Thursday, December 22, 2011
I've been at NAMT since 2008, so I'm very familiar with the 32 show we've presented while I've worked here, along with a handful from earlier in the 2000s. But since 1989, the Festival has showcased 273 new musicals by 493 writers, and I've simply never had the opportunity before to spend quality time with the entire list. Wow! I knew the "big" titles of course, but there were lots of writers I hadn't realized were alumni (my favorite tidbit: Angelo Badalamenti, composer of many film scores for David Lynch, was in the first year of the Festival, shortly after the Twin Peaks pilot was shot — I'm a TV nerd as well as a musical theatre nerd). There are years when nearly every show went on to have a robust life, which make me very proud to be part of the NAMT team, even if I wasn't here then.
Unfortunately, there are gaps in the post-Festival stories of these shows. Through office moves, staff changes and the simple fact that hardly anyone had email in 1989 (and I'm betting those CompuServe addresses don't work anymore), we've lost track of Alumni Writers from the early years, and they've lost track of us. As part of this web redesign, we're stepping up our efforts to reconnect with alumni and fill in the blanks. If you happen to be an alumnus/a of the Festival (or know one), please click here to fill out an update form with your contact info, any updates on your show or other shows you've written. Or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd really love to hear from you — and let you know what we're up to, too!
And whether you're an alum or not, please do take a look at the Festival history. I'm not bragging when I say it's an impressive read.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
A catch up with the writing team from Festival 2010 show The Trouble With Doug, Will Aronson and Daniel Maté.
The Trouble With Doug is a modern comedic re-imagining of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in which a happy, healthy 27-year-old man transforms—suddenly and inexplicably—into a giant slug. From this unlikely premise, a touching and universal story unfolds about a family dealing with change, and a young man facing the loss of everything he thought he was.
Doug was really well received at the Festival. What was it like presenting your show to industry at the Festival?
Our NAMT presentation was an exciting and rewarding experience from start to finish. It was a thrill, obviously, to have Victoria Clark as our director – we’d both long been fans of her performing work, and were delighted that she connected with the piece so effortlessly. With her help, we felt that we’d succeeded in arriving at a 45-minute version that delivered the heart and humor of the musical to the NAMT Members in attendance, and we were very gratified by the positive responses we received. People seemed to get and appreciate what we were going for, which, considering the musical’s somewhat unconventional subject matter, was both relieving and exciting.
Did anything change with the show after seeing at the Festival?
Yes. Trimming the show down to its essence for NAMT helped us identify what worked, and also helped us see where certain characters were not sufficiently fleshed out and where some of our plot devices needed fortifying, clarifying, or (in one case) replacing. A subsequent writers retreat at [NAMT member] Weston Playhouse in Vermont in April 2011 helped us solidify a list of planned changes and a general game plan for implementing them.
Doug was supposed to premiere at Florida Stage this season but unfortunately Florida Stage has closed. How has this sudden change affected your plans for developing Doug?
Well, it’s certainly confirmed for us that nothing can ever be counted on as certain in this industry, and that building relationships with as many organizations as possible is the way to go. We were pleased to re-meet many producers and artistic directors at this year’s NAMT Festival and begin some new conversations about the piece. While we were sad to lose the Florida production—and very sad to see a great regional company go down—we're still confident that ‘Dougger’ will find himself a nice home before too long.
You just had a fantastic time in the UK working with NAMT member Royal & Derngate. What was it like to bring Doug across the pond?
The two weeks we spent at Royal & Derngate exceeded our greatest expectations. R&D provided us with accommodations, space to work, a wonderful cast, a top-notch music director, and the dramaturgical and directorial expertise of artistic director Laurie Sansom – and they basically said, “take whatever time you need to rewrite your show as you see fit.” Without a built-in “presentation” component, we were truly free to use the time to overhaul the show’s book and upgrade aspects of the score. By the end of the two weeks, we had a completely revised version of the musical, one that we feel heightens what was already compelling about it while addressing our concerns about plot and character. And working in a UK theatre environment was a fun change of pace. Among other discoveries, we found that our story can speak to people in a different cultural context.
What are you hoping to happen next with Doug?
