meet together to discuss and synthesize their notes and then meet jointly with the playwright.   

Updates on New Commissions

Drawing Lessons by Michi Barall, co-commissioned by Ma-Yi Theater Company (New York, New York) and Children’s Theatre Company (Minneapolis, Minnesota):

  • January 2023: Drawing Lessons received a workshop in Minneapolis at Children’s Theatre Company.
  • April 2023: Drawing Lessons received a workshop in New York City at Ma-Yi Theater Company (during Generation Now’s Annual Convening).
  • June 2023:  Drawing Lessons received a reading in New York at Ma-Yi Theater Company.
  • July 2023: Drawing Lessons received a reading in New York at Ma-Yi Theater Company.
  • October 25-29, 2023: Drawing Lessons received a workshop in Minneapolis at Children’s Theatre Company.
  • October 8-November 10, 2024: The world premiere of Drawing Lessons will take place in Minneapolis at Children’s Theatre Company, under the direction of Jack Tamburri.
  • November 2024: Drawing Lessons is available for licensing

“Ma-Yi Theater has a long history working with Michi Barall, both as performer and writer, so we are thrilled to have her as the first commissioned playwright of Generation Now,” stated Ma-Yi Theater Artistic Director Ralph Peña. “Peter and I are very excited by Michi’s script Drawing Lessons, which uses a mix of offbeat characters, great humor, and graphic illustrations to bring us into the fertile mind of a young girl.”

In Drawing Lessons, experience the energy of a graphic novelist’s imagination at work! Dynamic, jump-off-the-page animation shows Kate’s manhwa storyboards coming together, even as she deals with school, friends, and how her Korean heritage fits into her American lifestyle. Will her contentious friendship with Paul help or hinder her progress? Will either of them ever find their true artistic voice? Get drawn into this innovative story that magically takes place both on stage and on screen!

“I am so excited to share this celebration of the world of comic art and the unique artistic voice of Kate, the play's 12-year-old Korean American protagonist,” said playwright Michi Barall. “A love letter to Minneapolis and its diversity, I'm especially happy that the first run of Drawing Lessons will take place at CTC.”   

Michi Barall is a New York City-based actor, playwright, and academic. As an actor Michi has worked extensively in theatres in New York and across the country. Michi's dance-theatre piece, Rescue Me, was produced at the Ohio Theatre by Ma-Yi in 2010. Her music-theatre adaptation of Peer Gynt, Peer Gynt and The Norwegian Hapa Band, premiered in 2107 at the ART/NY Theatre. Michi holds degrees from Stanford University, NYU (M.F.A., Grad Acting) and Columbia (PhD, Theatre/English & Comparative Literature). She has taught at Columbia, NYU, and MIT and is currently on the faculty at Purchase College.

Comanche Girl on the Moon by Dustin Tahmahkera, co-commissioned by Native Voices (Los Angeles, California) and Children’s Theatre Company (Minneapolis, Minnesota):

  • June 2023: Comanche Girl on the Moon received a workshop in Los Angeles at Native Voices.
  • November 14-18, 2023: Comanche Girl on the Moon received a writer’s retreat in Minneapolis at Children’s Theatre Company.

“Dustin Tahmahkera's Comanche Girl on the Moon is a beautiful and exciting coming-of-age story of an Indigenous girl finding strength and pride through the stories of her grandmother,” stated DeLanna Studi, artistic director of Native Voices. “What we love about Dustin's proposal is that he has created an entire world that is wholly real and ethereal, weaving the struggle of identity and bullying in a Comanche girl's day-to-day life with the connection to her grandmother who has passed on. What begins as a journey to escape the trials of not being enough becomes a quest for greater connection and a sense of pride.”

