Interlochen Arts Academy alum César Alvarez wins prestigious musical theatre award

Alvarez recently received the Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre, an award given to an outstanding musical theatre lyricist that includes a $100,000 cash prize.

César Alvarez

César Alvarez. Photo credit: Ian Burkian/Dartmouth College.

Interlochen Arts Academy alum and current Dartmouth College assistant professor of music César Alvarez (IAA 97-99) was recently selected as the recipient of the Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre, an award which honors an outstanding musical theatre lyricist.

The prize is awarded annually by the Kleban Foundation, which was created under the will of Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Edward Kleban. This year’s award includes a $100,000 cash prize. Alvarez and Isabella Dawis—who received the prize for most promising musical theatre librettist—will be honored in a virtual awards ceremony that will be available to stream via Broadway On Demand from Feb. 21-28.

A composer and playwright with a background as a jazz saxophonist, band leader, and sound artist, Alvarez has written five full-length experimental musicals, including the Lucille Lortel Award-winning FUTURITY. Alvarez’s works are unique formally and dramaturgically, often engaging audience members as co-creators and featuring unconventional characters such as androids, aliens, insects, and talking plants. In 2015, Alvarez founded Polyphone, a festival of new and emerging musicals at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Alvarez’s other theatrical honors include a Princeton Arts Fellowship, a Jonathan Larson Grant, and several Drama Desk Award nominations. Alvarez is currently developing four new musicals and working on commissions for Playwright’s Horizon and Denver Theater Circle.

“Interlochen Arts Academy had a tremendous impact on my development as an artist,” Alvarez said. “Even though I didn't start writing songs until college and I wrote my first attempt at a musical in the closing months of graduate school, so much of the groundwork for my life as a composer and band leader was laid at Interlochen.”

A self-described “communitarian artist,” Alvarez frequently collaborates with other artists, including their partner, visual artist and sculptor Emily Orling, and fellow Interlochen alum and Dartmouth College professor Ash Fure (IAA 98-00).

“I started a 16-piece salsa band during my time at Interlochen Arts Academy,” Alvarez said. “That ensemble was very good practice for the type of collective music-making that has become the backbone of my professional work.”

Alvarez holds a Bachelor of Music in Saxophone Performance, Electronic Music, and Interdisciplinary Music from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a Master of Fine Arts in Music/Sound from Bard College. They joined the faculty of Dartmouth College in 2020.