Wednesday, May 9, 2012

FROM THE NEW WORKS DIRECTOR: Festival Questions Answered

As part of the strategic plan, we are conducting a full evaluation of the Festival.  Many thanks to those of you who provided detailed input, which is invaluable to the future of the Festival!  I’d like to try to clarify two murky areas that came up repeatedly in your comments: 

How “blind” is the process?
As blind as it can be. The Festival Committee’s review materials do not include any writer information or production history; however, some of the committee members are very involved in developing new musicals and may already be in-the-know.  At the committee meetings, we speak carefully about each show, to avoid revealing writer genders, developmental histories or the like (it is not an easy language to speak!).  We discuss our excitement and the possibilities for the future of each submission.  The blinders are typically lifted during the last hour of the last committee meeting as we are about to make our final decisions.

Who is on the committee? 
The committee changes every year, with at least 1/3 of the committee rotating off to include some new voices in the mix.  I work with the co-chairs to compose a committee of 12-13 people that represents the spectrum of the membership.  Each member serves for 2-3 years.  It is not an easy committee—members read a lot of shows and put in countless hours outside of their actual jobs to choose the Festival every year.  

In addition to highlighting these two areas of confusion, the Festival feedback gave us a wealth of insight.  You were overwhelmingly supportive but also had great ideas to make our members’ experience at the Festival even better, which a special task force and I are working to develop and implement.  I value your input; if you ever have questions about the Festival or an idea (small to crazy, love them both), never hesitate to contact me.  As most of you know, I love talking about the Festival!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New Works in Progress: ASCAP

An interview with Michael A. Kerker, Director of Musical Theatre at ASCAP, about their Musical Theatre Workshop, which recently included the musicals Costs of Living by Timothy Huang, Dora: Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria by Larry Bortnik, Hardcore West Virginia by Mike Pettry & Claire Karpen and Single Girls Guide by NAMT Fest alumni Tommy Newman & Gordon Greenberg.

The ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop is a development program for new musicals. The workshop is led by its artistic director, Stephen Schwartz
(NAMT Fest '96–Children of Eden) and is coordinated by Kerker. Their goal is to nurture new composers and lyricists and to help them shape and focus their projects in the early stages of development. The annual workshop is held in New York, usually in the early spring, and the Los Angeles workshop (presented in partnership with DreamWorks Animation) is held in February.

How do you select the musicals to be presented in the workshops?
Writers are asked to submit 4 songs from their musical, a copy of the lyrics with plot placement information and a brief synopsis of the libretto. We receive approximately 125 submissions for each workshop. I listen to all submissions and usually send a dozen or so of the more promising ones to Stephen Schwartz. He then listens to these finalists and ultimately we select 4 projects for presentation in the workshop.

Festival Show Update: PREGNANCY PACT

An interview with Gordon Leary and Julia Meinwald, the writers of Festival 2011 show Pregnancy Pact, as they prepare for the show's world premiere this August at the Weston Playhouse Theatre Co. in Weston, VT.

Pregnancy Pact is a pop-rock musical about a group of teens who make a pact to become single mothers together. 15-year-old Maddie is devoted to her three best friends and they are to her. So when Brynn gets pregnant, the friends all plan to have children, raising them together in a dream of a perfect life. Their pact grows as other girls find out and want in. The bubble finally bursts when their secret is revealed, leaving each of the girls to face the hard realities of love, responsibility and growing up

The show was fairly young when it came to the Festival. What was it like to put it up in front of the membership and industry at such an early stage?
Having only had one staged reading of the show before the Festival, it was thrilling to be able to share our work with such a large and enthusiastic audience. Beyond the thrill, the process of preparing for the Festival was immensely helpful. Since we chose to present an abridged version of the full piece, we were tasked with condensing the show down to its most important elements. It gave us a very clear idea of what story we are telling, which has helped us greatly as we continue to refine and reshape the piece.