Comanche Girl on the Moon stars an imaginative but insecure Comanche girl named Petu who discovers her late grandmother Kaku’s secret rocket ship on her family’s allotment in Oklahoma. Tired of being bullied at school and missing Kaku and her stories about the Comanche moon, talking animals, and astronaut aspirations, Petu works with her humorous twin rabbits and other animal relatives, along with eccentric interplanetary creatures, to fly to 5 the moon in search of a new start, but at what cultural cost to herself and her tribal community in Oklahoma? Honoring the creative work of the playwright’s late auntie Juanita Pahdopony and other Comanche artists and storytellers, Comanche Girl on the Moon explores themes of home, identity, and futurity by asking,

“How can one realize and actualize an individual and collective future through the past?” "The generous and tireless support and enthusiasm expressed by the play commissioners—a dream team partnership between Native Voices in Los Angeles and Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis—has been amazing and humbling,” said Dustin Tahmahkera. “Their collaborative care and constructive feedback continue to inspire and enrich the current development of my, and our, full-length multigenerational script Comanche Girl on the Moon."

Dustin Tahmahkera (Comanche) is a parent of four beautiful children, playwright of Comanchecentric theatre, and professor of Native media and sound studies at the University of Oklahoma. Tahmahkera’s recent short play 9-1-1 Comanchería, received both the best play and audience favorite awards at Native Voices’ play festival in Los Angeles. 9-1-1 Comanchería is part of a series of original short plays in Tahmahkera’s book project “Comanche vs. the World.” His previous books include Tribal Television: Viewing Native Peoples in Sitcoms (University of North Carolina Press) and Cinematic Comanches: The Lone Ranger in the Media Borderlands (University of Nebraska Press).

Level Up by Gabriel Rivas Gómez, co-commissioned by Latino Theater Company (Los Angeles, California) and Children’s Theatre Company (Minneapolis, Minnesota). 

  • July 2023: Level Up received a reading in Los Angeles at Latino Theater Company.
  • February 17-22, 2024: Level Up received a workshop in Minneapolis at Children’s Theatre Company.

“It is such a pleasure to be working with Gabe Rivas Gómez as he develops Level Up about a Latinx family facing today’s complexities of single parenting, gender identity and virtual alternatives through universal themes of loss, love and family” said Latino Theater Company Artistic Director José Luis Valenzuela.

In real life, Desi—in an oversized hoodie—is seen as a boy. But in her virtual world, where she is a magical female warrior with enormous butterfly wings, she feels like she is truly in her own skin. When she learns that her dog is dying, she goes on a quest to save him in her virtual world, since she is convinced she will spend more and more of her life there. But on this adventure, she comes to realize that her journey does not end in the virtual world and it will take all her courage to finally be who she's always been IRL.

“This process has been wonderful for me,” said playwright Gabriel Rivas Gómez. “I've been able to work with some amazing artists, directors and people like Jose Luis, Peter and Michael whose 7 dramaturgical feedback has really helped me push the script with each revision. I'm excited to continue this process.” 

Gabriel Rivas Gómez received his M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from USC in 2007, where he was mentored by Oliver Mayer, Velina Hasu Houston and Luis Alfaro. His plays, including Chasing Monsters, Circus Ugly, Swarm Cell, and Scar Tissue have been produced in various LA theaters. Scar Tissue was subsequently published in The Best American Short Plays of 2010-2011. He developed his play, Carnivores, as an inaugural member of the Latino Theatre Alliance Writer’s Circle. His work focuses on justice issues and giving words to the voiceless. His plays have been taught, read, and performed at numerous universities across the country. His work has been called everything from surreal to abstract to unstageable. He is tenured faculty at Glendale Community College and when he is not busy writing or teaching, he can often be found lego-ing and softballing with his children who, along with his wife, Elsie, are the source of his drive and strength.

The Mainlanders by Kalani Queypo and Chadwick Johnson, co-commissioned by Native Voices (Los Angeles, California) and Children’s Theatre Company (Minneapolis, Minnesota).

  • May 19-23, 2024: The Mainlanders received a workshop in Minneapolis at Children’s Theatre Company. 

“Native Voices cannot wait to share this new work by Kalani Queypo and Chadwick Johnson with audiences of all ages. Kalani Queypo has a long history with Native Voices, dating over 15 years,” stated Native Voices Artistic Director DeLanna Studi. “He is a prime example of what Native Voices hopes to do with all our theatre artists. Kalani began as an actor learning the process of New Play Development and dramaturgy, eventually becoming a director, playwright, and teaching artist. As Kalani shares about the Native Voices' process, ‘Even though we are building a play from scratch, we are not building relationships from scratch.’ Native Voices nurtures and develops Native talent through all stages of their careers, and we are honored to celebrate successes such as these.”

