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Goodspeed Musicals Hosts 39 Writers for the 12th Annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Grove 

18 Brand New Musicals Will Be Developed During This Year’s Exclusive Retreat This year’s participants boast credits as diverse as:

  • Two-time Emmy and Peabody-winning filmmaker (Trey Ellis)

  • Creator and executive producer of the hit series Roseanne and co-creator and executive producer of Home Improvement; Peabody Award-winner for Outstanding Achievement in Television Writing (Matt Williams)

  • Conan O’Brien’s musical director, guitarist and bandleader (Jimmy Vivino)

  • Grammy nominee (Rona Siddiqui)

  • 2024 Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre (Rose Oser)

  • Drama Desk Award-winner for The Lion, developed at the JMF Writers Grove (Benjamin Scheuer)

  • "AMERICAN IDOL" Season Four Finalist (Anthony Fedorov)

  • A Write Out Loud Contest winner, accomplished cellist and vocalist for artists such as Kristin Chenoweth, Todd Rundgren and Chloe Agnew (Veronica Mansour)

  • Co-founder of Chatterbox Films and five top #10 EPs (iTunes charts) (Josh Kemp)

  • Performed with Carole King (Cheeyang Ng)

  • Winner of the inaugural Stephen Schwartz Award and the ASCAP Foundation Sammy Cahn Award (Oliver Houser)


 Jonathan Brielle, Executive Vice President of JMF and Writer/Producer in Residence

EAST HADDAM, Conn. (Jan. 19, 2024) Goodspeed Musicals is proud to announce the participants for the 12th annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals, which will be held January 22 - February 18 on the Goodspeed campus in East Haddam, Conn. A distinguished group of 35 established and emerging composers, lyricists and librettists representing 18 new musicals will gather in East Haddam creating a truly exceptional environment for discovery and inspiration at one of the premier writers’ residencies in the nation.

Established in 2013, The JMF Writers Grove is an unparalleled, long-term residency program devoted exclusively to musical theatre writing.  Providing a sanctuary for composers, lyricists and librettists to embark on new musical theatre work or to devote a substantial amount of time to a work-in-progress, the Grove is a colleague to colleague program. For four weeks, starting January 22, the writing teams work in residence in Goodspeed’s Artists Village, each team in their own house, with whatever support is needed, from dramaturgical to Goodspeed’s fine music department. In the evenings writers get together in an informal, salon-style environment to share the day’s work. This gathering allows the artists an invaluable opportunity to gain insight from one another. The Grove is the ultimate think tank of veteran Broadway and young working professionals in theater today.

  “The JMF Writers Grove is not only an integral part of Goodspeed’s new musical development program, it has become a critical resource for our industry. Each year, an amazing group of musical theatre artists creates such beautiful work and gives me confidence that that the future of musical theatre is bright indeed. Their commitment, creativity and willingness to share of themselves inspires all of us,” said Donna Lynn Hilton, Goodspeed Musicals’ Artistic Director.

Jonathan Brielle, Executive Vice President of JMF and Writer/Producer in Residence stated, “Years ago, when I described the Grove as the think tank for new musicals, I could only dream it would become the success it is today. Over 400 emerging and award-winning writers have participated, including teams represented on Broadway right now. It has become an experience I look forward to all year long.”

Over the course of the program, Jonathan Brielle will again serve as a writer and Producer in Residence. His first Broadway credit was writing music and lyrics for Foxfire starring theater legends Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy (who won the Tony) and Keith Carradine. Subsequently, he became Composer in Residence of the prestigious Circle Repertory Company in New York, providing scores for some of New York’s top playwrights. His recent credits include his slightly autobiographical show, A Monkey and Me, Stories I Never Told My Mother (book, music, lyrics), Axelrod Performing Arts Center, in which he starred with Tovah Feldshuh and Veanne Cox; Himself and Nora (book, music, lyrics), Minetta Lane Theater; James Joyce Center Dublin, March 2024; Nightmare Alley (book, music, lyrics), Geffen Playhouse; and A Monkey and Me (book, music, lyrics), Eugene O’Neill Cabaret Conference. His Las Vegas shows include book, music and lyrics for Enter The Night (Stardust) and MADhattan (New York, New York). For television, he is the music director and composer for Wonderama on the Tribune network and is the founder of Vala Musicals, a streaming platform for new shows and forever free musical theater education. At this year’s JMF Writers Grove at Goodspeed, Jonathan will be working with Black transfeminine poet, Ianne Fields Stewart on A Complicated Woman with two time Tony-nominated director, Jeff Calhoun.

