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Musical Writerzine #24 - Fall 2013

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - Intro

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere

Greetings from Connecticut where my husband and I have a new home with space for developmental readings of new musicals. I hope to find some local actors and let some of you test your musical works-in-progress if you're willing to venture the 2-hour train ride from Manhattan.

For this issue we have a guest columnist, Steve Cuden, who wrote a valuable how-to article "Ways to Make Scenes and Moments Memorable." We also have our usual Growing Stages column, this time with an interview "Taking the Bite out of Development: Theatre Now New York and Sound Bites." Below you'll find timely submission deadlines for 2014 workshops and a blog post associated with this issue. So keep reading!

holidayDo you have any musical writers or musical fans on your holiday gift list? Consider our list of books on writing musicals and our suggestions for Musicals on DVD

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season to come.

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

Defying Gravity by Carol de GiereCarol de Giere is the website publisher for MusicalWriters.com and author of Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked, a career biography of Stephen Schwartz filled with musical development stories. Available in print and ebook formats.

Submission Opportunties for New Musicals

ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles - Deadline Nov 26, 2013

Composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz will again direct the ASCAP/Dreamworks Musical Theatre Workshop to be held in Los Angeles in February 2014. This is an opportunity to have your work seen and commented on by a panel of industry pros in a funded reading situation. For more details see Musicalschwartz.com/ascap.htm

Eugene O'Neill Theater Center - Deadline November 25, 2013

This center offers a two-week residency workshop program held in June or July in Waterford, Connecticut. As their website explains, "Several script-in-hand public readings of each work are presented between daily rehearsals and rewrites.  The Artistic Director and invited professionals guide the process by participating in private, informal dramaturgical discussions with the artists." theoneill.org/summer-conferences/nmtc/

Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival The PiTCH - Deadline December 1st

This festival offers a venue, piano, and audience for your new musical work-in-progress. It all takes place in the lovely "Finger Lakes" region of upstate New York. Three members of the creative team present a 60-70 minute summary version of their musical theatre piece. Our columnist William Squier had a show in the festival last summer, and his team was able to advance the piece in this setting. For submission details see their website at fingerlakesmtf.com/- the PiTCH and for Squier's lively report on his experience see his blog post at Musical Musings blog post on The PiTCH.

NYMF 2014: The New York Musical Theatre Festival

This past summer NYMF shows were all held in the wonderful Pershing Square Signature Center space on 42nd Street in Manhattan, and I expect they will rent the same space for 2014. More than 350 shows have premiered at the annual Festival, entertaining more than 300,000 audience members. 

The Next Link program has already closed their submission for 2014 but it's possible to submit a synopsis to be considered for an "Invited Show." As their website explains, you would send an inquiry email with show title, 2 page synopsis, production history and bios of participants to literary@nymf.org.  The programming department will review your materials and ask for a full script and music if appropriate. Another option is submitting for a Developmental Reading.  From their website: Writers may also submit directly to the Developmental Reading series by emailing literary@nymf.org with a brief synopsis of their show and a statement about what in their show needs further development.

Yale Institute for Music Theatre - Deadline Jan 7

Online applications are being accepted for the summer 2014 program at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. Two original musicals will be selected to be developed in an intensive lab setting June 2–15, 2014. Yale's summer program for new musicals

Musical Writing Tips and Articles

Musical Writer Lou Ann BehanA Report from the Page-to-Stage Festival of New Works

Musical Writerzine subscriber Lou Ann Behan reports on her experience of taking her musical One More Night to the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival last summer. Each year the Kennedy Center hosts more than 40 D.C.-area theater companies in a series of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals. At the end of the article you'll find information on a possible submissions opportunity suited to writers of small musicals who might like to be involved with Page-to-Stage Festival events. See our Musical Musings blog - Kennedy Center report

TIP from Ken Davenport - Buy Your Show's Domain Name

Producer and blogger Ken Davenport suggests that you buy a website domain name for your shows title as soon as you know it. You will need to have a website at some point, and could lose it to someone else if you don't buy it early on. Read more at Producer's Perspective blog post about titles

Special Guest Column by Steve Cuden

Steve Cuden, writerBeating BroadwayWe are pleased to present an article by Steve Cuden, written especially for Musical Writerzine. Cuden is the author of the book that many subscribers purchased when I mentioned it in the last newsletter: Beating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations (this link opens to Amazon.com)

Cuden is a screenwriter and was the co-creator and co-lyricist of Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical. In this article he offers tips on 6 structural elements of a show.

