The Catholic University of America

Playing, Singing, Talking Wilder:
Six New Musical Scores on Four Miniature Plays by Thornton Wilder

A Co-Production of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and the CUA Department of Drama

Presented as part of the CUA President's Festival of the Arts

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 7:30 PM
Ward Recital Hall
The Catholic University of America

Admission Free

Also featuring a roundtable discussion about composer Ned Rorem's new opera on Wilder's Our Town, with composer Ned Rorem, librettist J. D. McClatchy, Tappan Wilder, nephew of the playwright and scholar of his uncle's work, moderated by Grayson Wagstaff, associate professor and Chair, Division of Musicology, School of Music.

After the performance, an audience talk-back with the composers, directors, singers and actors will take place.

The music

Six new theatrical scores are being premiered: two miniature operas and four new scores of incidental music.

The music for each of these works has been specially composed by CUA student and faculty composers, and each is receiving its premiere on Feb. 27th. Several of the new pieces are composed by students in the School of Music's new master's program in Stage Music composition.

In collaboration with the CUA Department of Drama, these operas and plays are being staged in Ward Recital Hall.

Each play and opera will be accompanied by the CUA Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Searle, Director of Orchestral Activities at CUA.


The program

Thornton Wilder, as a youth, wrote several miniature plays ("three-minute" plays, each for three characters). Following the inspiration of School of Music Dean Murry Sidlin, CUA Music and Drama is presenting four of these short plays to be produced as musical works.

Two of the plays will be presented only as plays, with new incidental music. The other two plays are being presented both as plays with new incidental music and as miniature operas.

Each play and opera is being directed by CUA students in the Department of Drama; CUA students are also actors and singers in the plays and miniature operas.

The program will be presented in the following order. The designation of the type of production and a brief descriptive title follows:

  • Centaurs (PLAY).
    New incidental music by Steven Allen (2nd-year student, MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program).
    Synopsis: Shelly and Ibsen both claim to have written the same play!
    Directed by Megan Kosmoski (supervised by Ryan Whinnem)
  • The Penny That Beauty Spent (PLAY).
    New incidental music by John Maggi (1st-year student, MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program).
    Synopsis: A young dancer suddenly becomes her King's new favorite.
    Directed by Caitlin Gillespie (supervised by Jay Brock)
  • Brother Fire (PLAY)
    New incidental music by John Diomede (1st-year student, MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program).
    Synopsis: St. Francis visits friends on a rainy mountainside.
    Directed by Jason Burke (supervised by Matt Ripa)
  • Brother Fire (MINIATURE OPERA)
    New music by Michael Oberhauser (1st-year student, MM Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program).
    Synopsis: St. Francis visits friends on a rainy mountainside.
    Directed by Jay Brock
  • Mozart and the Gray Steward (PLAY)
    New incidental music by Ryan Keebaugh (2nd-year student, DMA Composition program).
    Synopsis: The famous composer is commissioned to compose a Requiem Mass by a mysterious visitor.
    Directed by Jessica Pearson (supervised by Carrie Klewin)
  • Mozart and the Gray Steward (MINIATURE OPERA)
    New music by Andrew Earle Simpson (Associate Professor, CUA School of Music faculty).
    Synopsis: The famous composer is commissioned to compose a Requiem Mass by a mysterious visitor.
    Directed by Jay Brock

Production Team
Gail Beach, chair, CUA Department of Drama, aesthetic consultant
Jeffrey Sichel, Director, MFA Directing Program, CUA Department of Drama, directing coordinator
Gary Sloan, Director, MFA Acting Program, consulting artist
Andrew Simpson, School of Music, project producer
Andrew Berry, Lighting Designer

Getting to CUA and parking

The campus, located in NE DC, is accessible by Metro (Red Line, Brookland-CUA stop). Directions by car may be found here. Free parking is available on Harewood Road NE, adjacent to the School of Music.

