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Musical with WTAMU Connections to Debut at New York Festival

June 24, 2013

COPY BY: Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, rmcdonald@wtamu.edu

Musical with WTAMU Connections to Debut at New York Festival

CANYON, Texas—Mother Divine: The Musical, a production with West Texas a&M University ties, will debut July 11 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) in New York City. The musical is one of 10 productions selected from a field of more than 200 entries to be part of the NYMF 2013 Next Link Project.

The play represents the only show selected from Texas, and its WTAMU ties include a continued collaboration between two former faculty members—Laurel Klinger Vartabedian and Bill Evans. Vartabedian, a former faculty member and adjunct professor, wrote the book and lyrics for Mother Divine, and Evans, who retired in 2007 as one of WTAMU’s Mother Divine: The Musicallongest serving faculty members, composed the score for the musical. The two first collaborated on American Story, which was fully staged at WTAMU and directed by Royal Brantley, Regents Professor of Theatre. American Story also won the Best of Festival award at New York’s Midtown International Theatre Festival in 2000 and will begin a multi-city tour in 2014.

Mother Devine also has a WTAMU connection in its cast. Chris Sams, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in speech communication, plays the romantic lead role of Arnold.

The production, backed by a gospel-tinged score, is based on the real-life events of the Depression-era Harlem evangelist Father Divine. He claimed to be God and followed a doctrine of immortality and celibacy. His flourishing mission hit a snag with the untimely death of Mother Devine, his presumed-to-be-immortal wife. A “reincarnated” Mother Devine enters the picture—a twenty-something blonde bombshell known as Mother in the Second Body.

The musical takes an imaginative and comedic twist from the viewpoint of the original Mother Divine who returns to set the record straight. With a little help from a bumbling IRS agent, she’s dead set on proving it is never too late for a first wife to get revenge. Mother Divine weaves fact and fiction to show that sins of the flesh can be a lot of fun.

Mother Divine debuts at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 11 at the PTC Performance Space (Pearl Theatre) at 555 W. 42nd in New York City. Additional performances are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. July 14, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. July 17 and 9 p.m. July 20. Tickets can be purchased by calling 212-352-3101 or at nymf.org. For more information about Mother Divine, visit .

NYMF, the largest annual musical theatre event in the world, takes place in the heart of New York City’s theatre district. Since the festival’s inception in 2004, more than 70 NYMF shows have gone on to successful productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, across the United States and in more than a dozen countries around the world.



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