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Musical Writerzine #17 - Fall 2011

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - intro

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere

In this issue, our Growing Stages column (below) breaks the latest news about the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's inaugural season, including details about a particularly exciting opportunity for musical theater writers: THE PITCH. Whether or not you are submitting a musical, you might enjoy spending time in lovely Upstate New York this summer. Note - the deadline for submissions is Sunday, January 8, 2012.

Please also see our announcements below. And if you happen to need any autographed copies of my book, Defying Gravity, for holiday gifts, let me know. They are signed by me as author and Stephen Schwartz as the subject. (Contact me at carol@musicalschwartz.com)

[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

Broadway aspirations?

Playbill Broadway Yearbook 2010- 2011 with stories on Broadway showsFew shows make it (or are even suitable for) Broadway's 40+ houses. If you aspire for your musical to be staged on Broadway, you might enjoy the photos and backstage stories in the Broadway Yearbook from Playbill. Here's the latest, and it includes chapters on nearly 80 Broadway shows (new and long-running). The Playbill Broadway Yearbook: June 2010 to May 2011, Seventh Annual Edition (opens in new Browser window).

Getting Noticed

One of the many ways to get your musical noticed is to set up a concert-version performance. In this interview with Ted Shen about his new musical ‘A Second Chance’ (opens in new browser window), Shen speaks about how Signature Theatre's artistic director Eric Schaeffer became interested in his musical when it was performed in concert at Joe's Pub in NYC.


In 2012, Stephen Schwartz is again directing the ASCAP Foundation workshops for new musicals. See www.musicalschwartz.com/ascap.htm for details.

Are you writing musicals? Wonder what's next in terms of productions? Ken Davenport's "Get Your Show Off the Ground" seminars have been scheduled for 2012: February 18th, May 19th, August 18th, and November 17th. All are on Saturdays from 2 pm to 5 pm in NYC. See Davenport's tips seminar - Get Your Show Off the Ground (opens in new browser window)

Musical Writers website

Don't forget to visit other pages of Musicalwriters.com, including back issues of the newsletter, Books - for writers of new musicals and musicals fans, tips on how to write a musical, and more. See menus at the side and on top of each page.

GROWING STAGES by William Squier

The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival Introduces THE PITCH

Finger Lakes Musicals Festival site imageFor the past three years MusicalWriters.com has been charting the exciting development of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival (see "The Auburn Musical Theatre Festival in Writerzine #5) in Auburn, NY. So, we're particularly pleased to announce that the Festival's inaugural season will begin in May of 2012.

But, the big news for writers of musical theater is the simultaneous launch of THE PITCH, an innovative program that will give as many as 20 creative teams the opportunity to test their ideas for new shows on the Festival's audiences. (See especially "THE PITCH" section below).

About The Fingers Lakes Musical Theatre Festival

The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival is actually an expansion of the professional summer stock season that Auburn's venerable Merry-Go-Round Playhouse has been presenting since the mid-seventies. The current producing director, Ed Sayles, took charge of the theater thirty years ago and, slowly but surely, built it into the busy producing organization that it is today. His efforts reached a culmination when, in 2004, the Playhouse, which is in a former park carousel building, underwent a $2.5 million that added 136 seats, an orchestra pit, a fly gallery, more wing space and all new heating, cooling, lighting and sound systems. Then, Sayles started to think about expanding beyond the walls of the Merry-Go-Round to create a multi-venue musical theater festival similar to Shaw Festival, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Sayles' dream was to present musicals with overlapping schedules in a number of locations so that "cultural tourists" could attend several shows during a single visit to Auburn. To get the ball rolling, he approached another local arts center, the Auburn Public Theater, about mounting Off-Broadway-sized musicals on their stage while the more familiar Broadway-sized shows were being featured at the Merry-Go-Round.

To test the concept out, Sayles imported Cooking with the Calamari Sisters from nearby Rochester for a summertime run this past July [For background info, see CATCHING UP WITH THE AUBURN MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL at the end of Musical Writerzine 14]. "It's a wacky little show that worked extremely well," Sayles reports. "We drew about 8,700 people in six weeks. It's the first time that many people have been in downtown Auburn in a long time."

Heartened by the success of The Calamari Sisters, Sayles moved forward with plans to launch the full festival with a line-up of nine musicals to be presented at the two theaters (www.fingerlakesmtf.com). Onstage at the Merry-Go-Round audiences will be treated to bonafide blockbusters like Kiss Me, Kate, My Fair Lady, Cabaret and Nunsense. Meanwhile, at the Auburn Public Theater, the festival will stage a three-show season of lesser known titles that includes Alter Boys and two that Sayles discovered on his annual trip to the New York Musical Theatre Festival: My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding (www.mmljww.com, by David Hein & Irene Carl Sankoff) and Fingers and Toes (www.fingersandtoesthemusical.com, by Logan Medland).