We feel great about the new script we returned with from England, and are ideally looking for a production track at a regional, UK, or New York theatre. Having been through several readings and workshops, we feel that the arc of show is finally in the shape we’ve always wanted it to be, and that adding in the physical element will help us take it to the next level. So we’re hoping that someone will believe in the piece strongly enough to take that sort of plunge with it.
In the best of all worlds, in two years, what will be the status of Doug?
At the risk of sounding evasive, we don't have a single defined destination in mind. There are so many logistical factors that go into producing musicals, most of which are beyond our comprehension. Obviously, as its creators, we entertain dreams of our piece reaching a very large audience, and having a long life on many, many stages. But our main and immediate hope, no matter the scale, scope, or trajectory of production(s), is that Doug will find its core audience, who will connect with it and love it as much as we do— an aspiration we feel is equal parts lofty and modest, and hopefully just right.
As Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson's Giant prepares for its co-production in Dallas and New York, we thought it would be a good time to chat with Dallas Theater Center's Artistic Director Kevin Moriarity about Giant (recipient of a National Fund for New Musicals production grant). Giant will be presented at Dallas Theater Center (DTC) this January-February and will then at The Public Theater in their next season.
How did Giant find its way to DTC?
In 2009, I went to Signature Theatre in Washington DC to see their premiere of Giant. Despite being three acts and four hours long, it was one of the most thrilling scores and moving stories I had experienced in years. I immediately reached out to the musical's writers, Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson, to learn what future they envisioned for their show. Simultaneously, I mentioned to Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, how much I loved the material. He had also seen it and shared my passion for the piece. We decided to propose to Michael John and Sybille a collaboration between our two theaters, which would provide them with time and resources to continue to develop the material, leading to full productions in Dallas and New York.
Other than the obvious Texan connection, why is Giant a good fit for DTC at this time?
First and foremost, it's a sweeping, emotionally moving story, filled with passionate characters and a breathtaking score. Equally importantly, it directly addresses themes that have been at the heart of our identities as Texans, and, by extension, the fundamental challenges and hopes for all of us in America today. The musical depicts the sweeping power of history, as men transition from cattle ranchers to oil barons, the powerful changes in relationships that people experience within their families over the course of their lives, and the blending of many distinct cultures that is at the center of our American identity. It's a large, epic story, with a big heart and clear eyes—that sounds like Texas to me!
You will be presenting this as a co-production with The Public Theater. How has this enhanced the experience of working on the show knowing that it will have that crucial next step after the DTC run?
This collaboration has been essential for the development of this piece. By combining our resources, we have been able to provide the writers with an extended period of time to continue to develop their work, a unified producerial vision, and a consistent dramaturgical response. Over time, and with a deep commitment to the work that extends from Dallas to New York, you build a deeper, more meaningful artistic dialogue and a greater sense of honesty and trust for everyone involved. It's also important for us, as we develop new plays and musicals at DTC, that the work we believe in so passionately is able to continue to engage with audiences beyond our community. Being able to work toward a culminating vision that extends even past the run of the show in Dallas has been wonderful for everyone.
Giant very much lived up to its name when in DC. What have the writers done since DC to the show to prepare it for its next steps?
It's still giant - but it's now shorter than it was in DC (in Dallas the show will be 2 acts and 3 hours long). When the Public and DTC began the process two years ago, we reached out to Michael Greif to join the project as the director. He's been a vital collaborator, bringing his fresh insights and clear vision to the process. Michael John and Sybille have added and changed elements of the score and the script, ranging from deepening their explorations of some of the characters to new ideas about structure. The piece has more clarity and speed, but still retains its gloriously epic, romantic quality.
How will the show change from DTC to the Public Theater?
The writers and creative team will continue to develop the piece, not just until opening night in Dallas, but then in the months afterwards before the production in New York. Though the physical production, orchestrations, story and characters will remain consistent, the creators will be able to continue to refine and explore their vision in between the two productions. Even after months of workshops and readings, nothing is more clarifying and inspiring than experiencing a new musical with an audience. All of us will learn a great deal from the audiences in Dallas, which will then continue to inspire the creative team when they move on to the next leg of the journey at the Public.
What can people expect to experience when they come down to see Giant at DTC?
