Monday, November 26, 2012

From the New Works Director: More Festival Fun!


Miss out on the Festival or just want more? We’ve got you covered! This year we have some new ways you can catch all of what happened at the Festival (and two of them are for members only!).

Festival Jukebox
In the Members-only section* of, you can find all of this year’s Festival demos streaming in jukeboxes. This is a great way to hear this year’s demos without having to track down the CD you picked up. Tell your fellow staff members to check them out and share the great music from this year’s Festival with your entire organization.

"Other Shows You Should Know" Jukebox 
For years, we have been handing out a CD to every conference attendee filled with 7-9 shows from our selection process that the Festival Committee wants the membership to know about. The CDs are gone and have been replaced by an online jukebox in the members-only section* of the website. There are 2 streaming tracks from each of over a dozen shows along with contact info and show info. These are great shows that are worth your attention and because they are online, we are able to share a lot more fantastic shows with you.

Photos! Photos! Photos! 
Now that you have the sounds of the Festival, how about some sights? Every year, we hire the great photographer Ric Kallaher to take shots of the Festival from rehearsals through the party. You can see ALL of the photos he took on his site. There are great shots of many members and writers in the mix! Even my new photo above is from our closing party! If you would like a hi-res copy of any of the photos, just let me know.

I hope you all will take a moment to check out the two jukeboxes and take a stroll down (recent) memory lane. It was a great event and I, for one, had an amazing time!

*In order to access the members-only section of the website, you will need your log-in and password which can give you if you have lost it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: The NAMT Festival Experience

A guest blog entry from Arthur Lafrentz Bacon about his experience at our Festival with his show Bleeding Love.   

Being at NAMT was an awesome, once in a lifetime (hopefully not just once!) experience.
Everyone knows about NAMT, and it's a big deal. A big deal because hundreds of theater companies and producers come to see the 8 shows that are chosen each year. Where else does this happen? Nowhere. A huge, golden  opportunity for any writer, courtesy of the amazingly talented, hard working staff at NAMT. 

For me as the composer, I knew that getting the score together for the singers and musicians was my first priority. With help from my friend Harris (lyricist of Bleeding Love) and his expertise with Finale software, we got it done just in time, although I was still tweaking the guitar parts minutes before each show. Speaking of guitar, in true rock star fashion, our guitarist was late to the 2nd show, popping out of the curtain just before he had to play.... the reason?... a stalled subway car!

If you've never done NAMT before, nothing can really prepare you for the moment you walk into New World Stages and see the hundreds of people that are there, waiting in lines to see the shows. It was almost overwhelming for me until I started to talk with some of the people, and get comfortable with it all. (I played in The Caroline Rhea Show band on NBC for a year, and I didn't think I'd be phased by the crowds and hoopla, but I was!)  I also think our Bleeding Love team may have had some extra nerves going on, because we never had had even a reading of the piece before this. But with our stellar cast, and terrific director, music director and musicians, they pulled it together in a wonderful way. Before I knew it, there was Sarah Stiles, Nancy Opel and the rest bringing the piece to life in front of a packed audience. All of the songs that I heard in my head for the last couple years, sounded even more terrific when the singers gave them a voice. I was so happy to be able to hear Harris's

Thursday, November 1, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: First time at the Festival

Our guest blogger, Dan Collins (writer of Southern Comfort), talks about what he learned from his first time presenting at our Festival.  

This is my first blog post.  Ever. 

As monumental as the occasion may be, I can say (type?) with confidence, and relief, that this is far from the top of my ‘take away’ over the course of my experience as a writer at this year’s NAMT Festival;  which – like this blog –  was also my first.  Ever.   And, similarly, I was only familiar with NAMT from the outside looking in and based on the experiences of others.  I knew the basics, but what I didn’t know could fill books (blogs?) – however, in the interest of being short and (hopefully) sweet, there are two “big thoughts” I’ve walked away with as a NAMT first-timer:

1   The 45 minute cut is NOT a throwaway.  My cynical assumption was that I would do a lot of work to create a disposable, condensed version of the show.  And while it’s true that our 44 page draft of an abridged/re-organized Act 1 is not going to be replacing the full libretto; I was astounded by what I learned from the process.  By forcing myself to scrutinize, in a very real way, how each moment connected to the next, and what occurred if a moment was removed, I discovered things about the story and characters that were brand new (or, if not, things of which I had  only been aware on a ‘subconscious plane’).  Beyond that, the cut also forced me to be  less “precious” about the scenes – knowing in the back of my mind that I was “only doing this for the 45 minute version” allowed me to make edits in which I otherwise might not have recognized the value or had the courage to make; edits that – in some cases – may remain and result in a more streamlined version of the full libretto.  But aside from being simply informative, it was actually just fun to get back into the writing of the musical; to “get to know it again” – like an old friend who’d been all business lately, and then we rediscovered the good old days!     

2   Theater is huge!  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the New York City theater scene - but it’s also just a small part of the theater world/community.  This certainly isn’t a revelation to anyone by

Friday, October 12, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Making the most of rehearsals

A guest blog entry from Itamar Moses, one of the writers of Nobody Loves You, about the secret blessings of only have 25 hours to put together your show for the Festival

There's a possibly apocryphal story that I'm too lazy to verify right now about a Russian director who was asked how long he wanted to rehearse a production of Chekhov. He said, "Two years." When he was told that that was impossible he said, "In that case, two days."

Actors will often tell you that their best performance in rehearsal is at the first read-through and that they spend the remainder of the rehearsal process gradually working their way back there, hopefully arriving by opening night.