The Mainlanders is a heartfelt intergenerational musical that explores "Home" and what it means to return home and find one's place in community. Set in Hawai’i, The Mainlanders centers around the return of 11-year-old Kimo, who finds himself the "new kid" at his old school. But with the help of his mysterious uncle, who has also recently returned from the mainland, Kimo discovers the power of music as he navigates a new understanding of the true meaning of ohana.

"Generation Now really wanted to make sure they found the right fit, motivation, inspirations, and desires to create something special,” said playwright Kalani Queypo. “They see the value in stories like ours, which is different than what you typically see on the American stage. We are developing a project that has rarely been entertained on this level.”

“What’s so cool about this whole thing is that, personally, this is my first musical I’ve ever written so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but Kalani and I have worked together for over a decade,” said playwright Chadwick Johnson. “We’ve worked on both music and theatrical pieces but never them together until now. This has given us such an opportunity to build a relationship with Children’s Theatre Company and expand our relationship with Native Voices and that’s been so fruitful.”   

Kalani Queypo is a multi-disciplinary artist who grew up in Hawaii, studied in New York City, and is currently based in Los Angeles. Kalani is an award winning screenwriter for “Ancestor Eyes,” his self-directed short film that played at nearly 40 festivals, winning 14 awards. For his musical, Missing Peace, Kalani is the recipient of the 2019 Native Voices Playwrights Retreat, 2020 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, 2021 and 2022 Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals, 2021 NAMT Festival of New Plays, and the 2022 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat Triple R. Kalani has independently written, directed, and produced the short films, Whispered Fall and Power Point. He is currently developing an episodic comedy, “When You Miss Aloha,” a feature length drama, Stored and Safe, and a brand-new musical, The Mainlander, all showcasing his birthplace and culture as the backdrop in his character driven projects. As an actor, Kalani can be seen in the Oscar-nominated, Terrence Malick film, The New World, Steven Spielberg’s Emmy winning Into the West and Slow West (Sundance GRAND JURY PRIZE). Television credits include “Jamestown,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Mad Men,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “Bones.” Kalani is currently starring in the new CW series, “Trickster”, for which his performance was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. 

Chadwick Johnson is a singer/songwriter who approaches the craft as a storyteller and revels in the complexities of the human experience. Chadwick's sound echoes the soulful stylings of Chris Stapleton and soaring vocals of Ben Platt. In November 2022 the USA Songwriting Competition honored Chadwick and co-writer Kalani Queypo for their original composition “Unbreakable”. Chadwick's new holiday single “It's Almost Christmas” released November 29, 2022. Written by Chadwick Johnson and Kalani Queypo the track is a throwback to all things Christmas. Chadwick's 2019 album, "Stormy Love", topped Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and featured special guest, saxophone megastar Grace Kelly. Performing both nationally and internationally, Chadwick’s acclaimed concerts have been enjoyed by audiences at venues including Birdland’s Jazz Club in NYC, Feinstein's at Vitello's, The Purple Room, Catalina Jazz Club, and the prestigious Smith Center for the Performing Arts where he recorded his live album, "Live In Las Vegas.” Chadwick was recognized with the Hollywood Music in Media Award for Song Of The Year, and experienced a dream come true when he collaborated with legendary producer David Foster. 

Folklórico, created by Latino Theatre Company and co-commissioned by Latino Theater Company (Los Angeles, California) and Children’s Theatre Company (Minneapolis, Minnesota):

  • The first draft is in development. 

“With this play, the Latino Theater Company gets the exciting opportunity to journey into the minds of young people and investigate why, in this particular socio-historical context, it is important for them to be a part of the specific cultural expression that is folklórico, and to discover what that means to them, their families, and their communities,” stated Latino Theater Company Artistic Director José Luis Valenzuela.

Folklórico is a journey into the world of Mexican Folklórico dance through the lens of young people in the U.S. who while exploring this tradition are confronted by their roots, their identity, and their truth.

Stay tuned for more updates about these incredible new works! 

Older Post