As announced in April, the prize for the most promising musical theatre lyricist will go to Sam Willmott, and the prize for the most promising musical theatre librettist will go to Sam Carner.
The Kleban Foundation was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist of the musical A Chorus Line. Kleban's will made provisions for two annual prizes, which in recent years have totaled $100,000 each, payable over two years, to be given to the most promising lyricist and librettist in American Musical Theatre. The award, according to press notes, is "bestowed not just for an artist's previous achievements, but for the promise of creativity to come."
This year's judges included Tony-nominated actress Kerry Butler; multi-arts presenter, artistic director, creative consultant, theatre producer and manager Wiley Hausam; and Oscar winner and Tony Award-nominated composer David Shire.
"For 25 years, The Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre has been one of the theatre's most distinctive honors," stated Tony Award winner Richard Maltby, Jr., president of the Kleban Foundation. "At a time of year when so many theatre awards recognize the best of the past season, The Kleban Prize distinguishes itself by looking to the future. With a uniquely generous endowment, The Kleban Prize celebrates and supports some of the theatre's most promising writers. The Kleban Foundation is proud to carry Ed Kleban's legacy into the 21st century, having fostered over 60 emerging artists when they need support the most -- when starting out."
The application window for the 2016 Kleban Prize opened April 15 and closed May 15. Guidelines for applying are available to view on New Dramatists' website. *
Biographies of the two winners, according to the Foundation, follow:
SAM WILLMOTT (2015 Kleban Prize winner, most promising musical theatre lyricist) is a New York City-based musical theater composer, lyricist and bookwriter whose projects include Standardized Testing - The Musical!!!!; Yo, Vikings! (with Marcus Stevens); the mini-musical Scarlet Takes a Tumble; the upcoming Bhangin' It(with playwrights Rehana Lew Mirza and Mike Lew); and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (additional lyrics for the stage adaptation of the Jule Styne / Bob Merrill score). Sam is the recipient of the 2015 Jonathan Larson Grant, the 2013 ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Award for Lyrics, the 2012 Fred Ebb Award, the 2012 John Wallowitch Award, and the 2009 Kennedy Center ACTF Musical Theater Award. He has been Composer-in-Residence at Goodspeed Musicals (2013, 2014) and the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Music Theater Conference (2013), and was also the first musical theatre writer to be recognized with the Exploring the Metropolis / ConEdison Musicians' Residency (2013). Sam's work as a music director, arranger, orchestrator and pianist has taken him from Radio City Music Hall to Abu Dhabi, UAE, with collaborators as diverse as avant-garde theater legend Elizabeth Swados, Nunsense's Dan Goggin, and singer/songwriter Shaina Taub. Sam has spearheaded workshops, master classes and courses at such storied institutions as Interlochen Arts Camp, Emerson College and Harlem School of the Arts, and currently works with Lincoln Center's Songwriting in the Schools Program and Pace University's Musical Theater BFA program. Sam is also a proud contributing writer to the Korean children's language program, "English Egg." Sam's additional accolades include a 2014/2015 NEO residency at the York Theatre (NYC); a 2013/2014 Dramatists Guild Fellowship; the 2013 ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop, led by panelists Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), Peter Schneider (Disney Animation) and Bob Alwine (Associate Producer at Goodspeed Musicals); a Tisch School of the Arts Trustee Scholarship; Interlochen Center for the Arts' prestigious Maddy Summer Artist Award; and two National Capital Area Cappie Awards. He is an alumnus of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, New York University and the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, and a member of the Dramatists Guild and the BMI Lehman Engel Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop.
SAM CARNER (2015 Kleban Prize winner, most promising musical theatre librettist) along with composer Derek Gregor were included in Playbill.com's twelve "Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know," and their songs are performed in hundreds of venues around the world (on six continents to date, including Antarctica). They won the 2014 John Wallowitch Award, were finalists for the 2014 Fred Ebb Award, and seven of their songs have been nominated for MAC Awards. They were in residence at the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals this January. Carner & Gregor's musical Unlock'd played an extended Off-Broadway run at the Duke Theater in 2013, having previously won a Richard Rodgers Award and appeared in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, winning "Best of the Fest" and Talkin' Broadway citations for "Outstanding New Musical" and "Outstanding Original Theatrical Score." Their musical Island Song was produced in 2014 at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, having had workshops at the Balagan Theatre in Seattle, Princeton University, and the Indiana Festival of Theatre as well as concerts at (le) Poisson Rouge in New York, Crawfish in Tokyo (in Japanese!), London's St. James Studio, and the Comedie Nation in Paris. Their short children's musical "Love, Splat" has toured the country since 2013 in the TheatreWorks USA revue The Teacher From the Black Lagoon and Other Stories. They have written numerous songs for revues and web series, including My Gay Roommate, Cait Doyle's Hot Mess in Manhattan, Unsung Musical's Passing Show, Redheads Anonymous, and more. Current projects include additional songs for Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York (book by Todd Graff and songs by Michael Devon, direction by Susan Stroman) and an adaptation of Rex Rose's novella Toast. Carner & Gregor's first single, "Advice to a Young Firefly" sung by Tituss Burgess, is now available at CDbaby.com/cd/carnergregortitussburges. Sam lectures regularly on various musical-theatre-history-related topics at Yale, has taught musical-theatre history and analysis courses at New York University and Yale, and will teach songwriting at NYU this summer.