Keep Your Head Down

Musical in Development

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A new musical in progress about the contemporary Asian-American experience.

Ari Afsar’s music video for “7 Years,” from her debut EP, Somewhere I Thought I’d Be.

The Last Five Years, Behind the Curtain: Jeannette the Musical, The Dogs of Pripyat

About the Evening @ WMPAC

Ari Afsar, Jess McLeod, and the team of Keep Your Head Down will present a new draft of a pilot episode of the limited series, featuring live music and animations, performed by a stellar cast of in-person performers, followed by a Q&A session with the creative team.

An earlier sketch of the Keep Your Head Down limited series was commissioned last summer as part of our Big Sky Summer Theatre Festival: From A Distance. This year, we will experience the project as it takes a leap forward with in-person performances from all of the artists.

About the Project

Created by Ari Afsar (Composer and Lyricist of Jeannette: The Musical) and Director Jess McLeod (Hamilton Chicago), Keep Your Head Down is an episodic musical that uses docu-style interviews, new original songs, and animation techniques to debunk American myths about the Asian-American experience. 


Ari Afsar (Composer/Lyricist/Creator) is a singer/songwriter with placements on ABC, Disney, and Amazon. A graduate of Ethnomusicology from UCLA, Afsar has an EP out called Somewhere I Thought I’d Be. She is the composer of Jeannette, a musical about the first woman elected into Congress, developed at the O’Neill National Music Theater Conference, where Afsar won the Lyricist Award. She has opened for Michelle Obama, performed in the U.S. Institute of Peace, presented before Gloria Steinem, and opened at the ACLU national conference. She was the original Eliza in Chicago’s Hamilton, Miss California 2010, and a top 36 American Idol alum.

Jess McLeod (Director) grew up in San Francisco, went to grad school in Chicago, and is based in New York.  Recent credits include Resident Director, Hamilton Chicago; Paola Lázaro’s There’s Always the Hudson (world premiere, Woolly Mammoth); Ryan J. Haddad’s Hi, Are You Single? (Woolly Mammoth, co-dir. w/ Laura Savia), Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice (Long Wharf), Idris Goodwin’s Hype Man (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play (Jeff  Nom., The Gift Theatre). She also directed several digital works during quarantine, including a short film of Columbus’ diaries, starring Michael Shannon, and a social justice walking tour for the National Public Housing Museum. A passionate advocate who believes in art as a social good and force for change, Jess is a 2021 NYCLU Artist Ambassador, co-conspires with the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, and recently co-created the #STOPASIANHATE video campaign for NY Rep. Grace Meng’s 3/26 Day of Action & Healing.

Asmeret Ghebremichael is the Artistic Director of the Big Sky Summer Theatre Festival, and was most recently seen on Broadway in The Book of Mormon. Her other Broadway credits include Wicked, Legally Blonde, Elf, Spamalot and Footloose. Off-Broadway, she’s been seen in Lone Star Love, In the Heights and Sweet Charity. In 2017, she took on the role of Lorrell Robinson in the West End production of Dreamgirls. Ghebremichael appeared in NBC’s The Wiz Live! and has also been seen on screen in Submissions Only and Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Chloe Booher (Animation) is an animator and designer based in Los Angeles, California. Originally from the small college town of Davis, California, Chloe came to LA to pursue her BA in Fine Arts and Urban Planning and eventually an MFA in Animation from UCLA. She works in a broad array of disciplines, including motion and graphic design, animation, visual effects and illustration. Her favorite projects involve mixing and mashing many styles and techniques. By day, Chloe works for the NFL’s creative team, and by night she freelances on passion projects. 


Julian-Quán Việt Lê is a Grammy-nominated music producer and audio engineer from Albany California. He loves spending most of his time learning about how sound affects its surroundings, and swimming with sea turtles.


Brooke Ishibashi: A fourth-generation Japanese American, Brooke hails from a showbiz family. As a professional actor/singer, she originated/developed the role of “Neary” in Cambodian Rock Band and is passionate about exploring anti-racism, social justice, and trans-generational trauma.

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