SDSU New Musical Initiative selects Tomorrow, the Island Dies for full production

Wednesday, July 3, 2024
Head of SDSU MFA Musical Theatre Program Robert Meffe with composer/lyricist/book writer Ryan Scott Oliver
Head of SDSU MFA Musical Theatre Program Robert Meffe with composer/lyricist/book writer Ryan Scott Oliver

Out of a record 308 submissions, the San Diego State University New Musical Initiative has chosen Tomorrow, the Island Dies as this year’s selection. Writer Ryan Scott Oliver will join director Stephen Brotebeck, music director Robert Meffe, and the SDSU MFA Musical Theatre cohort for a two-year development process culminating in a full production in the spring of 2026.

Tomorrow, the Island Dies is an original story set in the time period of “tomorrow” when the effects of climate change have worsened, with rising sea levels and devastating weather systems threatening remote islands around the world. Haverness, the last of a group of tiny, doomed islands far off the coast of Maine, is soon to be abandoned forever. Widow Clack, 18 and pregnant, lives an exiled life running a lighthouse with her brother on a storm-crushed island set to be uninhabited in two days. When a young man is found dead on the beach, the remaining collection of young adults (left to make final preparations for the abandonment) combusts into dangerous accusations leading to devastating division and ultimately, death.

“This original story comes from a long line of American gothic and folk horror stories, a subgenre that uses elements of folklore to invoke fear and foreboding,” said Oliver.  “People want to understand where they came from, why their world is the way it is, and to understand that history — especially in its darkness — is destined to repeat. The story acknowledges and deepens the horrors we experience every day, and being set “tomorrow,” presents an outcome we hope we never live to see.” 

“Ryan has written a powerful score with a powerful message,” says music director Robert Meffe. Audiences will be gripped by its fast-moving plot and cunning surprises.”

The SDSU New Musical Initiative is supported by Julia R. Brown New Musical Theatre fund. Past artists have included Derek Gregor, T.C. Lind, Phoebe Kreutz, Lynne Shankel, Crystal Skillman, Bobby Cronin, Caroline Prugh, B.D. Wong, Wayne Barker, Michael Federico and Home for Hovercraft band members Seth and Sean Magill. The principal cast will feature the MFA Musical Theatre graduate students whose collective work spans Broadway, international, and regional/local productions. The author will be in residency for two readings (fall of 2024 and spring of 2025) culminating in a full production in spring of 2026.

Tomorrow, the Island Dies – Author Bio

Ryan Scott Oliver is a Lortel Award-nominated and Kleban Prize, Rodgers, and Larson Award-winning composer and lyricist. He was called “the future of Broadway... a major new voice in musical theatre” (Entertainment Weekly) and is “shaking up musical theater with his dark, twisted and genius work ... [Oliver] could very well be musical theater’s answer to an auteur filmmaker or a gothic novelist” (Huffington Post). He wrote the music and lyrics for Jasper in Deadland; 35mm: A Musical Exhibition; Hugo; Darling; Mrs. Sharp; We Foxes and more. He is also the winner of New Musicals Awards from Weston Playhouse, Pace University, the recipient of numerous fellowships, residencies, and ASCAP awards, and commissions from Disney Theatricals, Universal Theatricals, Broadway Across America, and more. Select upcoming: Party of the Century (commissioned by Fourth Wall Theatricals), Tomorrow, the Island Dies (SDSU New Musical winner), and Shirley Jackson’s Demons, a theatre piece adapting short stories of acclaimed American Gothic writer Shirley Jackson. Find writings, videos, tweets, and more of his morbidly optimistic musings @ryanscottoliver on all platforms.

SDSU Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree in Musical Theatre

The SDSU Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree in Musical Theatre in the School of Theatre, Television, and Film has helped hundreds of people establish life-long careers as musical theatre artists since its founding in 1981.  Many of our graduates have used this terminal degree to teach in musical theatre programs in schools and universities worldwide.  Others have gone on to become professional performers, directors, choreographers, music directors, producers, casting agents, and writers. The SDSU MFA Musical Theatre program is a National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) member. At SDSU we strive to bring the professional world of musical theatre together with the academic world of the university.  Our students bring their professional experience to us, and together we develop the skills needed to carry it forward.

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