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Musical Writerzine #13

Fall 2010

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere: IN HIS GROWING STAGES COLUMN, William Squier chats with Ryan Blanchard about his new competition for musical theater writers, Scene It 2010. And Meghan Randolph from Music Theater of Madison talks about founding a new company devoted to little known works.

You'll also find some links to fun musicals-related video clips and other news. We hope this will keep you inspired as you write new 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.]

Musical Theatre Announcements

Submissions deadline

Curtain Call, Inc., in Stamford, CT, is gearing up for its annual search for our American Harmony Prize winning new musical, an annual award that acquaints Fairfield County, CT, audiences with diverse new works of musical theater. The goal of the American Harmony Prize is to showcase new musicals that explore our country's many ethnic, religious and gender identifications.

The fourth annual American Harmony Prize will showcase a new musical that dramatizes an aspect of the experience of Americans with Disabilities. From "Porgy and Bess" to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Next to Normal," the struggles of disabled Americans have been at the heart of some of the musical theater's most affecting works. This year the American Harmony Prize hopes to shine the spotlight on a new musical that illuminates the lives of those that are so often overlooked by the rest of society. In addition to a cash award of $250.00, a sixty-minute concert reading of highlights from the winning musical will be performed on the main stage of Curtain Call's Kweskin Theater in February of 2011. Submissions will be accepted via mail from Monday, September 7, 2009 until Saturday, October 10, 2009. Full submission details can be found online at www.curtaincallinc.net/shows.asp#100


This year's NYMF may give you ideas for next year's festival. New York Musical Theatre Festival - 2010 www.nymf.org/

The founder of NYMF is now working in Australia and they recently received almost 50 musicals in their first round of submissions. Visit the Australia site at www.newmusicals.com.au


Dramatists Sourcebook for 2010 for musical writersNovember 2010: The frequently updated Dramatists Sourcebooks keep writers informed of opportunities. Dramatists Sourcebook

KindleIn case you need some instant or portable inspiration, many theatre books, including my own, are now available on Kindle as well as in print, and Kindle software can be downloaded free to desktop computers and some other devices. Here are few suggestions: Writing The Broadway Musical, Defying Gravity, and Twyla Tharp's The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together.


Stephen Sondheim and Webber: a brief collaboration to celebrate Cameron Mackintosh. Funny and touching: Send in the Crowds - Youtube video

Here's musical theatre songwriter Stephen Schwartz working with Australian singer on David Campbell (it starts about 2 minutes into the video) Youtube - David Campbell and Stephen Schwartz - Proud Lady You tube video - David Cambpell with Stephen Schwartz (Also John Bucchino)

Next to Normal - The road to Broadway: American Theatre Wing series Working in Theatre: Next To Normal. With: Director Michael Greif, Composer Tom Kitt, Producer David Stone, Book Writer/Lyricist Brian Yorkey. The moderator is Ted Chapin. American Theatre Wing - Working in Theatre: Next to Normal road to Broadway - the true-life dramatic story of bringing an unusual show to the Great White Way.

GROWING STAGES by William Squier

For this Musical Writerzine #13 column, William Squier writes about William Squier writes about SCENE IT musicals and Music Theatre of Madison


Scene it 2010 website

After being successfully employed as a musical theater dancer throughout the early 1990's, Ryan Blanchard had had enough. "I did quite well," Blanchard says. "A lot of regional work, summer stock and national tours. Then, Broadway took a turn that I wasn't interested in. So, I retired and became a massage therapist."

Most of his clients since then have been Broadway dancers, so Blanchard has been able, quite literally, to keep in touch with the musical theater. But, he recently hit on an idea for another form of "therapy" that he believes will help to heal the ailing art form. "Too many people bemoan the state of the musical theater," Blanchard explains. "I decided to try and do something about it. I wanted to give young writers a chance to test out their material."

Thus was born Scene It 2010, a one-night event that Blanchard will present at 7:30 pm on Thursday, September 23rd at the Jerry Orbach Theatre in the Snapple Center at 210 West 50th Street in New York. The evening will be hosted by Adam Sank, from NBC's Last Comic Standing, and will showcase excerpts from nine new musicals culled from a nationwide search.