All this came to mind when I sat down to write a blog post on the subject of presenting a musical with only a few days to rehearse, which is what you have to do when your lucky enough to have your musical in NAMT. Because having only twenty-some-odd hours of rehearsal is, in a way, not as big a burden as one might imagine. There's a spontaneity, an instinctive tendency towards surprising and daring choices, to which performers often have access early in a process that actually becomes more difficult (for a while) as those initial impulses are gradually complicated by the questions and alternatives that inevitably arise when you start to live with material for weeks or months instead of days. And while all of that exploration leads (ideally) to deeper and more nuanced performances on the other side, there's a long slog through the desert of murky confusion in between in the midst of which it's probably best not to make an audience sit through what you've got. That's why the (possibly fictional) Russian director's second choice after having all the time in the world was to have almost no time at all.

All of which is to say that there's something clarifying, simplifying, even useful, about having just enough time

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


A guest entry from Valerie Vigoda, Lyricist of Sleeping Beauty Wakes, about final preparations for the Festival.  

Okay, technically it's one day away - but that's because the whole process of NAMT is such a whirlwind; time seems to go faster than usual, and it feels like we have just started rehearsal.
We've got one more two-hour runthrough-plus-notes session today, with the full cast + Brad Haak on piano + our wonderful Gene Lewin on drums  - and then that's it! Performance Thursday morning (we kick off the festival at 10:30 AM)...and after yesterday's terrific rehearsal, I feel really good about the whole thing. I can't wait!

Gene, Brad, Nicholas, Olli, Mary Jo
and Katrina at sound check,
photo by Vigoda for NAMT
These actors, some of whom came in at the very, very last minute (for instance, Christy Altomare, who is starring as “Rose”, came in to save our butts two days AFTER rehearsals had begun!) - they are ALL AMAZING and doing something truly heroic, which is learning these roles in 25 hours of rehearsal - actually even less, in most cases -and then portraying them as if they'd been in production for months. 

Yesterday felt like a turning point - where the nervousness seemed to vanish and the whole cast started relishing and enjoying what they were doing, really sinking in to their parts...and the energy in the room truly started to pop. Brad the music director smiled more and more, and so did Marcy the stage manager. Always a good sign.

There are some pretty tricky close harmonies for our four patients - and I've never seen singers learn their parts so fast and so accurately. There's a wall of energized, perfectly in tune,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: On The Road To NAMT Fest-- 3 Writers talk about the NAMT experience

"On The Road To NAMT" will be a special sub-series of the Festival Countdown featuring blogs from Tom Mizer (Book & Lyrics of TRIANGLE) that will also be featured as part of his blog The Broadway Blog.  This is Tom's second entry in the series. 

William Ryall, Robin de Jesus, Sarah Stiles, Damon Daunno, Nancy Opel & Nicolette Hart rehearsing "Bleeding Love". Photo by Jason Schafer.
Writing musicals can be a lonely business. Most of the time it’s just you and a collaborator in a room together. So when I was presented with the chance to talk with a few of my fellow writers presenting shows at NAMT this year, I jumped at the chance. If nothing else, it would be like group therapy. But rhymed.
Just over a week ago, I sat down with two amazing writers: Gaby Alter, composer and co-lyricist of the recent Old Globe hit Nobody Loves You; and Harris Doran, lyricist for the post-apocalyptic fairy taleBleeding Love. With presentation preparations hitting high gear, we took a brief moment to breathe, talk about our inspirations and discuss the best part of writing versus acting in a musical (hint: booze).
Gaby Alter. Photo by Stephen Mallon.
When did you get the bug to write music theater because…how old are you?
GABY: Old.
HARRIS: I’m younger.
GABY: Usually people are younger than me.
HARRIS: You look younger.
GABY: Well, thank you.
And I’m the oldest one in the room so shut up.
HARRIS: But you look younger than me.
That’s staying in the final interview.
My point is that when I look back and think about when I was in high school and college, music theater was not popular. There’s a renaissance right now…
HARRIS: Is there? Because of Glee?
When I talk to an 18 year-old or a 22 year-old, within a certain segment, they think music theater is cool.
HARRIS: True. There are musical movies now and Glee and something else…
And Smash. There are certainly now people wanting to get into the field. An excitement. And that wasn’t so much the case when I was that age. So how did you start?
GABY: It was sort of an accidental thing, a convergence of stuff that I did. It was after high school and I had a friend who wrote plays. He was like, “Want to write a musical?” It was over the summer. Neither of us were musical fans. It’s not like I hated musicals, I just knew very little about them except what I knew as kid. I knew the Rogers and Hammerstein stuff. He said, “Do you want to write a rock musical?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” But I thought it was a ridiculous idea.
GABY: I also didn’t think we were going to do it. Especially when you’re 17 or 18, you say so but…actually he had a whole plan and he was very organized. He came over the next day and had some lyrics.
HARRIS: Oh wow.
GABY: So we ended up doing it over that summer. And it was the high of doing it. “Let’s get our friends who were actors in high school and involve everybody.” And you invite your family and you feel really cool because you’re all of a sudden on stage. I hadn’t had that experience except in a band. But it was easier for me to write stuff in that format. I was writing with him. “You do this and I’ll do that.” There are clear guidelines. Like fun homework. I really responded to collaborating and working as a group… Later I came to appreciate musicals and how difficult writing the really good ones is.

Monday, October 8, 2012


A guest blog entry from Ben Clark, composer/lyricist for The Circus in Winter, about getting ready for the Festival

In this week of rehearsals, we have seen our production grow up right before our eyes. The Circus in Winter has had nine staged readings in various forms over its three years in existence and one fully staged production, all at Ball State University, where the concept to bring the novel to life on stage was born. 

