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Musical Writerzine #22 - Spring 2013

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - intro

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere

If you want to plan your summer around new musicals, you can. This issue lists summer events in New York City, Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, including our own First Act Feedback Fest!

You'll also find news links to articles and videos that will further your craft. For the Growing Stages column in this issue, William Squier has profiled iStar Theatre Lab. This organization helps incubate new musicals in a "think tank" setting.

For future issues of our Musical Writerzine newsletter, if you are not already subscribed, please fill out the form on Musical Writerzine. To view back issues, see the links to the left.

[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.]

A Summer of New Musicals

New York City: Musical Writers First Act Feedback Fest - July 20

You're invited to a daylong feedback festival featuring 12 writing teams sharing works in progress and getting feedback from a panel of expert evaluators. One of those musicals could be yours! Find out how to submit your show or work-in-progress, or come as an audience member on Saturday, July 20th. Details are at Musical Writers First Act Feedback Fest

Feedback Fest 1On March 30th of this year we did a trial version of this in the form of a Feedback Swap Fest at the Ripley-Grier Studios. Read about it it at Musical Musings blog - Feedback Fests [The photo is from that event.]

Noel Katz and Paul Cozby, our panelists at the March event, will also be on hand in July to add their sage advice.

New York City: Writer-Producer Speed Date - July 21, 2013

On the evening following our First Act Feedback Fest, Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) is offering a Writer-Producer Speed Date. So it's a good weekend to be in NYC. They have lined up eleven producers, all with an interest in new projects. This is not about finalizing deals, but practicing the art of pitching a musical, and getting quick feedback on producability. Deadline to apply is July 13 for this event to be held on Sunday night, July 21. True - Writer-Producer Speed Date

New York City NYMF July 8 - 28, 2013

One reason we are holding the Feedback Fest on July 20th is so that people from out of town can come to NYMF around the same time. The New York Musical Theatre Festival will again be chock full of new musicals this year. This festival includes full productions, developmental readings, concerts, and special events. If you're writing a new musical yourself, NYMF is a good place to find out who else is working on shows. Prices are reasonable, quality is variable.

New York City: Planet Connections

Walden musical logoMy friend and Musical Writerzine subscriber Katherine Fredricks is holding a reading of her new musical Walden, presented 5/29/13 through 6/15/13 as part of The Planet Connections Festivity, an eco-friendly/socially-conscious arts festival. I list is here in part so you can learn about Planet Connections. A reading of Walden the musical (I saw an earlier reading of this show and found it quite poignant.)

Planet Connections has a program of about 15 staged readings per season curated by their Literary Manager Jenna Doolittle. Applications for the 2014 season will become available on our website on August 1st. Check back in August on Planetconnections.org/

These readings are self-produced but they do help. In an email I was told "It's $150 for a staged reading and that includes the space, front of house staff, marketing/PR and tech staff. The reading must provide a director and actors themselves - but we do have a list of directors and actors to reccommend if needed."

New York City: Cutting Edge Composers

Cutting Edge Composers is taking submissions for their next concert of songs by writers of new musicals, date to be announced but probably this summer. This concert series "strives to create greater exposure for up-and-coming songwriters by providing them with venues, publicity, Broadway performers and musicians to best showcase their material." Cuttingedgecomposers.com/apply/. They are also interested in doing readings of new work. See the second section on this page: Cuttingedgecomposers.com/

Upstate New York: Finger Lakes Festival

June 13 - August 17
Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum

Come see the next generation of playwrights and composers show off their work in Auburn, NY! It's a chance to be behind the scenes and a part of the creative process. As part of the theatrical options at Finger Lakes, you can see short pitches of new musical works. Fingerlakes the Pitch

...Week 10: Love on Ice - William Squier*

*Growing Stages columnist, William Squier, will take his own advice this August by bringing a brand new project to The PiTCH at the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. "Jeffrey Lodin and I had such a wonderful time working on our show Blindsided by a Diaper at last summer's PiTCH that we were eager to return," Squier explains. This time the team will present scenes and songs from Love on Ice, a musical comedy described a cryogenic love story, which they are collaborating on with book writer / lyricist Bill Nabel. "It's an original piece that Bill has been developing for awhile," says Squier. "Jeff and I are pretty new to it. So, it's the perfect musical to take advantage of The PiTCH as an incubator for shows that are at a very early stage in their development."

California, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and other locations

Have you visited our Festivals page at Musicalwriters.com Festivals? Many festivals or new musicals are held over the summer. Before making your summer plans, check out these possibities for submitting new works or just enjoying them.

Los Angeles or Online - Class at ANMT

OUTLINING ANYWHERE! is part of the boot camp at the Academy for New Musical Theatre www.anmt.org/bootcamp.asp

Instructor: Elise Dewsberry
The Outlining Lab is available in-person OR online (or a combination of the two!) Students will work through the process of developing a musical idea from concept through to a working outline, with detailed constructive feedback along the way.


