Back to the 32nd Annual Festival of New Musicals

Hart Island

2020 Festival

Raja Feather Kelly

Music Director
Jason Yarcho

Cheo Bourne, Carrie Compere, Natascia Diaz, Rodney Hicks, Jawan Jackson, Gizel Jiménez, Simon Longnight, Aline Mayagoitia and Ryan Gregory Thurman

Number of Acts: 1
Number of Principals (Male): 1
Number of Principals (Female): 1
Preferred Ensemble Size: 6
Total Cast Size: 8
Orchestra Breakdown:

Keyboard, Violin, Cello, Reed, Guitar, Bass, Percussion

Casting Notes:

The ensemble members play a wide variety of roles who interact with the principals.

Genre & Style:

Musical Drama

Search Set & Costume Registry


Hart Island is an inspiring tale of an immigrant woman fighting for her child, and the unexpected compassion of a disillusioned inmate who is the only person who can help her. This hauntingly beautiful musical observes two people on the edge of society as they change each other’s lives forever.

Development History

Hart Island was developed in the Musical Theatre Factory’s inaugural Writers’ Group. It was part of Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals in 2017. In 2018, the show received a developmental workshop reading through the Musical Theatre Factory, and in 2019, it received a developmental workshop production in Village Theatre’s Beta Series.

Festival Successes

NAMT Frank Young Fund for New Musicals Writers Residency Grant at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (CA)

5 Things You Should Know

  1. There are over one million adults, children and infants buried on Hart Island, and burials continue to this day, conducted by inmates on Riker’s Island, who receive $.50/hour for their labor.
  2. We first read about Hart Island in 2011, and immediately felt compelled to imagine the lives of people whose stories intersected with the island. We imagined Charles and Marielena nine years ago, but it took us several years until we had time to write the show, and five years to get it to this point.
  3. We visited Hart Island a couple of years ago. Every month, the public can sign up for a short ferry ride to the island and then the opportunity to stand in a designated area on Hart Island. Seeing it with our own eyes, standing on the sacred ground with our own feet was utterly transformative. Much of Charles’ description of the Island in the song “Isla So Beautiful” was inspired by our visit to the Island. A Captain with the Department of Corrections oversaw the group and answered our questions. He genuinely believed that the men who worked on the burial crew were changed for the better by their work, and that most considered it an honor to work on the Island. We modeled a character after him.
  4. We imagine a production of Hart Island would reflect the simple beauty and solemnity of the island itself, and that somehow, the presence of Hart Island would always be felt. Time and place are fluid throughout the show, and the locations can be suggestive, with details such as the prison uniforms, the rough-hewn pine boxes, the blanket, helping to ground us in the specific.
  5. We sincerely hope Hart Island will be produced, and that audiences will have the opportunity to grieve, and grow, with Charles and Marielena.