"Ways to Make Scenes and Moments Memorable" by Steve Cuden

Ever wonder why we mere mortals—those of us living without benefit of a photographic memory—upon seeing a musical only once, are usually unable to remember in any true detail more than a handful of scenes and production details?

The first time I see a show I'm usually able to recall the show's tone, the brilliance of one or more of the performers, maybe several of the tunes, and perhaps one or more well-done indelible moments. But a single viewing is more often than not insufficient for me to remember many of the specifics. It is the rare, gifted individual who can recall a show verbatim having sat through it a single time. Yet just about every popular show offers enough "special moments" that many patrons will walk away with the perception that the entire work was both magical and memorable. So, what is that magic, and how can a writer achieve it?

I think you'll agree that the songs are often the most memorable parts of the majority of musicals. Music and lyrics, and sometimes dance, can definitely stamp a moment in the minds of the audience. Unlike concerts, musicals display intriguing characters in compelling stories. It is most often the placement of a wonderful song in the context of a visceral story that creates a memorable moment. "Somewhere" from West Side Story is an especially beautiful song on its own, but it has a far deeper resonance when sung by the lovers, Tony and Maria. "Popular" from Wicked has become, forgive the pun, popular on its own, but when sung by Glinda to Elphaba it rises to an even higher meaning. "Everything's Coming Up Roses," is a truly great song that becomes ever more powerful when sung by Rose at Gypsy's unforgettable first act close.

No question that vast numbers of songs work wonderfully well on their own—otherwise there would be no such thing as radio—but when a show tune is sung by well-drawn characters set against an engaging, conflict-filled story, the emotional depth of the song can be elevated to great effect, and therefore become memorable.

That means a book writer would be well-advised to craft magically memorable moments around or within which songs can be placed. Are there elements that a writer may consider using when developing such golden story opportunities? Yes.

Various people in the know will tell you that if the authors of a musical can devise a minimum of three to five memorable scenes in a show, then it is possible for the whole shebang to become "memorable." Does this mean there is a recipe for creating memorable moments? No, of course not. If such were the case then there would be no failures on Broadway or anywhere else. You will always need ingredients such as: a fulfilling underlying story; the grace to know what to leave in and, just as importantly, what to leave out; fantastic dialogue; singable tunes, etc. But if you are diligent, have found yourself a grand idea and a moving way to tell it, then here are a few suggestions that may help to cement your show's legacy in the pantheon of musical theater history.

Key Structural Elements

Here are a few structural elements that can make a big difference. Some of the following may sound obvious and simplistic, yet it is notable how often creators neglect to employ these elements in their work and then wonder why their magnum opus has tanked. Find ways to insert one or more of the following in any number of scenes and watch how the work becomes elevated (NOTE: any combination of these can be employed at the same time):

The reason why the above elements work so well in a dramatic story is that they are powerfully relatable on the most primitive human levels. Each element above draws upon universal emotions. Who hasn't experienced surprise, deceit, being trapped, pursued, or the gain or loss of power? In short, because these emotions are so commonly experienced, most every audience member will relate to, and therefore empathize with, characters enduring such travails. When a viewer feels emotions down to the very core of his or her being, that feeling is likely to be remembered—and so will your show.

When you are working on scenes in your musical, ask yourself if adding one or more of the elements discussed above will make your whole show more memorable.

Best wishes in creating characters, scenes, and stories that come alive. I can't wait to see the results of your work!

"Growing Stages" by William Squier

William Squier at MusicalWriters.comTAKING A BITE OUT OF DEVELOPMENT
Theatre Now New York and Sound Bites

On Monday, December 9, Theatre Now New York (tnny.org) will present Sound Bites, an evening of new short works of musical theater, at The 47th Street Theater at 8:00 pm. The program will consist of ten-minute musicals and excerpts from longer works by ten creative teams, including such up-and-comers as Adam Gwon, Timothy Huang and Scott Murphy. We caught up with Theatre Now New York's Artistic Director, Thomas Morrissey, to find out a bit more about the one-night only event. [PHOTO: William Squier]

MusicalWriters.com: How long has Theatre Now New York been in existence?

Thomas MorrisseyThomas Morrissey: "We are relatively new. We formed about a year ago. We're an outgrowth of the Genesius Theatre Guild, which I founded in 1995 and then relocated to New Jersey as ReVision Theatre (revisiontheatre.org) in 2008. About two years ago I came back to the city. And a number of the people who were at Genesius and ReVision are involved with me now." [Photo: Thomas Morrissey]

MusicalWriters.com: What inspired its creation?

