Yeaton’s ‘Swing State’ headed for NYC

MIDDLEBURY — Two years ago, Middlebury playwright and teacher Dana Yeaton and his former student, Andy Mitton, saw their play My Ohio staged at Town Hall Theater and at the FlynnSpace in Burlington.
This July, they will see their creation performed under the new title Swing State at the world’s largest musical theater festival in New York City.
Yeaton and Minton are ecstatic that their play has been named one of 10 “Next Link” winners for this year’s New York Musical Theatre Festival, known as NYMF. Yeaton noted that the festival has been the launch site for several Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including Altar Boyz, Title of Show, and winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Next to Normal.
“This is what you hope for,” Yeaton said of the prestigious NYMF invitation that will feature multiple performances of Swing State before an audience of theater movers and shakers who could take the musical to the next level. Performances will take place at The 45th Street Theater, in the heart of New York’s theater district.
“It is probably the biggest thing to happen to my career in the past 20 years,” Yeaton said.
Yeaton began crafting My Ohio during the second term of former President George W. Bush. It was a time, he recalled, during which many Americans found themselves in polar opposite political camps, with seemingly little middle ground. It is that underlying red state-blue state philosophical tug-of-war that Yeaton sought to embody, in microcosm, within his two — and only two — characters in My Ohio.
Set in a community in southeastern Ohio, the two disparate characters make their initial connection through what had been scheduled as a routine, chiropractic back adjustment — though it turns out to be anything but routine. “Bonnie,” an evangelical kindergarten teacher at a rural school, arrives at the office to find her customary, grapple-and-go chiropractor has been temporarily replaced by “Neil,” whom she learns is gay, of an urban background, and who espouses views that are far more liberal than her own.
Bonnie experiences, through her treatments, relief from her pain and a better understanding of beliefs contrary to her own, while Neil also comes to respect political and religious views that are right of center.
Once accepted into the NYMF, Yeaton and his colleagues were assigned a “dramaturge” to recommend ways to tweak the play for the best possible reception from the audience. Consequently, the musical was retooled with some new songs, a new title, and a new, election-year tag line: “What if those awful people who are ruining this country … were your only hope?”
Igor Goldin will direct the play. Organizers have offered the Swing State roles to two very well known and successful stage actors, though no firm commitments have been made.
A lot of Middlebury College alums have had a hand in the play, including book and lyric writer Yeaton ’79, composer Mitton ’01, and vocalist Tara Giordano ’01, to name a few.
Yeaton is also an assistant professor of theater at the college.
The rapid ascent of Swing State has made Yeaton more confident in his career path and eager to write more musicals in partnership with Mitton.
Yeaton is seeking to raise $50,000 for the Swing State performances at the NYMF. Anyone wanting to donate to the cause can do so by logging on to https://www.nymf.org/Donate.html, and selecting “Swing State.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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