A Musical Diary
Book & Lyrics by Kathleen Cahill
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Although lost to common history, 12% of homesteaders in Wyoming, South Dakota and Colorado between 1887 and 1908 were single women. Dakota Sky was inspired by the letters and diaries of these single women who homesteaded the great plains at the turn of the century.
On the night before the last land lottery in the American land rush at Fort Pierre, South Dakota, five single women are crammed into a tiny back room, awaiting their fate: Abigail, a housemaid; Ida, a teacher; Viola, a prostitute; Wilomene, a society girl; and Mary, the acting Indian Agent for the lottery. In these few hours they are joined together by the ghosts of their pasts and their hopes for a new beginning. When the night is over, they know their lives will never be the same.
Earnest and moving… imaginative and evocative… it’s hard not to be touched by the collective grit.” – The Washington Post
Dakota Sky (originally titled The Fifth Season) was developed in part by a 1994 New American Works Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It premiered at Olney Theatre in 1996, directed by Jim Petosa, and was the recipient of a Helen Hayes Nomination for best actress (Anita Hollander). It was awarded the 1996 Jane Chambers Playwriting Award (the first musical in the award’s 13 year history to be so honored), and has been showcased by the Dramatist Guild in New York City.
Among the show’s assets is its highly American subject matter; not just in terms of history, but also the quintessentially American theme of reinventing yourself.” – The Baltimore Sun
1. PRELUDE – Women
2. OPENING – All
3. NEVER GONNA MAKE IT – Ida, Viola
4. WILOMENE’S WALTZ – Wilomene, Lewis
5. R.F.D. BOX 3 – Abigail,Clyde
6. THE GRASS IS GOLD – Women
7. JUST US BABY – Viola, Jerome
8. WHITE BEARS – Men
9. NOTHING GROWING ANYWHERE – Clyde
10. THE JOINING – Ida, Billy
11. WHAT’S THERE TO FEAR – Women
12. RIVER OF LOVE – Wilomene, Abigail, Clyde
13. JUST US BABY (Rep) – Viola, Jerome
14. THE FIFTH SEASON – Women
15. THE LOTTERY – All
16. FINALE – All
Demo tracks feature John Rusnak on piano.
Ms. Cahill’s lyrics are smart, and Ms. La Puma’s score combines reined in sounds of solitude with the occasional soaring outdoorsy line. The performers easily keep the audience hooked throughout this ambitious show.” – The Washington Times
Cast: 5 women, 5 men (who also serve as chorus)
ABIGAIL – a housekeeper (Soprano)
IDA – a young school teacher (Soprano)
VIOLA – a dancer, sometimes prostitute (Alto Belt)
WILOMENE – a New York Debutante (Mezzo)
MARY – the Indian Agent (Alto)
CLYDE – longtime homesteader (Lyric Baritone)
BILLY – Ida’s young love (Tenor)
JEROME – Viola’s abusive boyfriend (Tenor)
MR. MAXWELL – Washington Bureaucrat. Also plays LEWIS – Wilomene’s Father (Baritone)
Music: Semi-Operatic Folk/Americana, scored for Piano, Clarinet/Flute, Violin and Cello by Matt Smedal.
Musical Difficulty: High
Technical Requirements: Minimal
Suggested Audience: Adults
Its creators have approached these topics with skill…cleverness, and evident passion… (La Puma’s) score is at once bouncy and dissonant. her anthemic opening number is a corker, and several of her subsequent songs live up to its promise.” – City Paper
KATHLEEN CAHILL (Book & Lyrics) – Awards include the Jane Chambers Playwrighting Award (for her musical Dakota Sky) and recently a Jane Chambers Honorable Mention (for her play Charm) two Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwrighting Awards, a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award, a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts New American Works Grant, and a Drama League Award. With composer Michael Wartofsky, she wrote the book and lyrics for The Navigator, a musical about love, history and time, which was recently performed in concert at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Songs from The Navigator were recently heard in New York City at the Miss New York Festival and at Dreamlight Theatre Company’s Bright Lights Showcase at the Triad. (The song All The Possibilities can be heard on the new CD by The Broadway Boys.) With Michael Wartofsky she also wrote Friendship of the Sea that toured for two seasons with the North Shore Music Theatre Educational Outreach Program. With composer Deborah Wicks La Puma, she wrote Dakota Sky about single women homesteaders in the last American land rush (Olney Theatre; Norris Theatre, L.A.). Other musical works include Clara, an opera about Clara Schumann (Maryland Center for the Arts), Water on the Moon with Deborah Wicks La Puma (Voice of America radio play), Fatal Song (Maryland Center for the Performing Arts), and A Tale of Two Cities: Paris and Berlin in the Twenties (Maryland Center for the Performing Arts). Plays include The Still Time (Georgia Rep/ Porchlight Theatre, Chicago) the comedy Women Who Love Science Too Much (Porchlight Theatre), and Henri Louise and Henry (Cleveland Public). Her play Charm was workshopped at the Lark Theatre Playwrights Week, Icicle Creek Theatre Festival, Orlando Shakespeare Playfest 2009, and will receive a workshop production at Orlando Shakespeare in November 2009. Salt Lake Acting Company produced the world premiere of Charm in April 2010. Her screenplay Downtown Express, written for David Grubin Productions, starring the unique singer/songwriter Nellie McKay and the international violin soloist Philippe Quint, is currently in development.
Ms. Cahill received an MFA in Writing for Music-Theatre from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a BA in English Literature from Northeastern University. She works as writer/ senior editor for Masterpiece on PBS, and is currently Visiting Professor in the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah.
DEBORAH WICKS LA PUMA (Music) – read her bio here
[Dakota Sky] is the only show I’ve reviewed all year that I plan to see again. If you fail to catch it, your summer will have less sugar but also a lot less spice. Cahill has a gift for sharp simplicity and offhand poignancy. La Puma’s score is more fertile than the Great Plains.” – The Baltimore Alternative