To perfectly usher in the fall, Will Shishmanian filled the Playbill studio with acoustic folk music from his original musical Amberland for the newest edition of Playbill’s Songwriter Series. Presented by Audible Theater, the series is dedicated to spotlighting emerging composers and features a new video every month.
Amberland (previously titled The Regulars) is a queer folk musical that follows the story of Mark Howard, a trans-man who is a transplant in a small rural town. The musical explores identity, queerness, and finding chosen family. Shishmanian wrote the music, lyrics, and book for the musical, so you can imagine how personal and introspective the project is to him. In 2022, the first draft of Amberland was performed in concert at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, England. Learn more about the musical at AmberlandMusical.com.
Shishmanian is a musical theatre composer, lyricist, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist based in Queens, NY. Alongside Amberland, he also wrote music and lyrics for Addy & Dahlia: A Fairytale Musical. Autumn is turning out to be a bountiful harvest for Shishmanian, with many exciting projects lined up. Up first, Shishmanian is teaming up with Brooke Trumm to write a 10-minute musical for Prospect Theater Company’s 2023 Musical Theater Lab, Potluck: A Musical Feast, to be performed November 16 at 7:30pm. Outside of his work as a composer, Shishmanian also plays guitar for performances, readings, and recording sessions in the city, and produces music for other artists. His most recent solo EP “Never Far Behind,” released this year, can be found with the rest of his singer-songwriter work on streaming platforms under the artist name “Will Shish.” To find out more about Shishmanian and his work, visit WillShish.com.
Joining Shishmanian is Samantha Williams, Achilles Mulkey, and Cartreze Tucker on vocals and Davey Thatcher Maglione on piano. Featured songs include “Golden Glow,” “All I Wanted,” “Right On Track,” and “Finally Ready.” Read on for some context on each song:
"Golden Glow" (performed by Samantha Williams, Achilles Mulkey, and Will Shishmanian) is a song sung by a trio of Amberlanders in the town square, as they settle into autumn, and anticipate the annual Harvest Festival that begins the following day.
“All I Wanted” (performed by Achilles Mulkey) is sung by the lead of the show, Mark, who just moved to Amberland to escape his hometown and strained family dynamic. As he navigates his new life, he grapples with how much of his past and his own identity he wants to share, and who he can connect with.
“Right On Track” is sung by the character Brandon, who works with Mark at the orchard, and also performs as a drag artist out of town. Despite usually avoiding hometown performances, Brandon sings this song in drag at the opening night of the gay bar.
“Finally Ready” (performed by Samantha Williams) is the 11 o’clock number, sung by Dani, a Black queer woman who’s opening a gay bar. After the bar receives threats and opposition from some people in town on its opening night, Dani is forced to rethink her plan, and sings this when she's feeling confident enough to keep the bar open for business.
Audible Theater is a proud sponsor of Playbill’s Songwriter Series. Audible Theater makes outstanding performances and powerful storytelling available to millions of people all over the world. As part of this initiative, Audible has produced Girls & Boys with Carey Mulligan, The Half-Life of Marie Curie with Kate Mulgrew, Harry Clarke starring Billy Crudup, and many others at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York City. Audible was also a co-producer for the Broadway transfer of the Tony Award-nominated Latin History for Morons, written by and starring John Leguizamo; and for the Tony Award-nominated Sea Wall/A Life starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge. Since June 2017, Audible has commissioned 40 playwrights to receive support from its $5 million Emerging Playwrights Fund dedicated to developing innovative English-language works from around the globe and keeping with Audible’s core commitment to elevating listening experiences through powerful performances and extraordinary vocal storytelling.
Sing for Hope harnesses the power of the arts to create a better world. Our creative programs bring hope, healing, and connection to millions of people in hospitals, schools, care facilities, refugee camps, transit hubs, and community spaces worldwide. A non-profit organization founded in New York City in response to the events of 9/11, Sing for Hope partners with hundreds of community-based organizations, mobilizes thousands of artists in creative service, and produces artist-created Sing for Hope Pianos across the US and around the world. The official Cultural Partner of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, Sing for Hope champions art for all because we believe the arts have an unmatched capacity to uplift, unite, and heal. Learn more at SingForHope.org.