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Our New Town: Immersive Musical Theater

by Gabriel Jason Dean, Dramatic Writing Faculty

Now in its fourteenth season, New York Theatre Barn's New Works Series presented exclusive “pre-premieres” of new musicals in the early stages of development. New York Theatre Barn is keeping original live theatre alive during this unprecedented time. The January 13, 2021 installment was a one-hour virtual live stream which included excerpts from Our New Town by Gabriel Jason Dean, Jessie Dean, and David Dabbon. Gabriel submitted a video of an interview he recently did with his writing partners on their new musical Our New Town, with New York Theatre Barn on Jan 13. The interview and play excerpts aired on Broadway On Demand.

And now for a few words from Gabriel Jason Dean:

Writing musicals is simultaneously thrilling and frustrating. Thrilling because . . . come on, it's a musical! And frustrating because it can be a very slow process with A LOT of rejection along the way. Unlike my work as a solo playwright when the only boss in the room is me, my work as a book writer and sometimes lyricist involves one or more other cooks in the kitchen. When I'm lucky, as I've been with my collaborators co-writer and lyricist (and life-partner) Jessie Dean and Grammy and Emmy-nominated composer David Dabbon on our new musical Our New Town, these collaborations yield results that I never could've imagined, much less achieved on my own.

If you were at the Fall 2020 Spalding residency, I shared a couple of songs from Our New Town there during one of the readings. But even if you heard those tracks, take a moment to listen to the new versions in this behind the scenes interview that David, Jessie and I did with the prestigious New York Theatre Barn earlier in January. Acclaimed man of the theatre and author Howard Sherman joins us as we talk about his new book, Another Day's Begun: Thornton Wilder's OUR TOWN in the 21st Century and Our New Town 's relationship to Wilder's beloved play. Jessie Dean returns to her roots as a performer and sings one of our songs! Our portion of the program runs from minute thirty-nine to the end, but I encourage you to watch the entire thing. Enjoy!

“Our New Town is about that moment of finding loveliness amidst the chaos. It does not offer a solution for systemic gun violence—rather, it acknowledges and validates a whole generation's perpetual fear and heartache while reminding them of the power and strength in community . . . the catharsis we look for when we buy a ticket and sit down in a theater.”


Dubbed “feisty as hell” by the New Yorker and “a great modern American playwright” by Broadway World, Gabriel Jason Dean's plays for children and adults have been produced/developed at distinguished companies such as New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, McCarter Theatre, Cherry Lane, The Flea, The Kennedy Center, Oregon Shakespeare, Davenport Theatrical, Araca, Geva Theatre Center, InterAct, New Repertory, The Vortex, Actor’s Express, Milwaukee Repertory, People’s Light, Dallas Children’s Theatre and Seattle Children’s Theatre.

Notable plays include Heartland (Pulitzer nomination, National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, Austin Critic’s Table David Mark Cohen New Play Prize, B. Iden Payne Award Best Drama, PlayPenn) and In Bloom (Canadian Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Award, Kennedy Center Paula Vogel Prize, AracaWorks, Laurents / Hatcher Finalist, Princess Grace Award Runner-Up); Terminus (Austin Critic’s Table Award, B. Iden Payne Award Best Drama, University of Edinburgh’s James Tait Black Prize Finalist, New York Stage & Film Lark Residency, PlayPenn); Qualities of Starlight (Broadway Blacklist, Kennedy Center Ken Ludwig Award, Kesselring nomination, Essential Theatre New Play Prize, B. Iden Payne Award Best Comedy); Entangled (co-written with Charly Evon Simpson; New York Innovative Theatre Award Nomination Best Full Length Script); and his often-produced play for young audiences The Transition of Doodle Pequeño (American Alliance for Theatre & Education Distinguished Play Award, New England Theatre Conference Aurand Harris Award, Kennedy Center New Visions / New Voices).

He penned book and lyrics for the young audiences musical Mario & the Comet (NYU Provincetown Plays for Young Audiences) and the immersive, activist musical Our New Town (The Civilians R&D Group). He was recently hired to polish the feature film Get Gomez by Cranium Entertainment, and his script for television, We Belong (co-written with Jessie Dean) was a finalist for the Humanitas New Television Writer Award.

Gabriel received the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, was a Dramatist’s Guild Fellow, Core Writer/Affiliated Writer at the Playwrights’ Center, member of The Amoralists’ 2019 ‘Wright Club, an Associate Artist with Monk Parrots and a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop.

He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre and Writer in Residence at Muhlenberg College and on faculty for Spalding University’s MFA program. His plays are published by Samuel French, Playscripts and Dramatic Publishing. He received his MFA from UT-Austin’s Michener Center for Writers.

Gabriel is currently working on commissions for three new musicals—with David Dabbon, a yet to be titled show about Kodak founder George Eastman for Geva Theatre, with Rona Siddiqui and Gaby Alter, an adaptation of the international best-selling book and Oscar-nominated animated film The Breadwinner for the Alley Theatre, and a pop-rock musical with Grammy-award winning duo A Great Big World.

He grew up in Chatsworth, Georgia—a mill town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. He currently lives in Brooklyn.


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