Finger Lakes Musicals Festival Playhouse"We like to give our audiences the experience of seeing everything that Manhattan has to offer," Sayles explains of the concept behind the Festival. "The Playhouse does large productions of Broadway shows with 25 to 30 people in the cast. (PHOTO: The Playhouse: one of four theatres used for the festival.)

We're calling the 199-seat space [at the Auburn Public Theater] our Off-Off-Broadway — despite the restrooms being as clean as they are! In 2013, we're opening a 384-seat theater which will be our Off-Broadway." Dubbed the Schwartz Family Performing Arts Center, the theater will be located in downtown Auburn and used as a teaching facility by Cayuga Community College during the off-season.


Finger Lakes Musicals Festival Carriage HouseThe boon for writers of new musicals, however, is that Sayles has set aside a location that will be devoted to the development of new works: The Theater Mack. The theater is in a former carriage house behind the Cayuga Museum that was recently renovated for use as a third Festival performance space. (PHOTO: The carriage house). The Theater Mack will be able to seat a little over 100 people cabaret-style for a very informal series of presentations that Sayles is calling THE PITCH.

"I came up with this crazy idea about three months ago at midnight," Sayles recalls. "My guess is that there are a lot of guys and gals out there with great ideas for musicals that are almost ready to be hatched. But, because of the money involved, even a little reading isn't going to happen. Plus, the stakes on readings have gotten to be so high. So, we wanted to provide them with some encouragement and feedback. They can come up to Auburn and, very informally, in an almost living room setting, the playwright, composer and director can say to the audience, 'This is what we've got."

THE PITCH is scheduled to run from June 14 to August 18. Every week two brand new musical theater projects will be showcased, totaling 20 over the course of the summer. Each of the invited creative teams will perform a 30 to 45 minute "pitch" of songs and scenes from a project that is in the works, during which they'll describe the musical's story and characters and then entertain comments from the audience.

"The teams will arrive on Monday and have rehearsal time until Thursday night," Sayles continues. "On Thursday night, one group will do Act One; there will be a break where we can talk about things; then, the other group will do Act Two. They'll do it again on Friday night, and an early and late show on Saturday."

"We're going to encourage the writers to change things for each audience," he insists. "I can imagine someone starting a song and then going, 'Oh, wait a minute. I can tell from looking at you people that you think it sucks! Let's try it in another key and at a different tempo!"

In addition to rehearsal space and a performance schedule, the Festival will provide the creative teams with travel expenses and accommodations during their stay. Full details about submitting a project for consideration can be found at www.fingerlakesmtf.com/submissions/the-pitch-musicals-in-development. The theater would like to receive the following materials:

  1. A 100-word summary of the show.
  2. A working draft of the script and score.
  3. A rough draft of the 30 to 45 minutes of material to be presented, including song placement.
  4. A demo recording, at least 50% of songs in the show.
  5. A video of the creative team giving 15 minutes of the proposed presentation with parts of at least two songs.
  6. Biographies of the creative team members (Note: A "Creative team" might be just one person who does book, music, and lyrics, or two, or a maximum of three people).
  7. Proof of rights if the material is an adaptation.
  8. A $25 non-refundable processing fee.
  9. A submission cover sheet (see the sample below).

The materials can be submitted by mail at:

Att. THE PITCH Submissions
AUBURN NY 13021–3707

Or by email at pitchsubmissions@FingerLakesMTF.com

NEW DEADLINE - February 8, 2012. Finalists will be notified by Wednesday, March 8, 2012. VIDEO: View a video about the submissions process: You Tube - The Pitch

Below: Example Submission Cover Sheet for THE PITCH (Link to version in Microsoft Word .doc format)

Contact Person_____________________________

Title _________________________________

Phone Number_________________________________

Email Address _________________________________

Street Address _________________________________

Title of Show _________________________________

Author(s) _________________________________

Composer(s) _________________________________

Lyricist(s) _________________________________

Creative Team Members (3) for THE PITCH: (These may change with advance notification)

Member One

Name _________________________________

Title _________________________________

Phone _________________________________

Email Address _________________________________

Street Address _________________________________

Member Two

Name _________________________________

Title _________________________________

Phone _________________________________

Email Address _________________________________

Street Address _________________________________

Member Three

Name _________________________________

Title _________________________________

Phone _________________________________

Email Address _________________________________

Street Address _________________________________


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


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