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Musical Writerzine #16

Summer 2011 Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere

In this issue, read about the upcoming Manhattan Theatre Mission festival in William Squier's GROWING STAGES column. You'll also find a full report on the Rhinebeck Writer's Retreat. Be sure to check out the submission opportunities for new musicals, news, and products for writing 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 and News

Pace New Musicals

Once you have a new script and score in hand, here's a FREE way to test your work, if your show is selected: Submit your materials for a reading at Pace University. They have many talented students who could be part of the two-week reading process and a space to do it. See the PACE section of our Academic programs page at Getting produced - academic about submitting a new musical for the January 2012 reading. The deadline is October 7th for this year.

Nymf - Shows and Special Events

The New York Musical Theatre Festival is happening, and Broadway wizard Stephen Schwartz is leading a panel discussion with new musical writing teams. It also includes a "special concert showcasing songs by a trio of the industry’s brightest emerging songwriters!"

MICHAEL KOOMAN & CHRISTOPHER DIMOND
BRENDAN MILBURN & VALERIE VIGODA
BENJ PASEK & JUSTIN PAUL

www.nymf.org/Show-1796.html- Note for people trying to buy tickets - the site is a little hard to use and once you click on BUY, on the next page you have to click on the 7:00 to get to the right place.

Get Your Show Off the Ground Seminar

Coming up: one of Ken Davenport's regular seminars on how to move a show out of ideas and script form onto stage. Check his schedule at www.davenporttheatrical.com/get-your-show-off-the-ground.html

He helps with ideas on funding, marketing, finding a performance space, chosing a director, making up a budget, and more.

Books

Have you been to the "Books" section of this website lately? See especially "THE MAKING OF" BOOKS. We've listed a relatively new book on Bock and Harnick's collaboration for Fiddler on the Roof and other shows.

Visit all of the pages in our book section for reading material that may enhance your own work. Books - for writers of new musicals and musicals fans

GROWING STAGES by William Squier

ONE TO WATCH: MANHATTAN THEATRE MISSION

Jeff Crosley of Manhattan Theatre MissionThe creative artists who are members of the Manhattan Theatre Mission had something more in mind than a catchy sounding name when they added the word "mission" in the organization's title.

"We didn't want to be just another group of twenty-somethings who got out of college and put together a theater company because it would be fun," explains Jeff Crosley, MTM's Director of Business Development. "So, we have a strong focus on contemporary social issues and plays that raise awareness."

The organization, which is about a year old, grew out of a similar company that was begun by Producing Artistic Director, Katy Baker, while she was living and studying in Texas. "It's based around getting new work produced with younger actors," says Crosley. "Especially ones that are under-tapped." But, while they were creating opportunities for them to perform, they also wanted to use the projects to try and make a difference.

Manhattan Theatre Mission showA project that MTM has in the works for this coming winter is one of particular interest to musical theater writers: their inaugural Festival of New Musicals, scheduled for Saturday, January 28th. It's a festival with a twist ending. "We wanted the goal to be a commitment to an actual production of a new work," Crosley reveals. To that end, excerpts from five shows that were chosen from submissions will be performed for a panel of judges who will award the winning musical a New York run.

We'll have more specifics about the pieces involved in the Festival of New Musicals and how the event comes together in the next Growing Stage column. In the meantime, writers that would like to get a better sense of what MTM is all about might consider attending one of their upcoming performances: How To Fight Like a Girl (September 12), a cabaret evening being held to raise money for the surgery and recovery of one of the group's playwrights who was the victim of an assault; and keepingabreast (October 17 – 29), the premiere of a play that focuses on what the diagnosis of breast cancer is like for younger women.

For more details about MTM, their schedule performance or tickets, visit their website: www.manhattantheatremission.com.

