The Crossroads Project has selected Tidtaya Sinutoke’s play Dear Mr. C as the winner of the 2022 Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative, a new play development program for BIPOC playwrights organized by the Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance. A group of volunteer readers comprising students, faculty, staff, and community members evaluated over 90 excellent submissions this year. Sinutoke will be invited to campus in mid-April for a workshop residency that will culminate in an in-person staged reading, directed by Janet Wilson with music direction by Maggie Marlin-Hess, on April 22 at 7:30 p.m. (location to be announced). A virtual presentation of the play will follow at a later date. Follow The Crossroads Project on Facebook for updates on these events. 

The Winning Play 

Dear Mr. C is an autobiographical play with music about love, family, grief, immigration, and cancer. It tells the story of a Thai immigrant musical theatre writer who tries to find peace after one phone call turns their world upside-down. The Writer, living in New York, learns that their mother back in Thailand has been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, receiving this shocking news only after a major operation. The Writer struggles to deal with the reality of their mother’s illness during a time when they are discouraged from traveling overseas because of their visa renewal process. The play arose from the many poems, monologues, and song ideas that Sinutoke herself wrote during that time to cope with the desperation, anxiety, and depression of not being able to be at her mother’s side while she was recovering. 

“I want to write this play to share some lights toward an authentic immigrant story from my own experience,” says Sinutoke. “As a female musical theatre maker, a person of color, and an immigrant, my main goal in writing is to express the meaning of identity, building a community where everyone can share their individual stories, and creating a new generation of a theatre of authenticity; of everyone’s ‘American Dream.’”

Tidtaya Sinutoke

The Playwright 

Tidtaya Sinutoke (ฑิตยา สินุธก) is a Thailand-born, New York City-based composer, writer, and musician. Composition credits include Half the Sky (The 5th Avenue Theatre’s First Draft Commission & 20/21 Digital Season, Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Richard Rodgers Award finalist), Sunwatcher (The Civilians R&D Group, Weston Playhouse’s Songs for Today, Ancram Opera House Play Lab, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Global Forms Festival), and Dear Mr. C (NYFA’s City Artist Corps Grants).

She received the 2017 Jonathan Larson Grant, the 2020 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award, the 2021 International Theatremaker Award, and the 2021 Fred Ebb Award. Her works have been supported by the American Opera Project, Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists, Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals, Robert Rauschenberg Residency, EtM Con Edison Composer-in-Residence, MTF’s Makers Cohort, and the Kurt Weill Foundation. Sinutoke is a proud member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild, Maestra, MUSE, and the Thai Theatre Foundation. She received her B.M. from the Berklee College of Music and her M.F.A. in musical theatre writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

The Finalists 

The 90+ plays submitted to Diverse Voices this year span a wide range of topics, styles, and cultural backgrounds. The Crossroads Project narrowed this impressive pool down to five finalists (including Sinutoke’s Dear Mr. C). 

Andrea Coleman’s Secrets is a comedic farce about three Brooklyn couples, their friends, and all the secrets they are trying to keep from each other. 

Kareem Fahmy’s American Fast tells the story of college basketball phenom Khady Salama, who discovers to her dismay that the NCAA Women’s Championships coincide with Ramadan.  

Maximillian Gill’s Fourteen Words is about a BIPOC journalist’s attempt to investigate the white supremacist movement online, set in the wake of the January 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. 

Nilsa Reyna’s Legends of Texas is a family drama set in the Texas border town of San Juan about two politically opposed sisters who fight over what to do with their late father’s gun store.  

These and other plays by talented BIPOC artists reflect the multitude of experiences and perspectives that make up American theatre today. 

The Crossroads Project 

The Crossroads Project is an advocacy committee comprising of faculty, staff, and students that promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion in the Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance. In the past, Crossroads has invited established playwrights to Illinois State to participate in mainstage productions of their work. Recently, Crossroads presented Ga-AD! by Ugandan playwright and director Adong Lucy Judith in 2018 and Delhi-based author Manjula Padmanabhan’s Harvest in 2017. 

The Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative was created to complement these programs by supporting playwrights of color as they develop new work. In addition to providing opportunities for artists from historically underserved groups, the initiative also creates an environment in which students and community members can interact directly with professional theatre artists. The inaugural staged reading took place in fall 2020 with  Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes by Franky D. Gonzalez, followed by The DePriest Incident by Charles White in spring 2021. 

The 2022 Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative is funded by the Fell Trust at Illinois State University. The Crossroads Project also accepts gifts through the Crossroads Program Fund to support Diverse Voices and other arts programming.