New work residency recipients announced as part of the 2020 Australian Musical Theatre Festival

The Australian Musical Theatre Festival are thrilled to announce the recipients of our New Musical Theatre Residency, a week-long residency for the purpose of developing and supporting new Australian musical theatre. The successful artists will undertake their residency during the week of the festival in May this year.

The Residency is designed to give emerging writers, composers or directors the opportunity to develop their work, be mentored by leaders in the industry, expand their contacts and showcase their work in front of a national audience. We were overwhelmed by the responses, receiving almost 30 applications from across the country.

The 2020 recipients are Sean Donehue and Nick Waxman and their comedic bildungsroman, Bearded, a comedic bildungsroman that focuses on the lives of two queer best friends, Ace and Bet, as they embark on a journey of self-acceptance. Bet attends a private girl’s Jesuit college and her father is a conservative politician fronting a campaign that focuses on ‘family values’. Ace represents the opposite; his social and cultural environment is inherently progressive yet his shame is self-inflicted. The pair decide to “date” one another in an effort to be seen as “normal”; however, things fall apart as Ace falls in love with an older boy. In a farce of lies, miseducation and adultery, truths are revealed and hearts are broken. Despite the show’s queer context, it is a story of friendship and family that is present in the initial mirrored staging concepts and writing. Bearded is a satirical critique on the difference between “progressive” and “progression”.

Sean Donehue is a 22-year- old singer-songwriter from Melbourne. He first entered the professional theatre industry at age 11 participating in Opera Australia’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Magic Flute and trained with the Young Australian Broadway Chorus for 7 years throughout his schooling. A multi-instrumentalist, Sean received a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Music and received his Bachelor of Music at age 19; graduating with a near perfect score. Post university, he has been a backing vocalist for some of the country’s most respected artists, including Aria award winning Kaiit, platinum selling vocalist Emily Williams and Triple J chart toppers KÖDA and Ben Hazelwood. He also writes and sings for the EDM gospel crossover project Sunshine and the Disco Faith Choir. Sean has written two children’s musicals in collaboration with Nick Waxman and has arranged and scored for orchestral performances at Hamer Hall and the Melbourne Recital Centre and is currently a 2020 backing vocalist for the Musical Theatre concert series Broadway Unplugged.

Nick Waxman is a multi-award-winning director and international workshop presenter as well as a professional writer and performer. He has produced over 50 new works, adaptations, musicals and plays over the last 15 years. He was awarded Best Director by the Victorian Drama League in 2016 for his re- contextualisation of Harvey by Mary Chase and has received several nominations from the Lyrebirds and Musical Theatre Guild of Victoria, recently winning Best Director for his interpretation of Matilda: The Musical in 2019. He studied directing at National Institute of Dramatic Art and works regularly with Melbourne Theatre Company as both a guest artist and presenter. Most recently he has returned from the USA spending time with The Second City in Chicago and running workshops with a number of performing arts schools in Indiana and Illinois. He is also a talent scout Melbourne Comedy Festival and judge for Melbourne Fringe Festival. Nick is a member of the committee of management for Drama Victoria and is the host of award nominated Aside Podcast.

Bearded is currently in the draft stage. The initial script, lyrics, melodies and musical motifs have been explored and workshopped with the creative team and a select group of students from the Australian Institute of Music. The book, lyrics and music have been through several drafts, with orchestration being the next important stage. Almost all of the music has been written with several initial demo recordings created. The script is written and has established main plot points, characters, major scenes, and a style, with tweaks and edits still to be made once the development stage begins.

The initiative is supported by the University of Tasmania School of Creative Arts & Media who together with Australian Musical Theatre Festival will provide support to the artists including flights to Launceston, accommodation, rehearsal, access to equipment, dedicated sessions with mentors throughout the week and a public showing or sharing of the new work in development during the Festival.

Co-Creator Sean Donehue said the Residency will provide opportunities that further encourage an initial production of Bearded. ‘We would love to achieve a more refined script by rewriting, staging and trialling key scenes and developing character’s relationships’, he said.

‘As we lead into the first mounting of Bearded, this Residency will be instrumental in ensuring the strongest product is developed and we cannot wait to be in Launceston’, Donehue said.

Artistic Director John X said the number and quality of the applications was inspiring. ‘There are some amazing up and coming Aussie shows and I cannot wait to see what this opportunity does for Bearded‘, he said.

The Australian Musical Theatre Festival is an unparalleled opportunity for musical theatre lovers, makers and industry professionals to get together, share, nurture and celebrate this wonderful genre. Held in Launceston, Tasmania, it includes a diverse program with opportunities to teach, collaborate, engage, perform, learn and – of course – enjoy. The Australian Musical Theatre Festival is a national event, supported by the Tasmanian Government through Events Tasmania and is held annually to benefit the musical theatre industry. The 2020 Festival will be held from 21 – 24 May.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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