A large cast, a beautiful physical production, a ravishing score, and a musical that is grappling with large themes and ideas. It's an important piece with a big heart.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
For the city, we survey the members periodically to see where you're interested in going. It's better for me if we have a member in town. Some host at their venues, but even if not, having local knowledge is extremely helpful.
The 2012 Spring Conference will be held on March 22-24 in Seattle, WA. We have an amazing rate at the beautiful W Hotel, which I think you'll all like very much, and we'll also spend time at the 5th Avenue Theatre and Village Theatre. Save the date and watch for details in the coming weeks!
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Directed by Joe Calarco, Music Direction by Andy Einhorn
Book by Jill Abramovitz & Leah Napolin
Music by Aron Accurso, Lyrics by Jill Abramovitz
Music & Lyrics by Peter Mills
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
In Part 1, we will introduce you to the writers and the shows that will take place on Stage 2 of New World Stages at the 23rd Annual Festival of New Musicals this October 27 and 28. Don't forget to register before registration closes on Sunday!
Book & Lyrics by Christopher Dimond, Music by Michael Kooman
Directed by Scott Schwartz, Music Direction by Andy Einhorn
BLOODSONG OF LOVE
by Joe Iconis
Directed by John Simpkins, Music Direction by Brian Usifer
Book & Lyrics by Gordon Leary, Music by Julia Meinwald
Directed by Mark Brokaw, Music Direction by Rich Silverstein
(warning: Like the show, this video contains strong language)
Book & Lyrics by David Javerbaum, Music by Brendan Milburn
Directed by Steve Cosson, Music Direction by Zachary Dietz
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
It is fall in NYC and that means it is time for our annual Festival of New Musicals! (Have you registered yet?) Even on my fourth one, things still excite me every day about the Festival. We have such an amazing group of shows and writers for you all to enjoy this year. I know that as you learn more about these writers and their shows, you, too, will feel the rising anticipation and energy. To help share the excitement, I’ve prepared two new pre-Festival features this year.
First, if you go to the Festival page on our website, you will notice that you can now click links to read about the development history, the show synopsis, and, new this year, “5 Things You Should Know” for each show. This new section is filled with 5 factoids the writing teams want you to know about the show before you see it. They range from what they need next, to staging desires, to contextual background info.
Second, for NAMT members and alumni writers only, you can see 3-minute interviews with each of the writing teams. 4 of the 8 show videos are currently up on the website and the other 4 will be up next week, just as soon as we can get them scheduled, shot and edited! You get a chance to hear from the writers, put a face to a name and learn more about the shows. You will need to log in to access them. If you need your log-in information, please contact Kimberly (email@example.com).
Demos are being pressed, casts are being cast, the program is being proofed…and you are the last piece of the puzzle. Visit the Festival page, be inspired by our writers’ videos and don’t forget to register now for our 23rd Annual Festival of New Musicals!
Monday, September 12, 2011
When the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, IL (about 40 minutes north of Chicago) announced that they would be presenting the world premiere of For The Boys, it was quickly added to my list of destinations as I had not yet had a chance to visit them. The show uses songs from the WWII era and has a book by Aaron Thielen (co-creator of The Bowery Boys from our 2010 Festival) based on the Bette Midler-James Caan film. It is always great to make that first trip to a NAMT member and finally see their artistic home. I really enjoyed the show and the audience thoroughly embraced it! The Marriott is in the round so I know that they are now looking for a proscenium theatre for the next step. Terry James, Marriott Theatre’s Executive Producer, and his team are working closely with the USO on the production, which is a brilliant partnership. The show is a love letter to the USO!
I then took the train down to catch the evening production of Murder For Two at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. The show is by Kellan Blair and Joe Kinosian, whom I met last summer at Northwestern University and ASCAP’s Mercer Project. Chicago Shakes’ Creative Producer, Rick Boynton, and I met beforehand and he said the show was doing very well and keeps on extending. That is because the show was a laugh riot and brilliantly done! With only two actors and piano, it is a tour-de-force murder mystery in 90 minutes. One actor is the detective and one actor is everyone else. The audience went crazy during it! Rick and his team did an amazing job and I know that this is a show that will be around for a long time.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Our friends at the National New Play Network announced this summer that they have eliminated subsidiary rights from their commissions. This affects not just NNPN, but their member theatres, who agree to forgo future rights on plays receiving NNPN funds. This was a big topic at last year's NAMT Fall Conference, in a great discussion about how to balance the income of writers and the income of theatres — especially smaller ones — that spend money on developing a new work and depend on future return. (At the conference, John Weidman argued that we shouldn't be talking about rights at all, but rather "subsidiary participation in an author's revenues." If you missed it, NAMT members can view video highlights of this panel here.)