Morrissey: "I wanted to take my experience and background and put them into one idea. So, we're taking what Genesius did in developmental work and the productions that ReVision did and combing the two into one company. Our goal is to create programs that allow writers to be involved with us on a number of different development levels --readings, workshops, writers' groups – and to have programs at entry level, some at mid-development range that involve readings and consultation work and some barebones workshops. We're also looking for a place outside of the city where we can do productions during the summer months, so that the writers can get off of that 'hamster wheel' of readings.

When you get into trying to produce a new work, it's very expensive in the city. We could mount a full production outside of New York for what it costs to do a showcase. It's so much more valuable for writer. They need that level of production. And an audience response – that isn't an industry audience – is really vital."

MusicalWriters.com: You mentioned providing opportunities for mid-career and established theatre professionals, in addition to emerging writers. Is that as something that's lacking in New York theater?

Morrissey: "We have access to people at many points in their careers – writers that we met early on. For example, Andrew Lippa was one of the founding members of Genesius, Adam Gwon was in one of our early writer's groups and Joe Iconis was an intern. At ReVision there were pieces that we found through the NAMT Fall Festival and produced, and those were by mid-career writers. So, we want to involve writers at all different levels and hope to continue to provide them with a place work."

MusicalWriters.com: Is the super-objective of Sound Bites to establish those kinds of relationships with new authors?

Morrissey: "It's twofold. We receive so many scripts and find more material we like than we can work on. One of the purposes of the festival is to expose ten new writing teams. It's affordable for us, easy for the writers a short time commitment and great exposure. We also want to meet new writers and see if they are writers that we'd like to continue to work with. So, it's an introduction for us as well as introducing them to others in the industry. Music Theatre International (MTI) came on with us, recently, as a financial sponsor of Sound Bites. We're inviting a lot of people to the event that will be of that caliber."

MusicalWriters.com: What we can expect to see at the 47th Street Theater on Monday, December 9?

Morrissey: "We have ten great pieces that are all very different. They will be performed off-book. They'll all have piano accompaniment, and some are adding guitar, drums and other instrumentation. The production is bare bones, with minimal costuming, lighting with a few cues and a bare stage with chairs, tables and the ubiquitous black cubes. No flying chandeliers or helicopters!"

MusicalWriters.com: What's the next step for the writers who participate Sound Bites?

Morrissey: "We don't know! This is the festival's first year and we're not sure how it will evolve. We're hoping that it becomes an annual event and that it will expand. There may be two or three groups of writers that we like a lot, can bring together into a writer's group and explore working with them on a regular basis. Or there might be one team with a piece that we like enough to go right into a developmental workshop. Or there could something that we haven't thought of yet. All options are open."

MusicalWriters.com: Aside from 10-minute submissions for Sound Bites, you've got a process for considering unsolicited and agent submissions of longer works, detailed on the website. Can you add anything to that about the sorts of work you prefer to see?

Morrissey: "I'm always looking for the next thing that's going to be unique, outstanding, that looks at things a little differently or speaks to a particular audience. I've always looked up to Joe Papp because of the diverse work he brought to the Public Theater. So much of it, like Hair, A Chorus Line, or For Colored Girls, was groundbreaking."

Theatre Now New York is planning to begin accepting submissions for a second edition of Sound Bites shortly after the first of next year. Visit soundbites.tnny.org for details. And Morrissey said that Theatre Now New York will begin rolling out other programming throughout 2014. Their general submission guidelines are as follows:

We do not accept unsolicited submissions of full scripts (except as noted below) but we are happy to review a one page synopsis along with a character breakdown, set requirements and any development or production
history. Please also include your resume. If you submission is a musical you may also include up to three songs in MP3 format. If we are interested in seeing the full script we will contact you. Please be patient and understand that we may not be able to respond for some time. Full scripts are accepted from literary agencies, from entertainment attorneys and through qualified professional recommendations but please contact us first so that we are aware and can expect your submission. You may contact us by email (preferred) or by postal mail:

Literary@tnny.org

Literary Manager
Theatre Now New York
520 Eighth Avenue
#335
New York, NY 10018-6507

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

Above: Beating Broadway by Steve Cuden

 

Above: The Musical Theare Writers Survival Guide by David Spencer

 

 

Above: Defying Gravity.

Go behind the scenes with Stephen Schwartz

 

 


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