San Diego State University’s new music initiative selects IN A SUNSHINE STATE for its world premiere

Out of 163 submissions, the San Diego State University New Musical Initiative chose In a Sunshine State as this year’s selection. Writers TC Lind, Derek Gregorand Phoebe Kreutz will join the director Stephen Brotebeckmusic director Robert Meffe and the SDSU MFA Musical Theater cohort for a two-year development process and world premiere in spring 2024.

In A Sunshine State is a historical romance set in late 1950s Florida, during one of the most heartbreaking and misunderstood times in American queer history. Evelyn Pierce, a reclusive but fiercely intelligent English professor, secretly falls in love with her college’s strident new dean, Betty Kincaid. The two embark on a path of self-discovery and happiness as a state committee and its corrosive head investigate allegations of communism at the college, threatening their careers and romance.

“At a time of immense political and cultural divide in our country, coinciding with a revitalized movement against the LGBTQ+ community (particularly in our education system), our story forces its protagonist and the audience to think critically about their own willingness to ‘do the right thing’ when it could ruin their lives. Most importantly, it seeks to honor the hundreds of queer lives ruined by Florida’s notorious Legislative Inquiry Committee – and the lives of countless other queer people, then and now, hidden in the shadows, resisting the only way they can.” – TC Lind, Phoebe Kurtz, and Derek Gregor

“We only wish In a Sunshine State wasn’t so relevant to our times,” says the music director Robert Meffe“this piece was chosen unanimously by our selection committee for its powerful themes, thoughtful story, and well-crafted music and lyrics.”

The SDSU New Musical Initiative is supported by the Julia R. Brown New Musical Theater Fund. Past artists have included Lynne Shankel, Crystal expert, Bobby Cronin, caroline prugh, Ryan Scott OlivierBD Wang, wayne barker, Michael Federico and Seth and Sean Magill, members of Home for Hovercraft.

The main cast will feature MFA Musical Theater graduate students whose collective work spans Broadway, international and regional/local productions. Class of 2024 includes Van Angelo, Justin BrillLindsey Grant, Zakk Mannella, Natalie McClure, Wilfred Paloma and Sarah Salonga.

TC Lind is a playwright, screenwriter, and speechwriter, whose work for special events and galas includes the inaugural Lincoln Center Hall of Fame Awards, Hispanic Heritage Awards, the Giving Pledge Foundation’s annual gala and the Anti-Defamation League Hate Concert. This is his first musical.

Phoebe Kreutz is a singer/songwriter/lyricist from New York City. Over the years, she’s brought her irreverent folk joke tunes to a million bars all over America and Europe. More recently his EP “Leaky Canoe” was released on Lousy Moon Records in Frankfurt. Phoebe has also written and co-written several new musicals, including The Nice List (which was produced Zoom-style during the pandemic and starred James Monroe Iglehart, Anne Harada and Telly Leung) Holy Crap: The Worst Parts of the Bible, Thanks” and Go! Go! Gilgamesh! – which won Best Musical and Entrant’s Choice at New York’s Frigid Fest. A review of his songs titled Awesomer & Awesomer (created by Alan Muraoka) will be staged this summer at the Legacy Theatre. A member of the BMI Advanced Workshop, she is the recipient of the Harrington Award, the Ellen Schwartz Award for Literary Merit in Lyrics and a fellowship from the NY Society Library. And because life is strange, Phoebe is perhaps better known as “Pizza Nico” in Macaulay Culkinthe controversial parody group “The Pizza Underground”. Go figure.

Derek Gregor is a New York-based composer for stage and screen. He wrote the original songs for the upcoming American Reject feature film: Keala Colony, Rebecca Black, Annaleigh Ashford, Angelique HaleJuvenile, Billy Ray Cyrus (Selda Sahin Lyrics). His musical Modern about a group of Amish teenagers on Rumspringa was developed at village theater Seattle, ASCAP “Grow A Show” Lincoln, Nebraska, the Stephane Schwartz Workshop NYC, San Diego State U, USC and will have its first workshop/production in January 2022 at the Bloomington Playwrights Project. Derek is a recipient of a Richard Rodgers price, one Jean Wallowitch price and a MAC price. His musical Unlock’d (Sam Carner lyrics) received a long Off-Broadway run at the Duke Theater (2013). Derek has been in residency at Yaddo, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Johnny Mercier at Goodspeed and Hundredth Hill Farm. He is a proud graduate of Skidmore College and NYU Tisch’s graduate musical theater writing program.

SDSU’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Musical Theater degree from the School of Theater, Television, and Film has helped hundreds of people establish careers as musical theater artists since its founding in 1981. Many of our graduates have used this terminal degree to teach in musical theater programs at schools and universities around the world. Others have become professional performers, directors, choreographers, music directors, producers, casting agents and writers. The SDSU MFA Musical Theater Program is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theater (NAMT).

At SDSU, we strive to bring the professional world of musical theater closer to the academic world of the university. Our students bring us their professional experience, and together we develop the skills to take it forward.

San Diego State University is a leading public research institution that provides transformative experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, to its 35,000 students. The university offers bachelor’s degrees in 94 fields, master’s degrees in 78 fields, and doctorates in 22 fields. Students participate in research, international experiences, sustainability and entrepreneurship initiatives, and a wide range of student life and leadership opportunities. The university’s rich campus life provides students with the opportunity to participate and engage in the creative and performing arts, a Division I athletics program, and the vibrant cultural life of the San Diego area. For more information, visit

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