Blair Russell will serve as Producer in Residence. Mr. Russell is a producer, developer, supporter and lover of theatre and live performances whose experience ranges from fringe festivals to Broadway shows. His most recent theatre projects include the Tony-nominated Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris, Lizard Boy by Justin Huertas, and the new musicals For Tonight and EPIC. As Co-Founder of Resounding, he produces live immersive entertainment. He is currently Co-President of the board of New York Theatre Barn, Vice Chair of the board of The New Harmony Project and a member of the Board of Trustees of Goodspeed Musicals.

Joining the Grove for the first time this year is Rose Oser as the Resident Dramaturge. A theater producer, playwright, performer, and dramaturg, they are the book writer of Shoshana in December, a new queer Hanukkah musical (December 2022 production Custom Made, Relentless Award Honorable Mention 2022, December 2021 reading Z Space, NEA ArtWorks recipient) and Tinderella: the modern musical (April 2018 world premiere FaultLine and Custom Made; March 2022 production Brunish Theatre, Portland'5). They have produced and hosted over 40 performances of Tinder Disrupt, San Francisco’s hit powerpoint dating show, now at Brooklyn Art Haus. In May 2023, Rose moved from CA to NYC and assumed the role of Producing Director of National Queer Theater, best known for the annual Criminal Queerness Festival. Prior to that, they were Producing Director of Z Space in San Francisco where they produced the world premiere of The Red Shades: A Trans Superhero Rock Opera and the Problematic Play Festival (LMDA Bly Grant). They are a member of Beehive Dramaturgy Studio.

Goodspeed’s Artistic Director, Donna Lynn Hilton, continues to guide efforts on The JMF Writers Grove at Goodspeed with additional artistic support from Goodspeed Artistic Associate Michael Fling and Line Producer Stephen Agosto.

 The partnership with the Johnny Mercer Foundation serves as a confluence of Goodspeed’s long-held mission of fostering new works and JMF’s dedication to nurturing the discipline of songwriting. With this unique collaboration, Goodspeed continues to be an incubator for the next generation of musical theatre artists and performers, as well as the home of the American Musical. This is best illustrated by several projects that Goodspeed has moved from The JMF Writers Grove at Goodspeed forward to full production including last season’s production of Private Jones by Marshall Pailet, which will subsequently be produced at Signature Theatre in February 2024, the acclaimed 2019 productions of Passing Through by Brett Ryback and Eric Ulloa and Hi, My Name Is Ben by Scott Gilmour and Claire MacKenzie as well as the 2017 productions of Deathless and Darling Grenadine, Indian Joe in 2015, and Chasing Rainbows in 2016. Other notable productions from the Grove include the Pulitzer Prize and 2022 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson.


The Grove is pleased to announce that the 2024 participants are (in alphabetical order): Jay Adana, Greg Alexander, Masi Asare, Marcus Perkins Bejarano, Sophie Boyce, Jeff Calhoun, Shane Dittmar, Jacob Dorrell, Trey Ellis, Anthony Fedorov, Oliver Houser, Kim Jinhyoung, Christine Toy Johnson, Clifford Lee Johnson III, Sarah Kaufman, Jane Kelley, JoshKemp, Deepak Kumar, Tom Ling, Jord Liu, Jason Ma, Veronica Mansour, Dylan MarcAurele, Cheeyang Ng, Zeniba Now, April Dae Okpwae, Jennifer Paz, Rudy Percival, Lynn Rosen, Benjamin Scheuer, Rona Siddiqui, Ianne Fields Stewart, Christian Thompson, Jimmy Vivino, Matt Williams, Pia Wilson, Maria Wirries, and Sam Woof.

 The outstanding writers who have been invited to participate in the 2024 JMF Writers Grove at Goodspeed have earned tremendous recognition in the industry with honors including a Drama Desk Award, Obie Award, Kleban Prize, ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award, Write Out Loud Contest winner, Emmy Award, Peabody Award, American Book Award, Dramatists Guild Fellow, Holof Lyricist Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Newark Creative Catalyst G, Jonathan Larson Grant, ASCAP Harold Adamson Lyric Award, ASCAP Foundation Mary Rodgers/Lorenz Hart Award, Environmusic Composition Prize, NAMT Writers Residency Grant, Princess Grace Award, Harold Wheeler MUSE Award, Eric H Weinberger Librettist Award, Stephen Schwartz Award, and the ASCAP Foundation Sammy Cahn Award among other awards and nominations.

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