In Blanchard's opinion the pieces in the show are representative of the fresh blood that Broadway desperately needs. "Revivals can be a wonderful thing," he feels. "But, it seems like we're lacking new material. But, it's harder and harder to raise money to get new shows into New York. Producers, rightly so, want to invest in products that have already proven themselves."

Blanchard's hope for Scene It is that the showcase will accomplish three things: to give young writers feedback that will improve their work, plus encouragement to continue writing and, perhaps most importantly, lead them to an eventual production.

In order to be considered for Scene It, this year's applicants were asked to submit a ten minute long scene for no fewer than two actors from a completed musical that has not been produced or published. Each submission also required a $20 entrance fee, a copy of the full libretto, a 150-word synopsis and a demo CD of the music contained within the scene. "We had a team of preliminary judges, including myself, read and listen to the material," Blanchard reports. "Then we got together and discussed the strengths and weakness of each entry and came up with the nine that were chosen." The writers were informed of their selection in mid-July.

Scene It! 2010 will feature snippets from the following new shows: "Runaway Love" from The New Musical; "I finally get it" from Goin' South; "Second Thoughts" from What If...?; "Oobalee Boobalees" from Fellow; "The Letters" from The Man in the Iron Mask; "Living in NYC" from The New Musical; "Central Park" from Pigeons: A Musical Fable of New York; "A taste of M2L" from More To Love; and "How I lost my V-card" from Dammit Danielle.

Each of the scenes will be presented off-book in a bare-bones staging with a minimal furniture, props and lighting. "We discourage the use of anything too intricate – anything that would distract from the music or the writing," Blanchard says, adding with a laugh. "No smoke machines or mirrors!"

On the night of the event, there will be another panel of industry judges, yet to be announced, who will critique the scenes and present the participants with a written evaluation after the performance. "I dislike popularity contests," Blanchard insists. "I don't think it's a fair representation of talent. So, there's no voting, no hand-raising, no call-ins!"

There will, however, be a live audience free to respond to the material. And the judges will select a winning musical that will receive the Scene It trophy and a cash grant of $500 for the further development. "We want to encourage them to continue to develop their project into a full-scale production," Blanchard stresses. "But, to my mind, they are all winners because they're putting their stuff out there."

"I would like Scene It to grow into an annual event," he continues. "We'll see how it goes and if the participants feel it was worthwhile. I'd like them to walk away from the experience saying, 'I'm glad I did that.' That will determine if we do it again next year."

What happens if one of the featured musicals moves on to a full production? "We reserve the option to participate as a producer for the next two years," Blanchard explains. "And, if nothing else, to be mentioned in any future credits as a part of the genesis of the project."

But, the personal payoff from Ryan Blanchard will be a more immediate one. "I love musicals," he says. " They made up 99% of my career in New York. But, I didn't get the opportunity to work on that many new things. Now, I can, while doing something for the theatrical community – my community."

Musical theater writers interested in being a part of the audience for the event can purchase tickets on the Scene It 2010 website (Sceneit2010) or at the Snapple Theatre Center on the day of the performance. General admission is $20, but a $35 VIP admission get you into a reception with the contestants and judges after the performance. Musical theater writers interested in being considered for future Scene It evenings should watch the website for updates.

ON QUE ENTERTAINMENT. c/o Pluto Productions, Scene It, 676A 9th Ave., Suite 286, New York, NY 10036


For Meghan Randolph, Executive Director of Music Theatre of Madison, her musical theater career has often been spent attempting to balance show biz grit with its glitz. Her acknowledgement of that yin yang aspect was never more evident than in the theater's Musical Theatre of Madison productionsecond season when Randolph paired a production of The Sound of Music with Stephen Sondheim's Assassins – the one to attract an audience and the other to shake them up. "That was the point where I needed to rethink what our goals were going to be," she says.

Randolph's measured approach can be traced back to her undergraduate days. "I always knew that I wanted to be an actress," she recalls. "I didn't question it until I got to college. That's when I could see that the real world was going to be a lot less glamorous." Fortunately for Randolph, the BFA program she was enrolled in at the University of Michigan helped her to lay the groundwork for a practical attitude that would come into play when she founded MTM.

"It's a great school," Randolph feels. "They're really good about teaching you how to actually get a job, not just teaching you the art." She was so well trained, in fact, that Randolph landed the role of Jennyanydots in a North American tour of Cats right after graduation. But, after a year of traveling with the show to locales as far flung as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, she decided to return home to Madison to consider her next move.

