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Musical Writerzine #2

Winter 2007

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere

Musical Writerzine issue number 2 features news, a special article for our Growing Stages column: " K.C. AND THE SUNSHINE FEST," and information sources that may be useful for writers of musicals.

[Carol de Giere is the website publisher for MusicalWriters.com and author of Defying Gravity, a career biography of Stephen Schwartz filled with musical development stories. William Squier has written numerous musicals and articles for a wide variety of publications.]

On this page:

Workshop News

Stephen Schwarts and Craig Carnelia during an ASCAP Musical Theatre WorkshopASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop 2007 - Los Angeles

See details on www.musicalschwartz.com/ascap.htm

[Photo: Stephen Schwartz and Craig Carnelia conducting an ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop]

ASCAP "I Create Music" EXPO 2007

The Only National Conference 100% Dedicated
to Songwriting and Composing
April 19-21, 2007 Los Angeles, CA
Register Now at http://www.ASCAP.com/EXPO

New Dramatists Announcement

Once again, we are looking for composers to apply for our Composer-Librettist Studio to be held at New Dramatists beginning Saturday, March 17, 2007 and ending Monday, April 2, 2007. The Composer-Librettist Studio is presented in cooperation with Nautilus Music-Theater, and is designed to provide an opportunity for five New Dramatists writers and five composers to work with professional performers, exploring the possibilities and basic elements of music-theater.Each composer, writer, and performer will receive a $900 fee for participating in this program.

Visit www.newdramatists.org for an application and additional information about the Composer-Librettist Studio.I am also attaching a copy of the application along with a project description of the studio and a selection criteria form (to let the applicants know what we are looking for).Completed applications may be mailed to New Dramatists, 424 West 44 St.New York, NY 10036. Should applicants prefer, completed applications may be dropped off at New Dramatists Monday – Friday, 10–6pm.If there are any further questions, please feel free to call us at 212–757–6960.

Applications must be delivered to New Dramatists by Friday, February 2, 2007.This is not a postmark deadline.

Publication News

Recent Articles from December 2006/January 2007:

NYTimes Article on Lyrics The Music Is Sweet, the Words Are True

Yip Harburg tribute online in video with transcript: Yip Harburg link

Here's an interesting idea for publicizing a show:

The NERDS musical team is blogging their rehearsals for an upcoming production of this musical in development. I saw NERDS at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2005 and loved it. http://nerdsthemusical.blogspot.com

Also, don't miss the resources list on this site, complete with book reviews and more. Books, DVDs, etc.


2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival 2007 accepting submissions

The 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), the three-week event that presents a slew of new works by up-n-coming composers, will run from Sept. 17-Oct. 7. Writers are currently invited to submit "production-ready" musicals to the 2007 Next Link Project. Eighteen shows will be chosen by a jury that includes Adam Epstein, Margo Lion and Casey Nicholaw for presentation during the annual festival.

For application info see http://www.nymf.org

Writers-composers chosen this year will have access to professional dramaturgs, who will help them shape and develop their scripts.

Since its inception in 2004, NYMF has produced 913 performances of 256 events. Among the shows that have been part of previous Festivals and have gone on to be produced in other venues are Guttenberg The Musical, Altar Boyz, [title of show], The Great American Trailer Park Musical,and Captain Louie


In this column, William Squier offers a glimpse behind the scenes at up and coming theaters and other venues that specialize in developing and producing new musicals.


Frog's Kiss at the Kansas City Theatre FestivalIn the summer of 2006, the Theater League, Inc., launched the first of what they hoped would become a yearly event: the Crossroads Festival of New Musicals. Seven new musicals by authors from across the United States (including one of mine: ROUTE 66) were selected and scheduled for presentation as concert readings at four locations in Kansas City over the weekends of July 15 and 22. Then, everyone at the League held their collective breath. [Photo: Reading of Frog's Kiss at the Kansas City Festival of New Musicals]

Fortunately, their efforts paid off with an event that the local alternative newspaper 'The Pitch' described as a "win-win-win" for the authors and audiences alike. "I think we were all overwhelmed at the response," recalled the festival director, Chris McCoy. "I was amazed on performance days to see crowds of people having a great time. One of our favorite stories of the festival was a group of patrons tailgating in the parking lot in between shows. Talk about dedication!"