Yes, there's more to read below - like a whole Growing Stages article about iStar Theatre Lab - but also.... Please see the June update for workshops at our blog: musicalwriters.com/musings-blog/workshops-update-for-musical-writers/

Musical Writing Tips and Publications

Musical Collaboration

If you're looking for a collaborator for book, music, or lyrics, you might want to check on www.stageplays-forum.com/. This online forum includes a section on "Collaborators" where people can post notes about what they need.

Musical Musings Blog -- I Want Songs, and more

I've started a blog for exploring the art and craft of writing musicals. If you are planning on submitting a musical to the Feedback Festival, I suggest you read this post first, as it includes not only ideas I've collected but links to similar posts by my writer friends Paul Cozby and Noel Katz. Musical Musings blog - I Want Songs in Context

The Anatomy of A Song

Enjoy an hour-long video interview of composer Alan Menken, producer Thomas Schumacher, Newsies lyricist Jack Feldman, and Newsies star, actress Kara Lindsay. Menken sits at the piano and plays pieces of his work as he is interviewed. Note that Menken's intro riffs take about 12 minutes, and then he gets into more details about how he works. Americantheatrewing.com - Anatomy of a Song

Among other topics, he talks about how much his work is style-driven. He comments, "I always believe that when people can hear a song and early on go, 'Oh, I get what you're doing--you're not just playing a pretty tune, you're not just playing a pop-y tune, but it actually has roots that go into our culture,' it just makes it more fun for people to absorb the song."

"Growing Stages" by William Squier

So Many Voices: The iStar Theatre Lab

Tony SpinozaIn his freshman year Tony Spinoza decided to drop out of college. Spinoza had grown up on Long Island and, from a very early age, had traveled into New York City to see Broadway shows, beginning with the Danny Kaye musical Two by Two. "It was a magical experience and I was hooked," he recalls. So, he had his heart set on a career in the theater. But, Spinoza didn't think a conventional education was going to get him to where he needed to be so he left school, without a clear idea of what to do next. [PHOTO: Tony Spinoza, Producing Artistic Director]

Then, a family friend arranged for Spinoza to meet with a professional director to ask for advice. It turned out to be the legendary Michael Bennett, fresh off of creating A Chorus Line. Bennett took Spinoza under his wing, helping him to find the training that he needed and introducing him to the New York theater community. That launched a career as an actor, director and choreographer that has spanned better than three decades and taken Spinoza everywhere from Hollywood to Broadway, most recently as the Resident Director of the revival of La Cage aux Folles.

Spinoza's early brush with Bennett also planted an idea that only took root this past year. "I wanted to start creating original musicals again," Spinoza explains. "We went through a stage in commercial theater of the British musical. Then, for the last twenty years, we've been turning movies and into musicals. My goal is to create original stories, like Michael Bennett did in A Chorus Line." And, once again, he's chosen an unconventional route to get there.

To realize his dream, Spinoza founded the iStar Theatre Lab (istartheatrelab.org) in 2012 and serves as its Producing Artistic Director. The stated mission of his organization is to "provide a safe environment for the development of contemporary plays and musicals by engaging writers to incubate new works and ideas that engage and challenge diverse audiences." And, to do so, Spinoza has devised a process that that provides writers with first steps that are very different from those that are commonly used elsewhere. We caught up with him find out what makes the iStar Theatre Lab so special.

MusicalWriters.com: The iStar Theatre Lab offers something that seems pretty innovative, particularly when you're talking about the development of a musical. Where the industry standard is to use a 20 to 29-hour reading to try out a brand new show, you provide the writers with actors, a director and a space to work on their piece for three weeks! What inspired you to come up with such a unique program?

Tony Spinoza: "I go to a lot of international theater conferences. And I was at one in Glasgow where they said to a composer and a book writer, "Two people meet at bar; here are two actors; go and create a musical." The writers created a gorgeous, ninety-minute musical about how their relationship came together and fell apart. And I said, "This is what I want to do in a lab." But, it's impossible to develop a new musical in a 29-hour reading. The time needs to be given to the actors just to learn the material. I thought that the Sundance Theater Lab, started by Robert Redford, would be a very effective model. We could put people into a "think tank" for three weeks on a day-on/day-off schedule to cultivate musicals. And we have all this talent in New York City. We have access to Broadway performers and directors. So, instead of bringing everybody to a retreat like Sundance, we'd do it in Manhattan."

MW: Can you expand on the "think tank" concept as it applies to the Theatre Lab?