But this is New York City, and we have the privilege of casting actors for the first time in our show's young life. Not only age-appropriate, but also Equity members with Broadway credentials. You just can't argue with a deal like that. 

The Circus in Winter in rehearsal,
photo by Ben Clark for NAMT
For myself personally, it is a new territory in that I have always played the guitar and led most rehearsals for the previous readings and production. Thanks to Music Director Matthew Webb and guitarist Eli Zoller, I won't be required for those roles at NAMT. It was a fearful, uncomfortable beginning in my head as I approached our rehearsal space on West 18th Street, but I was quickly reassured by Matt's careful interpretation of my pieces. He, as well as the rest of our production team and the NAMT festival coordinators, all have a presence in rehearsal that suggests a nurturing of new work. They all want your material to be the best it can be, and that pulls practicality and honesty out of these professionals. 

Each added experience tops the rest. Victoria Bussert joined

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: First Rehearsal...

A special entry from Harris Doran, lyricist of Bleeding Love, about their first (ever) rehearsal for their Festival show.  

After months of watching hundreds upon hundreds of youtube videos, our six person Broadway dream cast —Damon Daunno, Robin de Jesus, Nicolette Hart, Nancy Opel, William Ryall, Sarah Stiles— stepped out of youtube, walked through the door, and were casually chatting and snacking on the honey wheat pretzels I had bought for them. 


We didn't know what to expect, because BLEEDING LOVE has the great fortune of being chosen for NAMT after never even having a table read, so the first time the cast was reading the script was the first time we had ever heard the script read out loud other than the one day we spent recording songs for our demo—or that time Jason and I read though the script in a rehearsal studio. We were decent.

I'm sweating, couldn't sleep the night before, nervously eating the organic black licorice bits I had also bought for the actors. We had worked very hard to get a cast that was as bold and unique as the piece. Each of them a shining star all in one room, and I had lost my sunglasses earlier in the day, so I happily accepted the glare. Back to the sweating... the script is cracked open and John Michael Crotty, our fantastic stage manager (highly recommend), is reading the stage directions. So casual. Having no idea how he's the first one to read our stage directions, which of course would have no significance to anyone else in the world but us. And our mothers. And we're off.

One by one watching these actors feel as if they had walked off of the page and were suddenly sitting in chairs around the table.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

FROM THE ROAD: A Coast to Coast Summer

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting the chance to visit our members around the country.  There is no better way to take the pulse of the industry and help discover new ways for us to serve our members than to meet them on their home turf, see their shows and meet their staffs.  Summer is the busiest travel time for the NAMT staff because it is when the number of shows skyrocket in our member theatres.  My summer was filled with 10 productions (7 of them premieres),  2 workshops and 6 readings from New York to California, from Vermont to Tennessee.  We a few Festival shows and National Fund for New Musicals (NFNM) grant recipients along the way. 

Here is the quick rundown (NAMT member theatres and Festival shows are bolded blue):

Los Angeles, CA- World premiere of Los Otros at Center Theatre Group 
San Diego, CA- World premiere of Nobody Loves You (NAMT Fest '12, past NFNM Project Development Grant) and Scottsboro Boys at The Old Globe, world premiere of Hands on a Hardbody at La Jolla Playhouseand the chance to sit in on a rehearsal for Harmony, Kansas (NFNM Production Grant, past Writers Residency Grant) at Diversionary Theatre.
New York, NY- World premiere of February House (past NFNM Project Development Grant) at The Public Theater, reading of Suprema (NFNM Writers Residency Grant) at Ars Nova and Speargrove Presents (NFNM Writers Residency Grant) at New York Theatre Barn

Connecticut- Readings of When We Met and String at The O'Neill Theatre Center, production of Mame at Goodspeed Musicals

New York, NY- Production of Triassic Parq (by Festival alumnus Marshall Pailet) produced by Amas Musical Theatre and New Musical Development Foundation at SoHo Rep  
East Haddam, CT- Final dress of Carousel at Goodspeed Musicals
Poughkeepsie, NY- Workshop of Murder Ballad (by Fest alumna Julia Jordan) at Vassar Powerhouse

Rhinebeck, NY- Reception for Beatsville (NAMT Fest '08) at Rhinebeck Writers Retreat
Palo Alto, CA- TheatreWorks Festival of New Works with readings of Being Earnest and Triangle (NAMT Fest '12) and a developmental production of The Trouble With Doug (NAMT Fest '10)

New York, NY- Reading of notes to MariAnne (NAMT Fest '11) at New York Theatre Workshop
Weston, VT- World premiere of Pregnancy Pact (NAMT Fest '11) at Weston Playhouse Theatre Co.  
Crossville, TN- Regional premiere of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge (NAMT Fest '11) at Cumberland County Playhouse
New York, NY- Broadway Bound concert at Merkin Hall featuring songs from Watt?!? and The Dogs of Pripyat, both from the 2011 Festival 

And I am pretty sure I am missing a few. 

I got a lot more out of these trips than a wallet full of receipts and slight confusion as to my time zone.  I was fortified in my belief that our members and alumni are creating, producing and exploring the best musical theatre in the country.  They are continually engaging, challenging and building audiences through their great work.  They are not resting on their laurels but pushing forward.  

It is very hard to find a show today that does not have the NAMT stamp somewhere on it...and that makes me very proud to be just a small part of any show that adds to the crazy tapestry of musicals across the country.  The great work continues all over the country, and I'm the lucky one who gets to take in at least a fraction of it.   

