A winner of the 2014 TNT POPS
book by Paul Elliott
with music by Jeanie Cunningham
Directed by Engela Edwards
Staged reading and musical performance
Saturday, March 15, 2014 at the Bastrop
Conference Center at 2 p.m.
The moving story of a southern town, immediately
after the Civil War.
The TNT POPs Festival had 90 entries that
were read by 2-rounds of readers.
Then 4 directors from around Texas chose
from the top-10 scripts.
Engela Edwards chose Dula.
From the director Englea Edwards about
the musical: Dula is the sincere story of a small southern town immediately
after the civil war, and although historically placed in time, there is
a modern feel to the writing. It could easily be the story of a Texas
boy coming home after a war. The truth, as it relates to the individuals
in the story, doesn’t matter; because it is an honest story about war.
It is this universality of time and space that drew me to the script.
Every role is a good one, with lines actors
will want to say. Elliot is able to achieve this with an economy
of words, where full backstories turn on a single word. Dula’s main
character is the town. It is populated with well-rounded people.
In life, every person is the hero of their story, and it is a rare author
who can accomplish the same within the time limitation imposed on a stage
Paul Elliot expertly holds the tensions,
and packs a lot of emotional variety into this musical. For almost
every trough in which he submerges us, he brings us back with a lightness,
a laugh, and a hope that things will get better. I was attracted
to the skill and maturity of his writing and his ability to manipulate
emotions, without making us feel manipulate. He is adept in his use
of metaphor without being heavy handed.
I loved the script before I heard the music.
Elliot and Cunningham’s lyrics are poetry. Cunningham's music is
powerful, touching, and sweet. Many beautiful songs, that easily
stand on their own, become heartbreaking in the context of the story.
I look forward to producing this new American musical, and thank TNT POPs
for bringing it to my attention.
||Paul Elliott, the head of the Fierce Backbone Writer's Unit in Hollywood,
is a respected novelist, television writer and published playwright. His
"Ledge, Ledger and the Legend" was recently honored as one of the 25 most
highly produced one act plays in America. His latest comedy, Exit Laughing,
a 2013 AACTNewPlayFest winner, just broke all house records for a non-musical
at the historic Landers Theater in Springfield, MO and is now scheduled
to open in New York. His award-winning drama, "Finding the Burnett Heart,"
which premiered during the 50th season of the Detroit Repertory Theatre,
is now being performed coast to coast, and always garners rave reviews
from critics and audience alike.
||Jeanie Cunningham's music has been heard worldwide as part of several
high-profile product campaigns. Mitsubishi, Epson, Yamaha, Toshiba, and
Chevron are among the many companies that have recruited Jeanie's musical
talents. Jeanie's first calling however, is to her own original music as
a singer/songwriter/performer. She continues to move forward in her musical
pursuits with the new musical, DULA, for which she wrote 23 songs. Her
most recent accomplishment has been to create the Steinway Society's "Ukes
In Schools" program-devoted to bringing musical instruments and education
to underprivileged elementary students in the Coachella Valley of California.