Spinoza: "There are so many voices involved with a musical. You've got a book writer, a composer and a lyricist. Getting all of them in a room together to collaborate is magical. And once you attach actors, a directors and a choreographer, the energy in that room is electric. The writers of last year's lab were so grateful for that experience."

MW: Can you walk me through what a three-week workshop is like?

iStar Theatre Lab workshopSpinoza: "They meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for three weeks and there's a final presentation on the last Saturday. It starts with a table reading on the first day where we invite writers, directors, actors and other creators to give feedback. They say, "This is where we feel it's weak; this is where the strengths are." Then, they go away and the writers dig in. They rewrite and rewrite and rewrite ferociously. There are new pages every day to try with the actors. The day-on/day-off schedule allows the writers time to think and write. It lets the ideas come, instead of forcing them out. For the final presentation we bring people back into the room to critique the piece. It's a closed environment – no investors or producers are invited in. The pressure is off and the authors can really explore the piece. Last year, new pages came in the morning of the final presentation, so the second act was brand new."

[PHOTO: iStar Theatre Lab workshop session with Director Camille Saviola, actress Shyko Amos and playwrite Tom Coash]

MW: Where do you hold the Labs?

Spinoza: We rent a rehearsal space. I've been using Pearl Studios in Manhattan. It's a very popular space – lots of Broadway shows rehearse there.

MW: The only thing that you ask, in exchange for participating in the Lab, is that the writers include your organization's logo, bio and staff listing in future materials – like programs – that are printed for any productions?

Spinoza: A lot of the festivals take a little piece of the pie when a musical goes through a development workshop. That's not what we're about. We're about sustaining and creating original musical.

MW: Let's talk about the submission process. You take both electronic and mail submissions. Do you prefer one to the other?

Spinoza: We prefer electronic submissions, to stay green. 99% of last year's submissions where electronic.

MW: Along with the usual materials, like a script, recorded demos of the music and bios of the writers, you ask for an Artistic Statement. Are there specific things that like to see the writer's address?

Spinoza: We hope that they'll write about how they believe the Lab will be beneficial. They don't even have to have a full script. It can literally be an idea with writers attached.

MW: How are the submissions evaluated?

Spinoza: Readers on our Advisory Committee read and evaluate every script that comes in. Then, the ten finalists are read by the entire Board of Directors and Advisory Committee and the pieces for that season's Lab are chosen. [They workshop one at a time.]

MW: Are there any restrictions on subject matter?

Spinoza: It's pretty wide open. We're looking for original ideas and not adaptations.

The iStar Theatre Lab is currently accepting submissions from now until August 7 for a Lab that will happen from October 7 to the 27th. Musical theater writers interested in submitting a musical for consideration should observe the following guidelines:

You may apply for the project:

(1.) If you have a director attached. The iStar Theatre Lab encourages these teams to apply.

(2.) If you don't have a director attached. The iStar Theatre Lab is equipped to match your project with an experienced director.

(3.) If you are an emerging artist. The iStar Theatre Lab is interested in artists from all facets of the theatre world. Solo performers, performers for young audiences, and performance artists are welcome to apply.

(4.) You previously applied for the iStar Theatre Lab. While you are welcome to apply again, please do not re-submit the same material.

Your project is not eligible if:

(1.) It has been previously produced (not counting workshops or readings)

(2.) It is scheduled to be produced before December 4, 2013.

(3.) You cannot commit to the entire length of the project.

Materials to include with your submission are

(1.) Script Draft of your play or musical (Word or PDF);

(2.) Mp3 audio files (music, etc.) or Mp4 video files (projections or files crucial to the project, etc.) up to 2GB if applicable;

(3.) Artistic Statement (If applying as a playwright/director team, the iStar Theatre Lab requires a statement from both the playwright and director and all creative artists attached)

(4.) Resumes/Bios for each collaborator; Letter of acknowledgement from a commissioning organization (if applicable);

(5.) Confirmation of $25.00 non-refundable application processing fee payable by credit card or by check if you're applying by mail.

Electronic submissions can be completed by visiting iStar's online application form at:


If you don't have access to the Internet, you can contact iStar at 917-463-3367 and they'll work with you to find a way to do so using alternative methods.

Mail Submssions should be sent to:

iStar Theatre Lab Application
Re: Title of Your Project
560 West 43rd Street
Suite 12J
New York, NY 10036

And finally, On Sunday, May 19, 2013, actor George Hamilton (Chicago, La Cage aux Folles) will headline a benefit for the iStar Theatre Lab at the nightclub 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, NYC. The gala is set for 7:00 pm, with doors opening at 5:30 pm for dinner. Tickets range from a $25 general admission (plus a $25 food/drink minimum per person) to $500 "Gold Star" tickets that include a three-course pre-fix dinner, a private post-show meet-n-greet and photo with Mr. Hamilton.


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