Monday, October 1, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Recording the demo

A guest entry from Julianne Wick Davis, composer of Southern Comfort

Years ago, a friend showed me a YouTube video of a local cable talent show from the early 80’s.  One of the acts was a woman with a thick cockney accent who had a two-sided conversation with herself about demos. “What’s a demo, you say?”  And then answering herself, “Well, Libby, it’s a recordin’ of me singin’ voice.”  I appreciate this woman’s ability to boil it down to the essence, but geez, if only demos were that simple!  The demo is the calling card for your show, and since the score of your show doesn’t come to life unless someone plays it and sings it, demos are obviously the most important piece of representation musicals have.

Recently my collaborator, Dan Collins and I thought it was best to expand upon an earlier version of our demo for SOUTHERN COMFORT as part of our preparation for the NAMT Festival of New Musicals.  We recorded 8 songs several years ago, but since then the show had grown and changed and some of the recordings weren’t even relevant anymore. Our goal was to record as many songs from the show as possible, keeping several of the recordings from the earlier demo.  This kind of goal involves a lot of people and the merging of many schedules, but it is worth every hurdle to get it right. 

Once the list of songs was made, the negotiating of the schedules began.  Since our show uses all acoustic instruments, we decided it was best to record everyone live together as opposed to laying down different tracks.  I had a window of about 7 hours one day where I could gather David Lutken, Joel Waggoner, Lizzie Hagstedt, and Jeffrey D. Smith.  Because I had such an amazing team of musicians, we ended up recording the instrumental tracks for 11 songs in under 5 hours.  Having everyone play together doesn’t leave you a lot of room for fixing any errors.  If one person screws up, you have to start over.  The guitar player’s best take might be the bass player’s worst take, but we took our chances—it was too important to us to have that feeling of a live performance on the demo. 

Which brings up the question:  “To orchestrate or not orchestrate?”  Dan and I decided a long time ago when we did the first round of demo recordings for SOUTHERN COMFORT that the orchestration was important in understanding the story and tone of the show.  Early in our writing careers I remember hearing people say that it’s not important to have orchestration on your demos, after all, they’re demos.  Our experience has shown us otherwise.  Orchestration on your demo helps the producer/artistic director/new works director understand the aesthetic quality of your musical. 

Orchestration was not a question for us; however, one element of our recording that lead to a lot of discussion was whether or not to include any dialogue in songs that contained scenes.  Does it make no sense otherwise?  Will it sound like a bad radio play?  Is it the best idea for this particular show? We decided that even though we had an amazing production at Cap21 in 2011, we could not call it our definitive production because we have made changes since then and probably will continue to make changes as we seek development.  We didn’t want to be left with songs on a demo that suffer from “older-draftitis,” so we decided to leave out the dialogue.

Oh, I should mention that we did not go into a fancy studio.  We had a tiny budget.  We asked friends who had played/sung the score before, many from our Cap21 cast last year.  Instrumentals were done in a classroom at the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.  Vocals were done in the small recording studio in the department, although at one point they were going to be done in my living room in Inwood. 

What this demo experience has taught me is that all you really need is a decent room, a quality microphone, and people who are well-rehearsed.  Now, THAT is boiling it down to the essence, Libby…

Monday, September 17, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Initial Casting and Songwriters Showcase announced!

We are so happy with all of the amazing actors, directors and music directors who have signed on to join the Festival this year!  The Festival employs over 100 artists every year and it takes considerable manhours to find the right actors, directors and music directors for each piece.

We have some of our regulars back (Chris Hoch, Kenita Miller, Marie-France Arcilla), we reunite faces we have not seen at the Festival in a few years (Robin de Jesus, Sarah Stiles, Kate Rockwell) and we welcome new faces to our Festival (Annette O'Toole, Bryce Ryness, Demond Green).  I am always humbled by all of the talented artists who decide to come work with us for two weeks to help give these eight new musicals the best reading possible!  You can read about our initial casting announcement on

Additionally, we announced last week our line-up for the Songwriters Showcase and our hosts, Nancy Opel and Joe DiPietro.  Joe and Nancy have known each other for years and I know that they will be great hosts for the audience and writers, alike.  This year, the Showcase is filled with shows that have been developed by NAMT member theatres.  Many of the shows have been developed by multiple NAMT members which shows the strength of our membership to help push shows forward, together.  It will be a wonderful display of the great work being done around the country to further the field.  You can read the full line-up and history of this year's showcase shows at

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  We still have about 2 dozen roles to cast and announce, plus the line-up of singers for the Showcase.   The Festival promises to be another stellar two days of musical theatre heaven, and it would not be possible without all of our extraordinary artists!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: On The Road To NAMT Fest--Musical Theatre Bytes

"On The Road To NAMT" will be a special sub-series of the Festival Countdown featuring blogs from Tom Mizer (Book & Lyrics of TRIANGLE) that will also be featured as part of his blog The Broadway Blog.  
If anyone asked me what to look for in a great composing partner, I’d tell them to seek out many of the qualities of my own long-time collaborator Curtis Moore. Find someone who is talented (clearly), fun to be around (long hours together in small rooms), committed (to the theater, not a mental institution) – and, most importantly, someone who has a degree in electrical engineering. Seriously, skip Juilliard and start trolling MIT.
Kooman & Dimond prep 2011 NAMT Festival's "Dani Girl". Image via
As we dive into preparations for our NAMT Festival presentation, I have realized that this is a highly technical operation. Just gathering our team for a prep meeting is like tasking a bunch of liberal arts students with landing the Rover on Mars. I’m in Brooklyn; Curtis is music directing a show in Kansas City; our music director was in Pittsfield, MA; our festival consultants (NAMT members assigned to shepherd us through the process) are based in Chicago and Princeton; and our fearless director was in transit somewhere in the American Southwest (though, at times, even she wasn’t sure exactly where).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


