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Musical Writerzine #27 - Fall 2014

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - Intro

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere

For our Growing Stages column in this issue, William Squier looks into regional theatres developing new musicals or musicals festivals. He interviewed Steve Cuden about Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh. In this issue you'll also find submissions and networking notices.

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. Her latest book covers all things Godspell: The Godspell Experience. Carol is also editor of The Schwartz Scene newsletter with updates by Stephen Schwartz.

New Musicals Notes

Nashville New Musicals

Some of the new plays read in the "Centennial Black Box New Play Reading Series" have been musicals. If you are in Nashville or can stay there for a while, see "Nashville Parks & Rec - Theatre reading series listing at the bottom of the page.

Show Off Your Musical - A Facebook Group

The group on Facebook now has over 100 members, including some of our subscribers. ShowOffYourNewMusical/

Nov 3rd - NYMF Next Link Deadline

The New York Musical Theatre Festival has opened submissions for their Next Link program, the top level of shows at the annual summer festival in NYC. This is for writers whose new musicals are pretty well ready to show off but who could use a staged production in front of an audience and dramaturgical advise. From their website: "Next Link shows receive entrepreneurial training, networking opportunities, dramaturgical support, and a $5,000 subsidy towards their participation fee." That doesn't mean a free production, because they often cost more than that with casting, etc. but it's a big help. See NYMF.org - Next Link

DEVELOPMENTAL READING AT NYMF. If your musical is more of a work in progress, you may submit to the developmental reading series at this time (see the Developmental Reading section on their website page listed above). This is a cheaper option.

TRU events in NYC

Keep up with Theatre Resources Unlimited in NYC for their writer-producer speed dates, monthly panels, and more. Truonline

And More

If you are new to the Musical Writers site, be sure to click around for more ideas on what to do with your musical: MusicalWriters.com - including newsletter back issues with submissions ideas, essential books, critique sources, and getting produced.

"Growing Stages" by William Squier

Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh

Over the past few years, as I've researched organizations to profile in this column, I've become aware of a trend. There are more and more groups around the country that are developing what one of them describes as "locally sourced" new musicals – shows that are, in something of an imitation of the farm-to-table movement, written and performed by local artists for an audience that is interested in and eager to support homegrown art.

MTAP websiteA prime example of this trend is the group Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh. Its' stated mission is "to foster collaboration between musical theatre artists in the Pittsburgh region, and to create opportunities for the development, presentation and production of new musical theatre." After several years of development, MTAP is now ready to move on to step number two with the presentation of Hot Metal Musicals, a showcase concert of new musical theater songs written by their members. The event will take place on Monday, March 2nd, 2015 at the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret, 655 Penn Avenue, at 7:15 pm.

Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh was begun in 2011 by actor Erik Schark with an assist from Stephanie Riso, who is perhaps best known in the city for co-founding the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre. Riso eventually became MTAP's Executive Director and was joined in leadership of the group by writers Jeanne Drennan (Dear Boy), who serves as Managing Director, and Steve Cuden.

Cuden stepped into his advisory role at MTAP with a wealth of musical theater experience, having not only co-created and co-written the lyrics for Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical, but also recently penned the book Beating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations

Steve CudenAs a veteran of Broadway, Cuden has formed strong opinions about the importance of providing an outlet for musicals to be locally sourced. "New York is still the heart of the theatrical world," he concedes. "That said, it has become the heart of the commercial theatrical world. Because of that, it's fairly exclusive to certain kinds of material and shows. As a result, I think there's a hunger that's been growing in the musical theater community for a very long time to produce works that would never play on a Broadway stage. Material that's just not appealing to a big enough audience." (Photo: Steve Cuden)

"Regional theaters have become a tremendous fostering ground for all sorts of theatrical works, including musicals," Cuden continues. "I've been quite surprised and pleased by how much activity goes on in Pittsburgh. It's a small, but very vibrant community with a lot of really great theater and fantastic cultural events, including music of all kinds. We've got the Civic Light Opera, Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Carnegie Mellon and Point Park Universities have incredible drama departments that put on musicals every year. So, there are a lot of people in the city of Pittsburgh interested in writing and performing musicals."

I asked Steve Cuden to walk me through the kinds of development opportunities that MTAP offers:

MW: Tell me about MTAP's monthly meetings?

CUDEN: "We currently meet nine months out of the year -- usually September through May -- on one Sunday a month at a former elementary school called the Wightman School Community Building (carriagehouse.org). It's a catch-as-catch-can group. Anyone who wants to show up can. So, the meetings vary anywhere from ten to fifteen people. Some of them bring a song that they want to play. They may bring in singers or sing it themselves. Or sometimes they bring recordings of work they've done. Then, we chat about their work – our emotional connection to it. It's a marvelous, loose opportunity for people to play out what they're trying to do in the world of musicals. We each support one another with our feedback, laughter and applause."

MW: Is everyone involved from Pittsburgh?

CUDEN: "The majority of our members are from the local area. Some of them come from as far away as Ohio and West Virginia."

MW: Are all of the members musical theater writers?

CUDEN: "We have mainly writers, but also producers, directors and a number of performers. There's a good core group of writers who show up almost every time and others who come and go as they need to. The directors and producers show up sporadically. Stephanie Riso's (MTAP's Executive Director) has been a very big force around Pittsburgh in terms of producing shows. She's also a writer and she sings. She's had the musical theater bug for a long time."

MW: What inspired the Hot Metal Musicals showcase? Was it simply time to expose some of the work that had been developed to the public?

CUDEN: "That is absolutely correct. It's the first time we're going public, in one of Pittsburgh's premiere theaters the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret. We're looking forward to a great night of mostly song, to give people a chance to have their music aired and get a little exposure. There's nothing more valuable than the instant feedback that an audience gives you – nothing more powerful. It can be both terrifying and incredible!"

MW: It took a couple of years for MTAP to mount a public performance. Was the idea not to force the performance aspect too soon?

CUDEN: "I don't think there was any deliberate plan to get us to where we are today. It was one of those synchronous, fortuitous, kinds of things. It was just, for a very long time, 'Hey, we like to work on musicals. Let's all get together on a Sunday with no other agenda. Then, all of a sudden, there was a little bit of growth to the group and we realized that we have a bit of a mass here. Why not put together something where people could actually play their work in front of a live audience and get feedback."

MW: How do artists from Pittsburgh and the surrounding area get involved in MTAP?

CUDEN: "The doors are open to anyone to come at any time. The formality of the group is really just beginning. We've only recently begun to take a very tiny donation to become a core member of the group: $25 a year (student memberships are free). Our ultimate goal is to become a non-profit that has outside funding in place. We're also starting to see people who are Pittsburgh related, but not living here, doing quite well in musicals showing interest in what we're doing and participating in our showcase."

MW: Do you feel confident that there will be an audience for the new works developed by MTAP?

CUDEN: "We have a community that's willing to support new art, modern art and take a chance on all sorts of things. Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre is a good example. For a very long time they've performed challenging works. And audiences come out in droves. So, when someone says, 'Hey, we're going to put on a new musical,' you stand a chance of having, at least, somebody show up!"

You can learn more about Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh at their website: mtap.weebly.com


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Above: Beating Broadway by Steve Cuden


Above: The Musical Theatre Writers Survival Guide by David Spencer


Above: How Musicals Work: And How to Write Your Own




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