Skip to the content

In Development


At the end of the March 2017 residency, Nkeiru Okoye/Carman Moore’s Bre’r Rabbit and Gina Leishman/Jan Dalley’s Vagabond were chosen for further developmental support in 2017-2018.

In September 2017, the Institute mentors reconvened in New York for meetings with the writing teams of Bre’r Rabbit and Vagabond, to discuss ongoing revisions to the two works.  A two-day intensive musical  workshop is being planned for each work in the spring of 2018.


Based upon the life of explorer and writer Isabelle Eberhardt, whose journals and unconventional way of life have fascinated since her untimely death by flash flood in the desert of Algeria, aged 27, in 1904. 

GINA LEISHMAN (composer) is a New York based composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist.  She has written for theater, opera, dance, film, television and concert stage, garnering numerous awards. Her first opera, Burning Dreams, was premiered in San Diego; the second, Actaeon, Part I of Paul Zimet’s Black Milk Quartet, was premiered at La Mama, NYC.  Other recent work for the theater includes texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, for Compagnia de’ Colombari (dir. Karin Coonrod), premiered at BAM’s Next Wave Festival; Septimus & Clarissa, an adaptation of Mrs. Dalloway with Ellen McLaughlin and Rachel Dickstein for Ripe Time (NYC) (Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding score) and David Gordon’s Uncivil Wars/Politica Shenanigans (the Kitchen, NYC, Walker Arts Center, Mpls etc.).  She leads various and sundry music ensembles, including Kamikaze Ground Crew (commissions include Donaueschingen New Music Festival and Chamber Music America) and Mr. Wau-Wa, a quintet dedicated to the songs of Bertolt Brecht.  Collaborations with other artists include directors Lisa Peterson and Robert Woodruff, writers Tony Kushner and Naomi Wallace, choreographers Bebe Miller and Deborah Slater, composer Doug Wieselman, and performance artists Rinde Eckert, John Kelly and Theo Bleckmann.  Ms. Leishman has been the recipient of grants from the NEA, Meet The Composer, Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Fund, Rockefeller Foundation, Arts International, Chamber Music America, Doris Duke Foundation, American Music Center and California Arts Council. Artists residencies include Montalvo, CA, in 2010 and 2011, Colgate, NY, in 2012, and Akrai, Sicily, in 2014.  Her music can be found on Koch Jazz, New World, Busmeat and GCQ Records. www.ginaleishman.com

Bre’r Rabbit; Tales from the Briar Patch

A folk opera triptych, based upon the “Bre’r Rabbit” tales.



NKEIRU OKOYE (composer)

Hailed as “Sublime” by the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, Nkeiru Okoye’s compositions are a musical quilt that draw inspiration from a dizzying range of influences—Gilbert & Sullivan, the Gershwins, Sondheim, Copland, gospel, jazz, and Schoenberg. Her theatrical works have been presented by American Opera Projects, Oberlin Opera Theater, Cleveland Opera Theater, the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago, and Hartford Opera Theater. Her symphonic works have been performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, and countless regional orchestras.  She is the recipient of numerous awards including an NEA Art Works grant for her opera, HARRIET TUBMAN: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom; and a Female Composers Discovery Grant from Opera America, for her comedy, We’ve Got Our Eye On You. She is the Director of Music Theory and Composition at the State University of New York at New Paltz where she teaches harmony, orchestration, and composition.