A guest entry from Justin Levine, writer of BONFIRE NIGHT

"Kill your darlings." - William Faulkner
Cutting down a script is like tending a garden. You plant your seeds and in just days you have a plethora of sprouts all trying to squeeze in and get their sunlight. It's exciting, it's alive, it's bursting with seemingly unlimited potential. The truth is, if you let every seedling that sprouts grow into a full plant, you will end up with a garden bed full of weak, undernourished and crowded plants. When the plants first sprout, you are supposed to pull all but one seedling per plant. That way, the remaining seedlings will have more space, get more nutrients and grow to their fullest potential. In the same way, if you cram your play with ideas, you run the risk of having your piece filled with weaker, unfinished story lines and arcs. Sometimes, it seems that none of your ideas can be sacrificed. It's daunting. 

For the NAMT festival, the writers are charged with creating a 45-minute cut of their show,

Friday, September 7, 2012

It's Almost Conference Time!

It's been a very busy and productive summer in the NAMT office. We've been all over the country visiting members, and attending conferences and festivals, yet somehow we've managed to get a lot of projects done here in the office, planning for the months ahead and working on ways to serve you better. But now it's my favorite time of year. We're starting to get a break from the NYC summer heat, and better yet, the Fall Conference and Festival of New Musicals are right around the corner!

I often say that NAMT's best member benefit is its members, and the Fall Conference is when you all prove me right. This will be my 5th one (!), and every year I'm inspired by your insight, passion and warmth.

This year, we're in a brand new venue with spectacular views of Times Square (above) and Central Park, and we'll be taking a new dual-track approach to the rewards and challenges of producing new musicals from the perspective of both artistic and managerial leaders. I can't wait to see what comes out of these smaller group discussions, and what happens when everyone comes together for full group sessions and, of course, cocktails!

To whet your appetite, check out video highlights of past conferences at (member login required). We've recently updated this page with clips from 2011 and 2012, including last year's popular Hal Prince keynote address. For details on this year's conference and to register (for the Festival, too!) go to Rates will increase on September 17, so don't wait too long!

I can't wait to see you next month!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Work In Progress: GIRLS VS BOYS

An interview with Henry Fonte, Chair of the University of Miami's Department of Theatre Arts, about their upcoming production of Girls vs Boys, written by Nathan Allen, Chris Mathews, Jake Minton & Kevin O'Donnell, this November 1-11.

Girls vs Boys explores the complicated lives of modern high schoolers as they manage their way through the funny, violent and emotionally turbulent period of adolescence. The story focuses on Casey, a young man who distances himself from not only his fellow classmates but also his sister, Sam, a freshman at his high school. Casey and Sam share a dark past that pulls them together while still keeping them at arm's length.

How did you find the show?
This season we decided to look for a new contemporary musical that could be developed by the University and The Adrienne Arsht Center. We were on our way to producing something else when the negotiations collapsed. Scott Shiller, our co-producer at The Arsht, who already had a very strong relationship with The House Theatre of Chicago, had seen the original workshop of Girls vs Boys by our good friends at Northwestern University’s American Musical Theatre Project, and suggested we pursue it. Girls vs Boys made sense on many creative levels and also has the potential to attract young, diverse, multi-cultural ticket buyers.

What drew you to the show and how does it fit with the goals of your program?
Girls vs Boys focuses an unblinking eye on the pent up rage, sexuality, fear and humor that all young people experience. Its themes are universal and, still today, swept under the carpet as we adults try to fight these feelings through medicating kids into NOT feeling, or at least not displaying or “acting out” on those feelings. The most obvious fit is the fact that the cast is exclusively young. There are no adult characters. It also fits with our mission, which in part is to develop new, edgy and exciting work for the American Theatre. This creative collaboration with one of the premier performing arts centers in the southern United States, which also happens to be in our own backyard, offers students a paid, real-world working experience on a world-class stage and ensures that they will have a competitive edge upon graduation.

How will the show be developed while at U of Miami?
We will first do a two-week workshop with the full cast, our creative team and the writing team from The House Theatre. This workshop will concern itself with the story, and how the story is presently served by the book, songs and the current structure. Nothing will be off the table. After that, we will begin a four-week rehearsal towards the production. The show will be co-produced by us and The Arsht, where it will play, in its beautiful, state-of-the-art Carnival Studio Theater.
In addition to featuring students-as-professionals on stage, the production also provides students majoring in technical theatre and design to work side-by-side with the Arsht Center’s production team–helping to create professional sets, costumes and lighting design; assisting stage managers and other key production positions.

What is the thing you are most excited to see when the show gets in front of an audience?
Like all great art, Girls vs Boys has the potential to be highly polarizing. The subscription audiences at both The Arsht and UM’s Ring Theatre, plus our students and the single ticket buyers will form a wildly diverse audience demographic. We look forward to seeing how different age groups react and empathize with the action unfolding before them. While we hope to please as many of these constituencies as possible, we also hope the show will retain some of its raw energy, force and the dangerous electric current that runs through the material. Also, the rock score is pretty exciting.

Why should your fellow members swing by Miami to catch the show?
If we do our job, Girls vs Boys will become, or be on its way to becoming, a very hot and exciting new property. We can’t have too many of those. It's new theatre. It's our job as theatre artists to support and encourage these new voices in as many stages of development as possible. And it’s Miami in November...What’s not to like?

For more information about Girls vs Boys, please click here.