TheatreLeague.comThe Theater League is a Missouri-based organization that produces and presents a professional theatre series at performing arts centers in Phoenix and Mesa, AZ; Long Beach and Thousand Oaks, CA; Toledo, OH; South Bend, IN; Wichita, KS; and, of course, Kansas City, MO. Founded in 1976 by the company's enthusiastic president, Mark Edelman, the League is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt entity with better than 55,000 series subscribers and an overall annual audience of about 300,000 people. Their musical theater offerings generally consist of national tours (the upcoming season at their Kansas City location includes 'Stomp,' 'Spelling Bee,' 'Spamalot' and 'Joseph' - and when has that last show ever failed to find an audience?).

Emboldened by their initial success, the Theater League has expanded the recently renamed Kansas City Festival of New Musicals in its second year to include performances at both the League's home base and at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, one of their affiliated theaters in California. They will have separate artistic teams in each city and work with the Academy for New Music Theatre to staff the readings in Thousand Oaks.

The League's eventual aim is to find a new musical that it can fully produce and then tour to its seven other venues throughout the country. That's good news for musical theater writers at a time when it often takes two or more theaters in collaboration to get a regional production of a new musical off the ground.

"I know that Broadway is the goal for any theatre writer or composer, but I think it's important to remember that theatre is alive and well all across the country," stated Chris McCoy. "More and more regional theatres aren't doing the hot Broadway properties, but are looking for work that reflects the interests and values of their communities. I think that developing new work with the goal of finding alternative paths to success (as opposed to only playing New York) can only help the theatre industry nationwide."

Kansas City Art MuseumAs new works festivals go, the Theater League was more than usually gracious about anticipating and underwriting the expenses faced by the artists wishing to attend. The League provided the authors of the selected musicals with coach class airfare to and from Kansas City, ground transportation to and from the airport, hotel accommodations during their stay, ground transportation to and from rehearsals, performances and any other League sponsored events (like press conferences or after parties) and an honorarium of $150.00 to offset the cost of meals and incidentals. [Photo: Kansas City has an amazing art museum worth visiting: Nelson Atkins Museum of Art]

"It certainly our intent to provide all the same amenities as last year," said Chris McCoy, though he warned, "Naturally, some of this depends on sponsorships and grants. So I can't make any promises."

"'Good' doesn't cover our experience," said Jane Landers, lyricist of THE COUNT OF MONTE CHRISTO, one of the fist year's featured musicals. Landers found the festival organizers to be very organized, helpful and prompt. "Kansas City isn't easy to get to if you're not in New York City," she explained. "They went the extra mile to make travel as easy as possible."

Though Landers had some difficulty with her hotel accommodations, she chalks it up to the fact that Kansas City was experiencing a record-setting heat wave and the city was packed with conventioneers. "If I went again, I would call the hotel beforehand to make sure they had everything written down and would ask for a confirmation email," she suggested, adding, "This was a very small annoyance in an otherwise great weekend."

Beyond those items spelled out in their letter of agreement, the folks at the League went out of their way to make our stay a pleasant one. The evening that we arrived, Chris McCoy organized an informal get-together for the writers and composers at a restaurant within easy walking distance of the hotel. We were on our own in terms of the food and drink that we ordered, but McCoy broke the ice by popping for appetizers - and, I suspect, paying for them out of his own pocket.

The League also arranged for us to be the guests of the Coterie Theater's premiere production of Stephen Schwartz and David I. Stern's 'Geppetto and Son' - a very well attended stage adaptation of the Disney produced television musical. There was even a gift basket of goodies waiting in our hotel rooms - and I understand that the staffer who made up the baskets for the second weekend went to great lengths to try and outdo the staffer who did the ones for the first!