For NNPN's Rolling World Premiere program, member theatres will get sub rights only after the playwright's income has reached a certain amount— a "bonanza clause." As NNPN puts it, "Bonanza Clauses have become frequent compromises between playwrights who deserve to make a living and theaters which want to be compensated for the future success of a play if it goes Boom, so to speak."
This is an interesting issue and one that I'm sure we'll continue discussions for a long time (including at this year's Fall Conference), as all of us who are passionate about new works strive to find a balance between the needs of artists and the needs or producers. We need both to create new musicals!
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Alumna from Princess Caraboo). The Weston Playhouse received a $15,000 grant from our National Fund for New Musicals for this production, so I was honored to represent NAMT on opening night. It was a beautiful production of a sweeping and touching musical about the life of the man who wrote The Little Prince, directed by Kent Nicholson. Resident Producing Director Steve Stettler and his team did a wonderful job of nurturing this show and bringing it to life. The night was capped off with the late-night cabaret performance downstairs from some of the cast and staff entertaining the elated crowd.
Sadly, the actualities of the storm started to set in after that show. It was supposed to be Sam Brown’s third-to-last show, but because of Irene…it became their last show during the performance. They had a great run but it was sad to hear that they and the audience would be deprived of the final two performances.
After Irene passed, the effects of the storm really hit home when I heard that the Weston was flooded, halting their production of Saint-Ex until the theatre was cleaned up and what was able to be saved was salvaged. As the photos on their Facebook page started to come in, it became clear that while flood was horrible, the Weston staff, volunteers and actors were resilient and wouldn’t let a little water and mud get in their way. By the end of the week, the show was back up (modified to embrace some necessary changes); an amazing feat! And I know that, storm or not, Saint Ex will fly again at many theatres around the country!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Portland was just a warm-up for the next few days in Seattle and Issaquah for the Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals. But before Issaquah, there was an exciting pit stop to spend a night in the W hotel in Seattle,our home for the Spring 2012 Conference. Adam has chosen very well and the hotel was amazing. I can’t wait for the conference (and that hotel!). Look at the photo of the lobby to the right...beautiful and comfortable!
This was my 2nd time at the Village Festival, the first being for the 2009 New Works Summit, and they never disappoint. Under the leadership of Steve Tomkins and Robb Hunt, the Village is one of the leaders in new musical development. This year, their Festival felt very “NAMT” all around. They presented staged readings of:
The Giver and Lizzie Borden from our 2010 Festival, Hello! My Baby by two Festival Alumnae (Georgia Stitt and Cheri Steinkellner), Sundays at Tiffany’s with book and lyrics by Festival Alumna Susan DiLallo, and Trails. They also presented a breathtakingly beautiful production ofCloaked by Danny Larsen and Michelle Elliott, who also wrote The Yellow Wood from our 2008 Festival. The whole Festival was fantastic and it was amazing to see so many of our alumni all in one beautiful place! Also at the Festival were Greg Schaffert from 321 Theatrical Management, Laura Little from Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, and David Ira Goldstein from Arizona Theatre Company, who did a great job directing The Giver.
It was a perfect NAMT trip filled with new musicals and our amazing alumni and members. This is why we should all travel around to see each other’s work…you expand your horizons, get to see a different part of the country, and be inspired!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Some trips are quick little excursions to see a new musical and visit a couple members. But every once in a while, the stars align and I get the opportunity to see a lot of everything in a short period of time. In my recent trip to Portland and Seattle, I was able to see 4 members, 6 shows, 11 Festival alumni; all while enjoying 3 planes, 2 rental cars (which included a free upgrade from a compact to a new mustang!), and 1 train. These are my favorite trips, even though they are quite exhausting. Nothing makes me happier at NAMT than getting out to support our members’ new musicals and seeing them in action on their home turf.
