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Harrison gift commissions new musicals from Broadway writers

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
October 14, 2010

Patti Strickel Harrison

Patti Strickel Harrison

A gift from Patti Strickel Harrison to the Texas State University-San Marcos musical theatre program will establish an innovative new initiative for the creation of original musicals from established Broadway composers, lyricists and book writers.

“Patti Harrison is serious about supporting our alternative vision for creating new works for musical theater,” said Kaitlin Hopkins, head of the musical theatre program at Texas State. “I think the time is right to embrace a new model for developing shows. I’m very happy that Texas State can be on the forefront of that partnership between academia and the professional world.”

The Harrison New Musical Works Commission, funded by a generous gift through Harrison's PSH Foundation of Wimberley, will be administered through the musical theatre program in the Department of Theatre and Dance. Two new musicals will be commissioned every three years to be developed and premiered at Texas State.

"I am grateful that I can support Texas State University's 'Rising Star' musical theatre program," Harrison said. "Texas State is a great university and will be greater due to its talented and devoted leaders."

Award-winning Broadway composer Andrew Lippa, the 2010-2011 Composer in Residence at Texas State, is the inaugural recipient of the Harrison commission. Lippa received a Tony nomination for penning the music and lyrics to the hit musical The Addams Family and a Grammy nomination for his work on You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He also wrote the book, music, and lyrics for The Wild Party which won the Outer Critics Circle Award for best Off-Broadway musical and the 2000 Drama Desk Award for best music. The second commission recipient will be announced in early 2011.

"New works are the lifeblood of the theatre," said Department Chair John Fleming. "The partnership between Broadway professionals and Texas State benefits both sides. Mr. Lippa receives a nurturing, supportive environment where he can freely explore his artistic vision, while our students get the incredible opportunity to participate in developing an exciting new work in collaboration with a Tony-nominated composer."

Texas State will supply facilities, actors, a musical director, a choreographer and musicians to support the development of the musical. Recipients of the commission will spend time on campus conducting readings, workshops and, ultimately, the production. During that time they will teach master classes and lecture in their area of expertise for the students.

The gift continues a tradition of Harrison generously supporting the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State. In 2008 she gave the university $8 million to support the construction of a new performing arts center on the university campus--due to be operational in the spring of 2014 in time to premiere Lippa’s work.

Harrison attended Texas State in 1947 and 1948. As president of the PSH Foundation, she puts special emphasis on education, health and youth in Texas.

For additional information, please contact the Texas State Department of Theatre and Dance at (512) 245-3660.