An interview with John Fionte, New Works Director at Cumberland County Playhouse, about their upcoming production of 2011 Festival show Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, playing Aug. 23-Oct. 26.

A pitch-dark comedy with the kick of moonshine, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge transplants J.M. Synge's classic The Playboy of the Western World to 1930s Appalachia. Bluegrass music and backwoods mayhem abound in this coming-of-age story about a slapdash murder, a whirlwind romance and a most unlikely hero.

What drew Cumberland County Playhouse to Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge?
Producing Director Jim Crabtree first became aware of Golden Boy in 2009 through the authors' agent, and he asked me to pay particular attention to it when the show was presented in the 2011 Festival. We both felt that Golden Boy's rural Appalachian setting, combined with its bluegrass score, made the show something worth investigating.

Why is it a great show for your audience?
The Cumberland Plateau is a part of rural Appalachia. This region is fiercely proud of its rich musical heritage...and of the Scots-Irish roots of its culture. Peter Mills' compelling score celebrates both the contemporary bluegrass musical idiom, along with that music's deep Celtic roots. Additionally, our audience loves shows with onstage musicians, as is evidenced by the perennial popularity of Smoke on the Mountain, which is in its 19th consecutive year here at the Playhouse. Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge has all of that, and it's fresh, new and exciting. I hope it appeals to Smoke fans and beyond.

Are there any special approaches you are taking to the show?
Just as Pete and Cara wrote a play that's an intricate blend of the traditional and the contemporary, I've tried to give equal weight to both of those things in terms of the production. The choreography, staging, design aesthetic... all those choices are firmly grounded in Synge's Playboy of the Western World, but filtered through a contemporary eye. I've also been careful to always consider Golden Boy's Irish roots. While it's not particularly present in Playboy, Synge was part of an Irish literary tradition that was steeped in a sense of enchantment, of magical realism. I've tried to bring a sense of that to Golden Boy.

What are you most excited about when Golden Boy finally hits your stage?
I'm eagerly anticipating that first audience reaction. Golden Boy is so full of things that our rural Tennessee audiences love; but it's also full of surprises, of fresh new sights and sounds. I think it will be an electric experience.

Why should people check out the Playhouse and Golden Boy?
Cumberland County Playhouse is truly a gem that's nestled in a rural part of the country, so it remains undiscovered to some people. It's always a joy to hear first-time patrons express their surprise and delight to find such professionalism and exceptional production values in a small town. I hope that audiences will experience the same sense of excitement and delight when they experience Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge for the first time. It's really a remarkable musica,l and it deserves to be discovered by a much wider audience.

For more information, please visit  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Playing to Win

A guest post by Music Director, Orchestrator and Composer Eli Zoller. Eli was the Music Director for Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge at the 2011 Festival of New Musicals. He asked if he could respond to Adam's recent post, which itself was a response to an article on Howard Sherman's blog. We were more than happy to keep the conversation going!

I'd been struggling with my identity in the theatre for a while. For the multitude of professionals in this business, we've all had times where we've looked in the mirror and asked the daunting question, "how do I 'fit' in this industry?" My question wasn't about my abilities on stage, confidence in my background, or my taste in current theatrical trends (though all weighed on my mind). I asked myself: "Am I in this as a dedicated professional, or as a dedicated fan?"  

I didn't grow up a theatre fan; I grew up a sports fan. My heroes didn't score music, they scored touchdowns. However, my love was music and theatre, and today I find myself working in the very field that combines those two wonderful entertainment mediums into the perfect story-telling mechanism known as the musical. However, upon arriving in New York professionally, I quickly became frustrated to find that unbridled and unmatchable creativity had been replaced with add-water-and-stir box office gimmickry; these were not championship teams.

As a sports fan, there are two kinds of teams that the majority of fellow fans root for: the powerhouses (teams with a history of dominance in their sport) and the underdogs (teams that, on paper, don't match up to the others but still possess the intoxicating will to win…and every so often, they do!). Then there are the teams in the middle; the teams that lack some sort of spark or drive or full-bodied will to compete at the highest level. They think they can bare the same power and skill as the powerhouses, but don't know how to properly execute. They think they're better than the underdogs, but are too afraid of failure to go all-in against the toughest challenges. Instead, they play an over-calculated and timid game with underwhelming spirit, overburdened by outside opinion. With all of this focus on how not to fail, they don't trust their fans to be enough of a motivation for them to just go out and play their hearts out. As a result, their fans abandon them, broken-hearted.

Cast off from the love of theatre audiences of all ages for the powerhouses and underdogs, these "middle teams" are the equivalent of commercial musical theatre today. So far as the entire industry is concerned, the conversation about how to improve has got to start focusing around our honesty between us and our fans; otherwise, we risk losing them for good; the clock is ticking. We as theatrical professionals on all fronts seem intimidated by our surroundings and outside competition (television, film, iTunes, even reality shows), and that's exactly what turns our audiences away. We shouldn't be focus-grouping to decide what the next hit Broadway show should be; we should simply be aware of our culture and choose how to affect that culture with our craft as opposed to the other way around. People don't buy tickets to sporting events because they know the final score before the game starts; they want to see the action, feel the tension, experience the magic. We're robbing our audiences of that opportunity every time we ask ourselves "what sells today?" "how can we sound more like...?" "has it succeeded yet?" Of course, it has been argued that the quality of the material is the constant culprit, but to what extent can we see a future for our industry if the best of our abilities are being spent on high-quality duplicates of previous art?