Composer Biographies

Steven M. Allen (Centaurs)
Steven Mark Allen began his musical career as a church musician at age 11. His formative years were spent in a small town of Northeast Mississippi where he began his formal study at Mary Holmes College. He then matriculated to Jackson State University where he studied piano with Karen Laubengayer. He later studied composition with Nick Rissman, Lamar University and Thomas Korth, Howard University, piano with Charles Timbrell, Howard University, and additional studies in choral conducting and pedagogy with James Jordan, Westminster Choir College and William Weinert, Eastman School of Music. Steven currently studies composition with Andrew Simpson at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

As composer, pianist, conductor and clinician, Steven has worked in various capacities; choral and instrumental director, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, Southwest Louisiana, Port Arthur Independent School District, Southeast Texas, Tourgee DeBose National Piano Competition, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, assistant choral director, Howard University, and the Amalfi Coast Music Festival, Vietri sul Mare, Italy. He currently serves as Director of Worship and Arts at Maple Springs Baptist Church, Capitol Heights, Maryland, and staff accompanist at Metropolitan Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.

Ryan Keebaugh (Mozart and the Gray Steward, play)
Ryan Keebaugh is currently pursuing the DMA degree in Composition at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Prior to his doctoral work, he studied composition with John Hilliard at James Madison University, William Averitt and Jena Root at Shenandoah Conservatory, and Libby Larson at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Ryan earned a BA in music from Bridgewater College in Bridgewater VA in 2002 and a MM in composition from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester VA in 2004. His creative endeavors span a wide variety performance media, from arrangements for high school marching bands to works for solo instrumentalists, dance companies, and high school and university ensembles. Ryan has received commissions from the Nottoway High School Wind Ensemble, South Pointe High School Wind Ensemble, Bridgewater College Brass Quintet and Trombone Quartet, Lawrence Conservatory Wind Ensemble, Lisa Thomas (choreographer) and the American Dance Festival.

Michael Oberhauser (Brother Fire, miniature opera)
Michael Oberhauser is a first year graduate student in the Stage Music Composition program from Toledo, Ohio. He received his BM in Composition from Ohio Northern University, where he was also a frequent performer in operas, musical theater, and various singing groups. Michael studies composition with Dr. Andrew Simpson. He is thrilled to be working again with Jay Brock, and is very happy to have such a wonderful cast and production crew.

John Diomede (Brother Fire, play)
John Diomede is a first year M.M. student in the Stage Music Composition program at The Catholic University of America. He is currently studying composition with Dr. Andrew Simpson and voice with Dr. Kevin Strother. He graduated summa cum laude from The University of Rhode Island with a B.M. in Composition. At URI, he studied composition with Dr. Eliane Aberdam and Mr. Joseph Parillo, and voice with Mr. René de la Garza. John is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda.

John Maggi (The Penny That Beauty Spent)
John W.V. Maggi is an upcoming, award winning composer for the stage. His works include "Voice of Creation" for two large antiphonal SATB choirs, for which he received Honor's as an Emerging Composer from the Oregon Bach Festival's "Waging Peace" competition. His performed concert works include "The Book of Job", a symphony, and "Taken in Their Pride" a double concerto for violin and cello. His ballet, "Ian and the Angry Dragon", was fully choreographed by Ruth Ames and performed in the summer of 2004. He is very excited about his new collaboration with playwright Steve Lewis. Look for their upcoming musical, "This is Not My Life!", in the spring of 2009.

Andrew Earle Simpson (Mozart and the Gray Steward, miniature opera)
Andrew Earle Simpson, composer and pianist, is associate professor and chair of the division of Theory and Composition at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. A composer of opera, silent film, orchestral, chamber, choral, and vocal music, his most recent projects reflect an interest in theatrical music and humanistic subjects. He has received awards and grants from such organizations as the American Music Center, American Composers Forum, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, The Loeb Classical Library Foundation, and the Maryland State Arts Council, among many others.

Simpson also created, and currently directs, the Master of Music in Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program, which opened at Catholic University in August 2005. This innovative graduate program, unique in its scope, teaches composers to write for the stage by combining practical training in collaborative theatrical composition with academic coursework.

Andrew Earle Simpson is currently Composer-in-Residence for the Red Cedar Trio (Cedar Rapids, IA) and recently completed a term as Composer-in-Residence with the Cantate Chamber Singers (Bethesda, MD). Capstone Records released his new CD of chamber music, A Fiery and Still Night, in August 2006; Red Cedar will be releasing a disc entirely devoted to Simpson's music in early 2009 on the Fleur de Son Classics Label.