The Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation recognized eight emerging music theatre authors and two producing organizations with awards and $50,000 in cash grants at a luncheon Thurs., Feb. 8. The foundation, formed to honor the memory of its namesake, the late "Rent" composer-lyricist, provides financial assistance and encouragement to promising composers, lyricists, and librettists and other creative artists, as well as nonprofit producing companies with a commitment to the development of musical theatre artists. Mary Rodgers Guettel, Joe Mantello, Stephen Schwartz, and Barry Singer served on the panel that selected this year's recipients from more than 150 applicants.
Individual Larson Award winners were composer-lyricist John Bucchino, lyricist Mindi Dickstein, composer Daniel Messe, composer-lyricist Laurence O'Keefe, songwriters (and brothers) Robert Reale and William Reale, composer Scott Richards, and lyricist Amanda Yesnowitz. Each received an unrestricted grant of $5,000 to $15,000.
New York City-based Theatre-works/USA and Minneapolis-based Children's Theater Company each received awards and $5,000.
Theatreworks/USA commissions, nurtures, and produces original musicals for young audiences, and is notable both for expanding live theatre's audiences by touring the shows across the country and for expanding the pool of writing talent by cultivating aspiring songwriters and librettists. Not incidentally, it has nurtured many previous Larson Award winners.
Although Larson was not among the writers in the Theatreworks stable, he might have been if not for a problem with copyrights.
"I met with Jonathan several years ago," Artistic Director Barbara Pasternak told Back Stage, "and he wanted me to get the rights to 'The Polar Express' [a book by Chris Van Allsburg], which Steven Spielberg had tied up at the time. I couldn't get them but I wish I had, because I would have loved to have worked with Jonathan."
Pasternak was particularly thrilled that The Larson Award for Theatre-works was inscribed with the words, "For its artistic vision and commitment to the support and development of theatre artists.
"I couldn't have been happier," she said. "The money was great, but it was all about the recognition."
Songwriters and librettists who would like to apply for next year's Larson Award may call the office at (212) 529-0814, write to P.O. Box 672, Prince St. Station, New York, NY 10012, or log on to the foundation's new website at jlpaf.org for the latest information. The foundation will send applications in the spring, and will ask for them to be returned in September.