I often feared that we'd need to build from the ground up a new musical theatre for Broadway's future, but it's out there; it just needs greater support and the time to start is now. It's certainly what our audiences expect of us as artists, and we owe it to them to be honest, eager, and unafraid to create an original musically theatrical experience. It's time we admitted it: we're underdogs! ...and we should rejoice! Audiences love an underdog! But being an underdog means playing like one. We need producers who will stop predicting box offices and start believing in artists. We need writers who'll start believing in their individualities instead of trying to sound like what's popular. That, and only that, is where the beginnings of a new commercial musical theatre will start. Pundits like Howard Sherman see the proper ways to view our art form on Broadway for potential, not just product. NAMT offers new voices to audiences by giving proud musical theatre underdogs a stage that has the ability to reach across the country. We may lose a lot before we start winning; but I'd rather leave it all on the field than come away with an average and forgettable record. Those are the teams I root for: the underdogs, the fighters, the believers; they never lose the appreciation of their fans, and the legacy of both them and their game lives on forever! It's a tough game, but I'm a die-hard fan and a die-hard professional, and I'm ready to play! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Promoting a show at the Festival

A guest blog entry from writer Gaby Alter, from Nobody Loves You, about promoting readings and shows to the industry.  Gaby was recently in the Festival with his show Band Geeks! in 2009.  

A demo recording for a musical is an odd thing. So much of the impact of a song in a musical depends on it being experienced live. The facial expressions of the actor often provide the subtext, or fight the subtext of the song. And hearing a score played live under the actor is one of the electrifying things about theater. It lets us know that the art is being created, in part, in front of us. It begs our active participation in imagining the story.

The fact is, however, that a demo recording is now critical to the fate of any musical. It represents the show to a producer, or a literary manager or artistic director, who are too busy to come to a reading (which can only happen in a blue moon anyway, given the resources it takes); or who live outside New York. If it's good, a demo will  transmit the piece's musical world and vocabulary. It will get people excited to see how the musical would look on stage.

For good or ill, the difference between a good quality demo and a so-so one is usually a large factor in a piece's perception. And, in an escalating arms race of quality, demos are now usually expected to be fully produced, often near-album quality pieces with vocal and instrumental arrangements, mixing, EQ-ing, etc.  As the need for a high-quality demo continues to rise, and the level of quality expected, so too does the cost, which generally falls on the artists.

To help this situation, NAMT has started a RocketHub campaign to help cover the costs of printing the demos of its musicals. Supporters of a specific musical, and those who care more broadly about the development of new musicals, can donate towards this cost, knowing that they are helping with a critical step in the process of realizing our shows onstage. With hundreds of CDs to give away to industry professionals, a musical's chance of finding its backers at NAMT and after it have risen greatly.

A small note: NAMT is the one festival where all costs related to the reading are covered. Once you're in, you're in--there are no rental fees, production costs, actors' stipends to pay. However, there still remains the cost of the demo, which is technically not part of the reading. And even at NAMT, not everyone can make it to every reading; many will still need to hear a recording. And those who do see a show they love still need to go back home and sell the show they loved to the rest of their staff.
So the demo remains an indispensable tool at NAMT.

Monday, August 13, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: The importance of demos

An important message from Brendan Milburn, composer of Sleeping Beauty Wakes, about why the writers need to have demos at the Festival.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: From the novel to the classroom to the stage to the Festival

A post from Beth Turcotte, bookwriter of The Circus in Winter, about where the show came from and its connection to arts education.  

The Circus in Winter is the product of an immersive learning project developed with support from the Virginia Ball Center, Ball State University in the spring of 2010.  The class consisted of fourteen remarkable students from five different disciplines from across the campus.  Over the course of three months, the students adapted the novel, The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day, into a musical.  Now, anyone who has ever directed, produced or taught, knows that some days working with a group of creative folks is like herding cats.  Then comes the day when you figure out which student is Antares, the anchor, and you become Ben Hur taking the curve with all four white horses perfectly lined up.

Image from the Ball State University production
Over the next two years concert performances took place on campus, at the Peru International Circus Hall of Fame and at Drury Lane-Oak Brook, Chicago, Illinois.  This past fall, Circus had a fully realized  production at Ball State University. This production was also an American College Theatre Festival entry.  Circus was selected as a regional participant for ACTF at the University of Illinois in January 2012 and recognized with eight Kennedy Center/ACTF Awards including Outstanding New Work this past May.

Although the students have all graduated and moved on to new adventures, they will forever be linked with this project.  Ben Clark, composer and lyricist, remains with Circus and will anchor it around its next curve.

The Circus in Winter is arts education at its best.

FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Directors and Music Directors announced

We are so excited to welcome many of this year's directors and musical directors for the Festival!  

Bonfire Night will be directed by Sam Buntrock (Tony nominated for the revival of Sunday in the Park with George) with music direction by Kimberly Grigsby (Spring Awakening).

Funked Up Fairy Tales will be directed by Jerry Dixon (who directed Red Clay in '10 and Barnstormer in '08 for us) with music direction by Steve Marzullo.

Nobody Loves You will be directed by Michelle Tattenbaum who directed its premiere at The Old Globe.

Sleeping Beauty Wakes will again be directed by Rebecca Taichman, who also helmed the McCarter Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse productions.

Southern Comfort will be reunited with the director and music director from their CAP21 workshop production last fall, Tom Caruso and Emily Otto, respectively.

Triangle will be directed by Meredith McDonough, who is directing a reading of it this weekend at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.

The rest of the directors and music directors will be announced in the coming weeks.

Click here to read's article about our creative teams.  

It is so great to have so many people returning to the Festival and to welcome many new faces as well!

Monday, August 6, 2012


A special video blog entry from Brendan Milburn, composer of Sleeping Beauty Wakes, who is returning to the NAMT Festival after last presenting Striking 12 in 2004 and Watt?!? in 2011.

