Monday, November 10, 2014

Festival Show Update: BLOODSONG OF LOVE

Last month, we caught up with alumnus Joe Iconis as he prepared his 2011 Festival show, Bloodsong of Love, for a new immersive presentation at 54 Below on October 20.  

A wild musical theater interpretation of the Spaghetti Western film genre.   It follows the story of a wandering guitarist, known only as The Musician, on a journey to reclaim his bride from the evil clutches of Lo Cocodrilo.  Raucous, heartfelt and hilarious, Bloodsong is a raging battle cry for those who believe in art and love and sticking together.

What was the response to Bloodsong of Love after the Festival? 
It was really encouraging to hear the positive reactions of audiences and NAMT members. I met a rather large bearded man in the lobby of New World Stages and he said it was pretty good, so that was nice.

What did you learn from the Festival process and what changes have been made to the show since? 
By cutting down the show to a 45-minute preview, it helped us see what the most “important” moments were in a very clear way. When you’ve got to encapsulate an entire musical in a third of its own running time, songs you thought defined your entire piece suddenly seem less essential. It was a great exercise in forcing myself to be un-precious about my own work. I’ve done a ton of script work since then, and I think that’s it’s not only different but better.

The thing that has always been special about the show is that it is versatile in the ways that it can be presented. Was that intentional from its creation or something that evolved with the piece?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: The First Rehearsal

Stu for Silverton’s Peter Duchan paints us a portrait of an artist as a (rightfully)
neurotic man as he prepares, worries through, and survives his first rehearsal

First Rehearsal - A Neurotic's Schedule
7:44am. I give up on sleep and climb out of bed. Our first rehearsal for Stu for Silverton is today at 11:00am. I check the clock. Three hours stretch before me. I will do my best fill it with anxiety. But the problem with the first rehearsal is that nothing's actually happened yet. There's nothing concrete to be stressed about. I don’t let this deter me; I can invent something.

8:10am. A watched bagel doesn't toast, so I distract myself with fear fantasies about rehearsal while I wait for breakfast. We've created a forty-five minute cut especially for the NAMT Festival, so today will be my first time hearing this version of the script read aloud. It will be the actors’ first time hearing it aloud as well. What if they don't like it? That's nonsense, Peter: they wouldn't have agreed to be in it if they hated the material. But what if

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Casting for the Festival

As their show “graduates” from Southern California to New York City, Mary Marie bookwriter and lyricist Chana Wise sweetly reflects on how it felt to be greeted by a fresh new group of
actors and singers who will breathe new life into their musical.

So, we’ve made it into the NAMT Festival. We’ve got an amazing director and musical director, we’ve sweated over cutting our piece to the required 45-minutes, and now—casting!

Truth be told, almost from the first moment I put fingertips to keyboard in the creation of Mary Marie I was able to hear the voices of the characters coming from the mouths of specific actors; friends who had agreed to help us develop the show. They got us through the teething, crawling, first steps, dare I say potty training, and eventually the adolescent stage of the show, and we have been so fortunate that these actors stayed with us through the whole development process, which included five or six staged readings. Not only had they become entrenched in the work, but we all

Monday, October 20, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Writing my First Musical

We kick off Festival week with Sarah Hammond’s delightful reflections on what
inspired her to transition from playwright to bookwriter of this year’s Festival show, String!

I came to New York as a playwright, but I'm like most theater kids from the farflung suburbs of America: I grew up on musicals. At 9, I was choreographing dances for "If Momma Was Married" to be performed on roller skates at the bottom of our cul de sac. I grew up singing Aladdin in the carpool, playing munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, and from 5th through 8th grade, cast myself as Little Red for school talent shows, in which I sang in a dress my grandma made. What a geek!  I had an aquablue tie-dye JC Superstar tee-shirt, in the bible-thumping South, and I remember insisting earnestly, "it's not a church shirt, it's a theater shirt, it is a show, a musical, and it is by Andrew Lloyd Weber." Geek.

Then in college, I discovered Falsettos and Hello Again, and while I wrote plays in South Carolina and then Iowa, I secretly loved these great ruthless musicals created by faraway people. In shows like these, singing's like breathing. Like there's no other way to exist except in music. It's tumultuous and it's funny and it's the best thing there is. But I loved all that in secret. I never knew any musical theatre writers till I got to New York in 2006, and when I got here, one of the first people I met was Adam Gwon, which turned out to be a pretty lucky break. Adam loves playwrights, and I love musicals, so... crazily, we decided to

Friday, October 17, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Returning to the Festival

With less than a week until the Festival, How to Break bookwriter/lyricist and Festival Alum Aaron Jafferis reminisces about his successes and memories (albeit sporadic)
since the 2007 Festival, and why returning to the Festival proves to be an important step in the development of his latest project.

Along with Rebecca Hart and Yako 440, I’m one of the authors of How to Break, a hip-hop musical about being ill, that will be showcased at this year’s Festival.

I’m pretty sure my and Ian Williams’ show Kingdom was in the NAMT festival 2007. Though I have no memory of the year 2007, I have evidence that it worked out well, since many of the contacts in my “theatre industry” Excel spreadsheet say “NAMT 07.” I also know that it was at the NAMT festival where folks from The Old Globe first got interested in Kingdom, which is what led to our first production, first agent, first improper liaison with a cast member, etc.

(Note: that last “first” is in dispute, thanks to differing definitions of words like “improper” and

Thursday, October 9, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Creating a 45-minute Cut of our Show

The 2014 NAMT Festival is just TWO WEEKS AWAY, and today we have Cubamor bookwriter and lyricist James Sasser giving us a special video blog capturing, in "real" time, his process of creating a 45-minute version of his musical to showcase at New World Stages.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Preparing Orchestrations and Arrangements

As we get closer to the Festival, Mary Marie composer Carl Johnson reflects on the daunting task of preparing musical arrangements for his Festival presentation, as
well as the challenges and great rewards of live performance.

I’ve been working on orchestrating the music for our show Mary Marie for the Festival, and have been pondering the differences between writing for live theater and writing for film and television. It seems almost as if it’s the difference between planning for a worst-case or a best-case scenario!

In studio recording you plan for a best-case scenario in terms of the performance you get out of the musicians. The recording studio is temperature-controlled, the lighting is optimized for reading, there are a variety of microphones set up around the instruments so that every nuance of their playing can be captured without the musician having to overplay or hold back. Even the catering and bathroom-break schedule is designed to put the players in the best frame of mind to play perfectly.

In a live situation, you never know what the players are going to encounter! Even the best-