THE RHINEBECK WRITER'S RETREAT

A Place For Doing What You "Really, Really Love"

Rhinebeck WritersMidway through the Rhinebeck Writer's Retreat's first summer of offering week-long residencies to musical theater writers the program's Executive Director, Kathy Evans, reports that one of the artists turned to her and said happily, "I get to live with my characters all day long."

For Evans that simple statement was confirmation that her decision to found the retreat just a few months earlier had been a sound one. "That's what they need to do!" she insists. "And my philosophy is to give them what they need. Then, we step back and let them write."

Up until last spring Kathy Evans was the Executive Director of the National Alliance of Musical Theatre, the development organization partially responsible for shepherding such hits as The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Thoroughly Modern Mille and The Drowsy Chaperone to Broadway. "I've always loved musicals my whole life," Evans explains. "My parents took us to everything that came through Indianapolis when I was growing up. I memorized all the cast albums in high school. And performed and produced in college."

But, Evans had to earn a B.A. from Harvard, an M.B.A. at Columbia and work at General Foods, Sony Pictures and as the head of Scholastic Entertainment before she realized that she wanted to spend her life doing what she "really, really loved." That prompted her to answer an ad in 2002 for an opening as NAMT's Executive Director, where she served for the next nine years.

Then, earlier this year, Evans decided to take her passion for new works of musical theater to the next level. NAMT had just completed its strategic planning for the next five years and she felt that the timing was right for new leadership. So, Evans stepped down as Executive Director, freeing herself to address what she sees as a major challenge for musical theater writers.

"I was inspired by Outrageous Fortune," Evans says. "It's a survey that was done by the Theater Development Fund that provides a rather sobering look at how hard it is to get plays produced. I'd seen a lot of that at NAMT. There are so many talented writers. It's very hard to get their shows developed and produced. I wanted to find a way to help them."

So, Evans decided to establish a writer's retreat designed assist creative teams at all stages of their projects development. Writers would be provided with a week-long stay in the country that included housing, transportation, a fully stocked kitchen and a $300 stipend per person. "It's very important for me not to ask the writers to make any financial contribution at all," she emphasizes. "If their show isn't commissioned, they're not making any money until is goes into production. So, we try to minimize their financial burden."

It was also important to Evans that the location of the retreat be close enough to New York City to make it easily accessible, but far enough away from daily distractions. So, she chose Rhinebeck, where Evans and her husband have had a weekend home for the past twenty years. Then, rather than wait until next summer to put her plan into effect, she rented a house and set up shop.

Due to the short lead-time, Evans selected the first year's participants with the help of a group of trusted advisors. The writers in residence included such notables as Andrew Gerle (Meet John Doe), Itamar Moses (Completeness) and Alex Timbers (Tony-nominated writer/director Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson). Beginning next summer, however, Evans emphasizes that the residents will be chosen using an open submission process.

The submission details are still be worked out, but Evans predicts that they will be made public by December (so watch MusicalWriters.com for updates). What she can say definitively about the process is that she will continue to be assisted in selecting the residencies by an artistic advisory board. There will be very few restrictions on the kinds of musical theater material that will be considered.

"It's important to be flexible," Evans explains. "Pieces need help at every stage – even after a show has had a production. My gut feeling is that is makes sense to have a piece that has already been developed a little bit, so that the writers come here with goals in mind. But, that's still pretty wide open."

Evan's personal goal is to eventually find a permanent home in Rhinebeck for the retreat – one that will allow for multiple writing teams to stay for longer periods of time. She doesn't, however, anticipate making public performances a part of the organization's mission. "This is a chance for the writers to just get away and not worry about sets, costumes and actors," she says.

"This year we worked with seven different teams," Evans notes. "It's fun to talk to these fascinating, smart people -- to be able to see their musicals in all different stages and, perhaps, make suggestions. I love writers!"

Visit the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat's website  www.rhinebeckwriters.org. You can contact the organization at rhinebeckwriters@gmail.com.

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To send suggestions, comments, or questions write to carol@musicalschwartz.com

 

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