Help out this year's writers, like Brendan, by supporting our RocketHub campaign to raise $5,000 to make all of the demos for this year's 8 songwriting teams.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


A post from Jason Schafer, bookwriter of Bleeding Love about where the show came from and what is means to his show to be accepted into the Festival.  

I’ve written a musical and I think hope pray know it’s amazing...  Now what?  For me, this question seems to surface when nearing the completion of the first full draft. Maybe it’s my brain putting off those final bits of work – before the rewriting begins, of course.  Or maybe, for the first time, so much of the show is actually written, it finally seems real.  It exists.  Not just in my head where it’s been for some time, but on paper.  It’s suddenly possible to visualize actors stopping the show with the songs, to imagine audiences laughing at the jokes or being moved (to tears?) by the characters and the story.

Bleeding Love began with a desire to write something that offered audiences a huge emotional experience.  I brainstormed a list of my most peculiar fascinations – anything that ever elicited a powerful and preferably mysterious response in me.  This included Brooklyn brownstones, the sound of a cello, Klaus von Brücker from the films of Bruce La Bruce, my childhood piano teacher, the fairytales of Oscar Wilde, my mother’s greenhouse, the line art of Aubrey Beardsley, longhaired men and punk goddess Nina Hagen, to name more than a few.  Hoping this unusual combination of elements might have a similar effect on others, I fashioned them into a narrative, but the result was so rarified, it seemed no one but me could possibly appreciate it.

Harris (lyrics) and Art (music) initially rejected my “rose story.”  “We want to write something commercial,” Harris said.  But as the three of us continued to talk about it, Bleeding Love’s very strangeness seemed to be its greatest selling point.  And commercial or not, it was a show all three of us wanted to see.  A year later, when we sat down in a New York rehearsal studio to read it through beginning to end, it was still starkly unique, but our collaboration had transformed it into something bigger, something more accessible, and – dare I say it? – something commercial.  Now what?

Bleeding Love was a finalist for the Richard Rodgers Award and now, the first public performance of any kind will be at NAMT’s Festival of New Musicals.  This is an extraordinary opportunity to present a show with a first-rate cast and director before an industry audience.  Because of this, Bleeding Love has the best possible chance of finding the right developmental path, whatever that may be.  NAMT’s guidance will allow us to find the right home and the right audience for our show.  And personally, it’s a thrill and an honor to be in the company of an amazing roster of writers whose work I have loved and admired.  Or at least read about on

The crazy list that started this journey did not include writing musicals, but it should have.  For me, NAMT’s recognition and support is a dream come true.  Now what?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Works In Progress: LOVE STORY

An interview with director Annabel Bolton about Walnut Street Theatre's upcoming production of Love Story, written by Erich Segal with book and lyrics by Stephen Clark, and music and additional lyrics by Howard Goodall, this September 4-October 21.

Inspired by Erich Segal's best-selling iconic novel, and one of the most romantic films of all time, this life-affirming musical will have you remembering the first time you fell in love. There was music in the air—and a feeling so powerful that no one and nothing could take it away. That music is in the air again with Love Story, the Musical. When Oliver Barrett IV wanders into a library in search of a book, he discovers Jenny Cavilleri. They came from different worlds. He was a Harvard man, she was Radcliffe. He was rich, she was poor. But they fell in love. This is their story. A celebration of love and life, Love Story, the Musical will win your heart... and it may just break it.

How does Love Story differ from the movie and the novel? 
Other than the most obvious difference that it is a musical, the Erich Segal story itself is intact and holds all the memorable moments from the book and the movie. Enthusiastic fans may notice some differences that help the movement of the story in this staged version (for instance, the compression of two scenes into one to help the narrative flow). This very emotional story lends itself so well to being a musical and particularly with Howard Goodall's delicate and evocative score. 

How has the show evolved from Chichester to the West End to the U.S. premiere?
The essence of the original Chichester production remains. The writer Stephen Clark and composer Howard Goodall, along with the original creative team honed and refined their work for the move to London by cutting and adding both musically and literarily. The Chichester stage was an apron stage and a very intimate audience/performer experience, so the production also faced the very practical challenge of moving to a proscenium theatre. The loss of intimacy was a concern, but it didn't lose any emotional impact in the move—if anything it enhanced it.

What are you and the writing team hoping to work on while preparing for this production?

Festival Show Update: LIZZIE BORDEN

An interview with Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt about what is new with their 2010 Festival Show, Lizzie (other than its title!).

What was the audience's response to Lizzie after the Festival?
Audience responses have been incredibly gratifying.  At the Festival, the tremendous show of support from the NAMT community was overwhelming—there were so many great moments. One of our favorites: an older man came up to Alan saying "You know what you've done here, don't you? This is Tommy meets Sweeney Todd!" Well, besides the fact that we love both of those and it's very flattering to be compared to them, we've always seen Lizzie as somehow situated exactly between those two worlds, so for this guy to get that was a great sign for us that we'd succeeded.

What has changed in the show since the Festival?
We've made a handful of tweaks and a couple of bigger changes. There are 2 whole new songs. One is a solo for Lizzie, "This Is Not Love," near the beginning of the show that we hope gives the audience a clearer idea of where she's starting from emotionally, psychologically. We also replaced the ending with a less ambiguous statement of Lizzie's apotheosis into legend, "Into Your Wildest Dreams." And we have officially dropped "Borden" from the title—the show is now called simply Lizzie.  

You recently had a change of commercial producers.  How did that come about and what was the decision process like for you to decide to change things up?