Route 66The musicals in the festival's first year ran the gamut from broadly commercial work like my musical comedy ROUTE 66 [Photo: Route 66 Cast] (Co-book: J. Goldstein; Music: F. Stark) and the afore mentioned THE COUNT OF MONTE CHRISTO, a lush, romantic retelling of the classic tale (Book & Music: P. DeBlasi; Lyrics: J. Landers), to adventurous fare like DAKOTA SKY (Libretto: K. Cahill; Music: D. Wicks La Puma) - which relates the experiences of single women who homesteaded the great plains at the turn of the century - and THORSTEIN VEBLEN'S THEORY OF THE LEISURE CLASS - a mix of vaudevillian pizzazz and socio-economic theory.

This year the League has chosen to limit itself to presenting only four new musicals, but they are hoping for program that is equally diverse. "We judge solely on the merit of the work and its interest to our patrons," McCoy stressed. "We are definitely looking for full-length musicals and prefer original book and music as opposed to jukebox musicals." Before submitting my work last year, I took advantage of Chris McCoy's frequently repeated offer and consulted with him via email. He was very helpful in pointing me toward submitting the piece that was ultimately chosen for presentation.

The only aspect of the festival that felt a bit lacking was the degree to which the musical theater writers were engaged in putting the presentations together. "We were not really involved in the rehearsal process," said Deborah La Puma, composer of DAKOTA SKY. "We were only able to give a few, very small notes, and basically just be there to be supportive and cheer the actors on." La Puma's collaborator, librettist Kathleen Cahill is circumspect about that lack of involvement. "The piece was rehearsed by the time we arrived," Cahill noted. "I didn't mind that, and it did give me a chance to sit back and listen."

It also left time for a bit of networking. "One of my favorite parts of the festival was getting to meet the other writers," Deborah La Puma emphasized. "In our field, its so important to meet and talk to others who are going through the highs and lows of being an independent writer / composer. It's affirming as a dedicated theatre artist, building more of a sense of a larger musical theatre community, and a hell of a lot of fun. The whole weekend felt like a musical theatre vacation."

The Theater League asks for very little in exchange for featuring your work at its festival. Their letter of agreement simply requires that you grant them the right to produce and present your work as a staged reading that is open to the general public. All you need to provide them with is a up-to-date copy of the libretto (lyrics included!) and a complete piano / vocal score by start of rehearsals. As for any obligation beyond the festival, such as crediting the League as an organization that helped develop your musical in any future programs, etc…, no language to that effect was included in the agreement. McCoy indicated that the agreement would be more or less the same for the year to come.

New Musicals Festival Kansas City - Audience photoOver all, the musical writers I spoke with agreed that participating in the festival was a very positive experience. "Loved the people; loved the town; loved the experience," said Jane Landers, in summing up her visit. "I would go back every year if invited and would encourage anyone else to do so." [Photo: Sold out crowd at Kansas City Festival of New Musicals]

Musical theatre writers interested in having their work considered for the Kansas City Festival of New Musicals should submit one copy of the libretto, one piano / vocal score and a demo recording with at least three musical selections (cassette, cd or mp3 are all acceptable). The festival organizers would also like you to enclose a character listing with brief descriptions (I find that it's also helpful to include the vocal requirements for each character), biographies of the creative team, a development / production history, complete contact information, and an indication of your potential availability during each phase of the festival. As of this year, they also require that you enclose a $25.00 submission fee, payable to The Theater League. But, you'd better hurry because submissions will only be accepted until 5 PM, January 5, 2007. Submission packages should be sent via "snail mail" to:

Chris McCoy
Artistic Director
P.O. Box 140206
Kansas City, MO 64114

For more details about the festival, visit www.kcmusicals.com, or you can write directly to Chris McCoy at chris@kcmusicals.org.

-– William Squier

William Squier's Growing Stages column profiles small to medium sized venues that develop and produce new musicals.

In the forthcoming issue Musical Writerzine #3, Bill Squier takes a look at Amherst, New York's MusicalFare Theatre -- originators of the musicals RENEWING WRIGHT and ZOOMA ZOOMA. Bill gets the inside scoop from Artistic Director Randall Kramer about the theater's new initiative to develop and produce one to two premieres of new works per season.


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