"Madison is a very culturally active city," Randolph explains. "There are tons of opportunities in the arts. I'd always thought that maybe I'd start my own theater company down the road. Then, I was inspired one day to do a production of Hair. And I wanted to do it my way." So, in September of 2005, Randolph set up shop in Wisconsin's capital city. "I knew that I would make mistakes and that it would be hard," she admits. "But, I didn't realize how hard."

By July of the next year, however, Randolph debuted her outdoor staging of Hair in one of the city's parks. "It was a beautiful production, but not without many, many bumps along the way," she says. Undaunted, she decided next to test the local appetite for new and lesser-known musicals by putting up a concert version of Violet (Book & Lyrics: Brian Crawley, Music: Jeanine Tesori). But, Randolph realized that she also needed to confront the new theater's administrative challenges.

"I had convinced myself that I needed someone else to deal with the business aspects," she remembers. "But, I had trouble finding the right person. Eventually, I thought, 'I know that I can rely on me. There's no reason not to understand this stuff.'"

By 2008, Randolph had not only taken on the artistic administration, but also worked with her board of directors to refine the theater's artistic mission to focus on staging lesser-known pieces. Productions of John & Jen, tick…Tick…BOOM!, Wisconsin premieres of Thrill Me: the Leopold and Loeb Story (Book, Music & Lyrics: Stephen Dolginoff) and Floyd Collins (Music & Lyrics: Adam Guettel, Book & Additional Lyrics: Tina Landau) and Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party followed.

Randolph was quick to recognize one of the benefits of working on rarely performed material. "The fact that a show doesn't get done eight million times a year makes the writers really available and eager to be a part of the process," she says. "It's such a valuable resource!"

MTM mounts their productions in Madison's Bartell Theater (www.bartelltheatre.org), where the 96-seat Evjue Stage's black box space and the 199-seat Drury Stage's traditional proscenium seem to fit with their choice of musicals. Randolph says that her budgets are lean and the productions spare. "I've never been one invest in a lot of technical elements," she explains. "I like pieces that are as interesting in the rehearsal room as they are in the theater." One area where she has been unwilling to stint, however, is in paying her casts. "I had people try to talk me out of it," Randolph says. "But, it was non-negotiable. It's a stipend at the end – a percentage of the box office."

Musical Theatre of Madison

PHOTO - a production of Music Theatre of Madison

The final offering of MTM's 2010 season, Your's, Anne (Book & Lyrics: Enid Futterman, Music: Michael Cohen), has given Randolph a taste of what it would be like to put up a completely new musical. "It's a whole additional investment from the artistic side," she feels. "Enid Futterman contacted me last year and we've been in touch on the phone ever since. They've done a great deal of work since the original production. This version is new as of June. Things have been tweaked here and there. It's been very challenging."

Your's, Anne closed MTM's 2010 season in late August, but an encore performance has been scheduled for October 19 at 4 pm in the Wisconsin Union's 168-seat Frederic March Play Circle at 800 Langdon Street in Madison (visit www.uniontheater.wisc.edu for more details). The show will be followed with a discussion that is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Jewish Studies fall lecture series. Seating is very limited. But, if you're interested in attending, Randolph says to drop her an email and she'll let you know if it's possible.

Randolph says that she's open consider mounting original works. "I can't do something brand new," she stresses. "But, it doesn't have to have a long track record. If it has had a couple of productions, or even workshops, I'd be happy to look at it." Musical theater writers interested in approaching Music Theater of Madison with their work should email Randolph a representative scene from the libretto, a short synopsis, sound files of several songs and, if possible, photos of any past performances.

Meghan Randolph, Executive Director, Music Theatre of Madison

mtmadisoninfo@yahoo.com MTMadison

"I try to stay up to date," Randolph insists. But, sometimes that's easier said than done. "I found Thrill Me on a message board," she recalls. "So, I sent an email to Stephen Dolginoff for a CD and paid for it through Pay Pal. I didn't realize that my old New York address was on the account. I got an email from Stephen saying he'd gotten the envelope he's sent me the CD in back with nothing in it. Apparently, some other musical theater geek was living at my old apartment and kept it!"


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Dramatists Sourcebook #26


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