Kristen Rea is a dancing french hornist turned musical theatre composer-lyricist and playwright. Her writing style ranges from quirky all-ages humor designed to bring lightness and honesty to important themes, to more serious, socially-important works with a soaring orchestral sound and a touch of comedy. Kristen also specializes in productions that incorporate on-stage instrumentalists. In addition to collegiate degrees in music, Kristen studied Music and Lyrics at New Musicals Inc. and the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop where she participates in the Advanced Workshop.
While in the second-year program at BMI, Kristen began a fruitful writing partnership with lyricist Caitlin Collins. The two are currently developing an original musical with their signature focus; telling important and compelling stories featuring real and complex women for today’s audience. Kristen’s other original works include End of the Line (Music) written with Howard Ho (Book) and Chris Edgar (Lyrics) which was featured at the Samuel French's 44th OOB Short Play Festival, TNNY’s Soundbites 5.0 Festival, and New Musical Inc.’s 15-Minute Musicals (2015). End of the Line is available for licensing through MTI. Kristen is also partnering with real space scientists and academics to expand the show New Horizons (Book/Music) written with Aliza Rabin (Lyrics) which was featured at the BMI Lehman Engel Workshop. Her Christmas musical, North Pole High (Lyrics) written with Dan Margules (Book) and Rafi Nemes (Music), received a staged reading at New Musicals Inc., was featured in NMI’s Got Musical? 2016, and was a semi-finalist in Brookfield Theatre for the Arts’ Battle of the Christmas Musicals.
One of her favorite creations is the play Sombrellu, a modular youth production designed to showcase students from multiple after-school performing arts programs across Los Angeles. Sombrellu was developed in collaboration with students in the CITYstage Leadership Academy who participated in a blue-sky brainstorming session with Kristen to contribute their ideas to the work. The same students then produced and performed in the play at ArtShare LA in 2016. Building off the success of the production, Kristen now incorporates a similar process in her Leadership in the Limelight program and other school commissions.
Kristen’s entry into the world of musical theatre follows an unconventional career as a performer. Over the course of 12 years, Kristen served as the featured French Horn soloist in eight productions and tours of the Tony and Emmy award-winning theatrical production, Blast! and Blast! The Music of Disney throughout the US and Japan. She’s also worked as a pit orchestra musician for shows like the national tour of 42nd Street and recorded for motion pictures and recording artists. As an orchestral musician, she has performed with orchestras and chamber groups, as well as with artists ranging from Randy Neuman to The Airborne Toxic Event. Kristen studied French Horn with Richard Todd, Robin Graham, Pete Nowlen, James Thatcher, Kristy Morrell, and Erik Ruske and is thankful to have been a performer and Assistant Director for the Disneyland All-American College Band earlier in her career.
A passionate arts education advocate, Kristen is an active Teaching Artist and former clinician for Disney Performing Arts. She was the founding Director of Music for CITYstage, a performing arts education organization for underserved youth in Los Angeles, which she has helped build with the organization's founder, Emili Danz - an amazing woman she’s known since pre-school. Kristen is also a performance and acting coach for instrumental and vocal musicians in NYC, a tribute to her first job in NYC managing the Birdland Jazz Club, and opening the Birdland Theatre, where she honed her eye for stage presence while watching some of the worlds best jazz artists and cabaret performers every night.
Kristen grew up in Placerville, CA -- the epicenter of California's gold rush. As a child, she spent most days after school in an art studio, and has fond memories of building forts in the forest behind her home, traveling the state to perform at honor bands, and singing along to her mother's Rogers & Hammerstein albums when home alone. She loves her dog Arlo, officiating weddings, making Halloween costumes, and definitely would have been sorted into Ravenclaw. Kristen holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Southern California where she graduated magna cum laude and received the Vincent DeRosa Scholarship for french horn study. She also earned an MFA in music from the California Institute of the Arts where she took a cross-disciplinary approach to music by studying acting, directing, and playwriting in addition to French Horn performance and composition.