A series of musical vignettes chronicling unprecedented times.
Show Essentials

Full Synopsis

Breathe is told in five "suites". It can be performed in one or two acts.

A note from the authors: The action begins on Friday, March 13, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico and then transitions to New York City on March 30, 2020. The story continues in New York City through June of 2020. The Epilogue is set in a future New York City in a time when Covid-19 is no longer a threat to the human race. Since we have written our story in real time during the Covid-19 pandemic, we don't know when that day will come or what our world will look like. So we have imagined a beautiful July evening, the sun is about to set creating a phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge." During this phenomenon, the setting sun perfectly aligns with the major streets of New York City, making the city feel like a modern Stonehenge.

I. FEVER – Alison, a Black nurse in her 20s, goes to Mexico City for a friend’s wedding, and wakes up the next morning in the bed of the best man -- Jerry, mid-20s, She has missed her flight, the US is in lockdown, and the only person she knows is the guy she hooked up with the night before. Things get complicated when she spikes a fever, and Jerry – a near stranger – offers his home to her. (Libretto: Jodi Picoult & Tim McDonald; Songwriters: Rob Rokicki and Rebecca Murillo)

II. ACHES – Theo, 30s, a financial analyst’s assistant, is writing a Dear John letter to break up with his boyfriend, Max, 30s, who is a Broadway performer. Before he can finish, Max comes home with the news that NYC is in lockdown. As Max “MacGyvers” their resources into a romantic dinner, Theo begins to remember why he fell in love with Max in the first place. And then, Max finds the unfinished letter. (Libretto: Jodi Picoult & Tim McDonald; Songwriters: Daniel J. Mertzlufft and Kate Leonard)

III. SWELLING AND IRRITATION – Kate, 40s, a financial analyst and her husband Adam, 40s, a high-powered divorce attorney, find themselves locked in a townhouse with their three children, no nanny, no parenting skills, and no end in sight. As they argue over whose job deserves precedence and struggle with online learning (who knew kindergarten could be so brutal?) they realize that working together is the only way to master the art of Co(rona)parenting. (Libretto: Jodi Picoult & Tim McDonald; Songwriters: Doug Besterman and Sharon Vaughn)

IV. FATIGUE – Devon (18, Black, brother of Alison from FEVER) is a young Black man in America. Shawn, his father, is a Black cop in America. After Devon is arrested during a George Floyd protest, the two men disagree on how justice is obtained. This generational divide could either heal or hurt their family forever. (Libretto: Douglas Lyons; story by Jodi Picoult & Tim McDonald; Songwriters: Douglas Lyons and Ethan D. Pakchar)

V. SHORTNESS OF BREATH – Vivian (50s) is reluctantly attending her husband Charles (50s) Zoom funeral, their marriage having long been eroded by infidelity and unspeakable losses. When Charles appears to Vivian as a ghost, they get a second chance to retrace what went wrong in their relationship, to say the things they didn’t get to say, and to grieve the ultimate twin losses of this pandemic: losing a loved one, and knowing they died alone. (Libretto: Jodi Picoult & Tim McDonald; Songwriters: Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler)

← Back to Breathe
Cast Size: Medium (11 to 20 performers)
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast

Character Breakdown


A Black nurse, late 20s, who went into medicine after watching her mom die of cancer. Hides her fears and feelings behind bad decisions and alcohol, but is at heart a fixer, peacemaker – her brother Devon and father Shawn are usually at odds. Attends a wedding in Mexico City just as the world shuts down.

Gender: female
Age: 25 to 29
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3

A Mexican-American architect, late 20s, (former college roommate to Max). Living in Mexico City. When Alison winds up in his bed – even though she has COVID – it is likely the best thing to ever happen to him.

Gender: male
Age: 25 to 29
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: A2

A gay actor, mid 20s, who is vivacious, sweet, charming – and can play any role needed to get through a given situation. He is really only himself with his boyfriend, Theo.

Gender: male
Age: 24 to 29
Vocal range top: C#5
Vocal range bottom: Bb2

A financial analyst, mid 20s, expected to be at the beck and call of his boss Kate. Workaholic, buttoned-up, doubting how someone like Max could ever really fit into his long-term life.

Gender: male
Age: 24 to 29
Vocal range top: Ab4
Vocal range bottom: C3

Late 30s, high-powered Wall Street exec married to Adam, mom of three kids whom she has never had to actively parent. Convinced her job is more important than her husband’s. Does not know how to do the simplest of tasks, like making breakfast.