Up first was Tigard, OR (just outside Portland) to catch the world premiere of Ripper at The Broadway Rose Theatre. Ripper was in our 2009 Festival of New Musicals and is written by Duane Nelsen. Luck would have it that when I was out there, Duane was back in town to see the show so I got to have dinner with him and Sharon Maroney, Producing Artistic Director of The Broadway Rose, pre-show. The dinner gave us a chance not only to catch-up but also to talk about the process for both Duane and Sharon. This was Broadway Rose’s first large-scale new musical and world premiere—a bold and brave undertaking since Ripper is not a small show. If you want to start producing new work, definitely call Sharon (listed in your Little Black Book) as her company learned a lot in its first go-around. The production was really great and fully realized…what more could any writer ask? The production was not only educational for the theatre but also for Duane who was able to learn so much about his show that he was not able to glean before from just readings. Now, Duane is ready to work on the script while looking for the next-step production, and Broadway Rose can start the hunt for their next new musical, both wiser from the experience!
The next morning, it was off to Portland’s Union Station to take a train up the coast to Seattle and Issaquah, WA for the next stop on my Pacific Northwest Tour…
Friday, July 29, 2011
Every year the Festival Committee strives to select the eight most diverse and exciting musicals out there, and this year they have topped themselves. Over the last three Festivals, we have been working hard to improve the member experience at the Festival. From bigger signs to a reconceived program, we want all of you who come to the Festival to have a great time and enjoy the shows.
This year, we are at it again…now focusing on providing you with more information about the show before you even get to the Festival. Over the next couple of months, I will be adding more content to the Festival website, including cast size, band size, future productions already lined up, facts you should know about the show, and (hopefully) even members-only introductory videos from the writers talking about their show. I want everyone to see every show, but I know that that is not always possible so I want to give you more tools to know which shows would be more suited to your tastes and needs.
I would love any thoughts you have about this…what would be helpful for you to know about these shows before you come to the Festival? Email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait to share this bold and exciting Festival with you in October!
Friday, July 15, 2011
Our friend Jason Loewith at National New Play Network wrote an excellent testimonial to his friends and ours at FloridaStage, discussing the wonderful impact they had on artists and their community, and also the unusual set of circumstances that led to their sudden closure. I encourage you to read it. (Jason later refined this post for NNPN's newsletter, so this version is sort of a rough draft, but it's too long to reprint in this space and this is the only version that's linkable.)
We like to focus on good news, and fortunately NAMT members have no shortage of that. But it's important to note the losses too, and see what lessons we can learn from them to strengthen our own organizations. It also drives home the importance of us coming together as a community at NAMT events and elsewhere, to share ideas and help each other in this ever-challenging business.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Today we launch the application for the next round of Writer’s Residency Grants. These grants help supplement member theatres' musical development with a little bit of cash to bring the writers along for the ride. We believe it is vital that the writers are part of as much of the process as possible when developing a new work. The grants are flexible and the application is short. We want to give out these $1,000 grants to theatres that have exciting new readings, workshops or productions to help ensure that they can incorporate the writers into the process. This money could be used in a whole host of ways for shows at any stage of development, whether the work is being done at the theatre or elsewhere.
This round’s information and application can be found here. I hope that many of our members will apply as we continue to strive to support all of your important work toward creating our next great new musicals. We gave out 7 grants to great projects last year and want to continue the trend this year! If you have any questions, please let me know at email@example.com.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
Every year, I scour the Internet and the country for exciting songwriters to present in the Songwriters Showcase during the Festival. I try to compile as many choices as possible and then work with the Festival Committee co-chairs to select the most dynamic group of songs and songwriters to complement that year’s Festival. This year, I’m opening up the submission process to all of you.
I’m looking for songs from complete (or almost complete) new musicals that have not been heard much in New York. Send me the full show demo (not just one or two songs) along with a long-form synopsis and production history to NAMT, 520 8th Ave, #301, NY, NY 10018. Feel free to tell your talented friends too!
We want interesting, innovative and diverse songs for the showcase and I know that amongst our alumni and members we can put together the best showcase yet!