Vermont Arts Council

The People’s Choice Award: Susan Haefner

48: Susan Haefner

Little Yellow House Studio

Create a first draft of “Alma,” a chamber musical in one act

Susan Haefner and Lisa Brigantino have been collaborating on musical and theatrical projects for over 30 years, most recently as part of Susan’s production company, Little Yellow House Studio.

Susan Haefner (“Alma” writer, composer, actor) is a Broadway veteran with over 35 years experience in professional theater as an actor and director. Lisa Brigantino (“Alma” composer, arranger, music supervisor) is an internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and composer for theatre, film, TV and more.

Through Little Yellow House Studio, Lisa and Susan have collaborated on virtual livestream cabarets and music programs in Vermont, live concerts in New York City and Vermont, and various theatrical and film projects.

Project description

The resulting work will be a completed first draft of a new chamber musical entitled “Alma,” presented at a private invited reading in Vermont on or about July 19, 2024. The reading and discussion following will be videotaped and used to promote further development of the work and a fully-produced theatrical production.

“Alma”” is a story with a unique, female heroine — an elderly grandmother. Inspired by the scrapbooks, photos and letters of correspondence between Susan and her real-life maternal grandmother, Alma is a story of finding courage through debilitating shyness and fear, the importance of multi-generational family (chosen family) relationships, the power of resilience and ultimately, a reflection on a life well-lived.

Synopsis: Faced with leaving her home of 64 years and moving to a nursing home, 95 year-old Alma grapples with letting go of life as she has known it—coming to peace with a lifetime of shyness, introversion and fears, saying goodbye to material things and loved ones, deciding what to keep and what to leave behind, learning how to keep memories alive for generations to come, and finding the courage to walk out of her home one last time. This is a memory play with comedy at its heart —Alma, riddled with uncertainty and fear of the unknown, finds out that her gentle humor, fierce love of family and her undying memories are her super powers, ultimately giving her the grit and spirit she needs to help make the transition.

Talkbacks following the performance will engage the audience in discussions about the importance of facing our own aging and “final” transition, the relevance and need for family (whether blood or chosen), and how to stay connected in these ever-changing times.

The long term goal for this work is a fully produced production at a Vermont theater, followed by a tour to Vermont community centers, churches, and intimate spaces.

Media Sample 1

The Only Home I Know from “Alma.” “A sneak peek at the opening moments of ‘Alma’ in draft form. This is a jumping off point for development of a full draft and reading presentation.”

Media Sample 2

One Year. “This gives a taste of  ‘Alma’ creators’ talents: Lisa’s writing style and Susan’s performance style.”

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Acadia Klepeis August 23, 2023