Gender: female
Age: 35 to 39
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3

Late 30s, high-powered divorce lawyer, married to Kate, dad of three kids whom he has never had to actively parent. Convinced his job is more important than his wife’s. Does not know how to do the simplest of tasks, like surviving kindergarten.

Gender: male
Age: 35 to 39
Vocal range top: G#4
Vocal range bottom: A2

18, young Black man who is actively protesting systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. He makes money by delivering Uber Eats (once, to Kate & Adam’s apartment). He wants to take a gap year instead of going to college next year; he’d rather work as a grassroots organizer. His sister is Allison; she often brokers the peace between him and their father.

Gender: male
Age: 18 to 20
Vocal range top: B4
Vocal range bottom: G2

50, Black police officer who is father to Allison and Devon. His wife died years ago from cancer. He is trapped between his responsibilities in law enforcement and his experience as a Black man. After many years of being careful NOT to raise his voice, he is having trouble finding it now.

Gender: male
Age: 50 to 55
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: A2

White cop who works with Shawn

Gender: male
Age: 50 to 59

Older white woman whose husband has just died. She is bitter after years of a very broken marriage – including his infidelity.

Gender: female
Age: 70 to 79
Vocal range top: D5
Vocal range bottom: F3

Older white man who manifest as a ghost to Vivian, and tries to work through the unfinished circumstances of their marriage, ostensibly so that he can go onto the afterlife.  

Gender: male
Age: 70 to 79
Vocal range top: F4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Full Song List
Breathe: Prologue
Breathe: What'd You Do This Time
Breathe: Part of the Plan
Breathe: Bad Things
Breathe: You Chose Me
Breathe: The Letter
Breathe: Not Finished Yet
Breathe: Clear As Day
Breathe: Anticipation
Breathe: The Proposal
Breathe: Reading the Letter
Breathe: Supermom
Breathe: The Lucky Ones
Breathe: What Would I Do
Breathe: Finale
Breathe: My Crown
Breathe: My Truth
Breathe: Together We Can
Breathe: Goodbye
Breathe: What Have We Got to Lose
Breathe: A Thousand Stars
Breathe: Goodbye (Reprise)
Breathe: Epilogue



You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
Conceived by
Jodi Picoult & Timothy Allen McDonald
Music by
Rob Rokicki, Rebecca Murillo, Daniel J. Mertzlufft, Doug Besterman, Douglas Lyons, Ethan Pakchar, Zina Goldrich
Lyrics by
Rob Rokicki, Rebecca Murillo, Kate Leonard, Sharon Vaughn, Douglas Lyons, Marcy Heisler
Libretto by
Rob Rokicki, Rebecca Murillo, Douglas Lyons, Jodi Picoult, Timothy Allen McDonald
The names of the Conceivers and the Authors shall be equal in size, type, coloring, boldness, and prominence. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominent than the billing to the Conceivers and the Authors.
ADDITIONAL TITLE PAGE CREDITS: You agree to include the following credits on title pages for all programs of the Play:
Orchestrations by
Lynne Shankel
SHORTENED BILLING: In advertisements of 1/4 page size or less, where only the title of the Play, performance dates and venue are provided, the following “shortened billing” is permissible:
BILLING FOR EACH VIGNETTE: The following shall appear in the program (e.g., with musical numbers credits) but need not be on the title page of the program (i.e., each vignette included in a production shall receive a vignette credit, as applicable):
Conceived by Jodi Picoult and Timothy Allen McDonald
Music & Lyrics: Rob Rokicki & Rebecca Murillo
Book: Rob Rokicki, Rebecca Murillo, Jodi Picoult, Timothy Allen McDonald
Music: Daniel J. Mertzlufft
Lyrics: Kate Leonard
Book & Story: Jodi Picoult & Timothy Allen McDonald
Music: Doug Besterman
Lyrics: Sharon Vaughn
Book & Story: Jodi Picoult & Timothy Allen McDonald
Music: Ethan Pakchar & Douglas Lyons
Lyrics & Book: Douglas Lyons
Story: Douglas Lyons, Jodi Picoult, Timothy Allen McDonald
Music: Zina Goldrich
Lyrics: Marcy Heisler
Book & Story: Jodi Picoult & Timothy Allen McDonald

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