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Broken Ground

Broken Ground_Paintsplash copy.png
Book & Lyrics by Christine Toy  Johnson
Music & Lyrics by Jason Ma

1911 - A village in Hunan Province in Jiangyong County, where women have developed Nu Shu  (“Women’s Script”), a writing system that is hundreds of years old and indecipherable to men. The War  is over, and the reign of Emperors has ended after thousands of years of dynastic rule. In this new China that's full of possibility, a young girl named Xue Lan takes an unexpected and magical journey      to womanhood. Guided by the beloved spirits of departed family, her mother’s mystical Nu Shu embroidery, and mythical goddesses (ancient beings with a 21st century vibe), she finds her purpose and true destiny, all while pushing against the traditions of patriarchal society, and finding her own path to her heart’s desires.

Broken Ground is currently on its developmental journey; originally commissioned by Village Theatre,

we most recently participated in the 2024 Johnny Mercer Foundation Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals and the 2024 New Works Festival at Musical Theatre West.

Photos and info regarding our May 2022 industry reading at Open Jar Studios here.

Demo Recordings for Xue Lan's world...

1911 - A new China.

As the rule of emperors ends, a young girl dreams of a new world

of possibilities, while navigating through the obstacles of  the old ways. 

9. You Should Be Happy
00:00 / 05:36

To her dismay, Xue Lan (sung by Diana Huey) learns that her father has already arranged a marriage for her.​

4. There's A Place
00:00 / 04:09

Twin siblings dream of a better world as they reminisce about their childhood when brother Jun Bao (sung by Brian Kim)  went away to school, leaving his sister behind (Xue Lan sung by Diana Huey). But now,  he is leaving  her to go off to war.

6. Let This Be Your Voice
00:00 / 04:08

Xue Lan (sung by Diana Huey) has a flashback to her ten year old self, when she first learns about the women's writing system "Nushu" from her mother (sung by Jaygee Macapugay).

Demo Recordings for Nu Wa's world

A world of ancient Chinese myth, but with a distinctly 21st Century vibe. Immortals and deities battle for supremacy in a mythical world of ideas, metaphor, and masculine/feminine struggle.

8. What It Is
00:00 / 04:01

Princess Nu Wa (sung by Jaygee Macapugay) yearns to explore beyond the confines of her kingdom and venture to the Eastern Sea, the realm of the Dragon King.

12. The Sea of Me
00:00 / 03:39

The Dragon King of the Eastern Sea (sung by Kennedy Kanagawa) explains his privilege to Princess Nu Wa, who has trespassed on his kingdom.​

20. What I Want
00:00 / 06:12

The Goddess of Determination, “Jing Wei,” a bird, (sung by Ali Ewoldt) is the resurrected and transformed spirit of the drowned Princess Nu Wa, and has come to stop the Dragon King.

7. More
00:00 / 05:14

Ai Ling (sung by Delphi Borich) consoles and counsels her friend Xue Lan (sung by Diana Huey), who has created a piece of Nushu embroidery, honoring her departed family members.

10. A Good Girl
00:00 / 07:20

Xue Lan (sung by Diana Huey) meets her prospective future in-laws for the first time, including the formidable matriarch, Madam Ma (sung by Cindy Cheung).  Ba (voiced by Dave Shih)

16. Beyond the Broken Ground
00:00 / 03:08

The Goddess of Compassion, “Guan Yin” (sung by Ali Ewoldt) provides comfort to the struggling Xue Lan.​

17. To Do What's Right
00:00 / 06:28

Ma Jian Gen (sung by Kevin Schuering) breaks off the engagement on the day before the wedding, believing that it would be unfair to Xue Lan (sung by Diana Huey) to enter into their arranged marriage, not knowing that he had decided on a very different future than both families had in mind.

The Goddess of Compassion, sung here by Ali Ewoldt, comforts Xue Lan.

We filmed this excerpt from the show for New York Theatre Barn's New Works

Series in November 2020. ( Our first sharing of the material after we completed the first draft!)

The Dragon King of the Eastern Sea shares his view of the world with the young Princess Nu Wa before unveiling his true self.  Sung by Kennedy Kanagawa at Green Room 42 during his solo show, 04.01.22.

The entire live-streamed episode of the New York Theatre Barn's New Works Series on 11/18, including the performances above and discussion with Christine and Jason.

The Kennedy Center gathered a diverse group of artists from across the country for their "Winter Traditions" series. Stories of my immigrant family's holiday traditions, followed by an excerpt from "Broken Ground" was our contribution to this programming, highlighting an inclusive array of American artists.

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