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Musical Writerzine #30 - Summer 2015

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - Intro

Carol de Giere, author and editor of the Musical Writerzine newsletterFrom Carol de Giere

This issue features some great articles for your summer reading, including William Squier’s Growing Stages column about a Southern California theatre that accepts new musical submissions. You’re invited to join me in NYC at a gathering of new musical writers for “Inside NYMF and other Festivals.” See details below. You’ll also find several submissions suggestions with deadline details, and other resources relevant to musical writers and producers.

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.

Carol de Giere is the website publisher for MusicalWriters.com and author of Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked, and The Godspell Experience.

MusicalWriters.com Summer Seminar & Meet-up

Please come to "Inside NYMF and Other Festivals"

Saturday, July 25th, you're invited to join me, Bill Squier, and our guest speakers at a special morning meeting in NYC, followed by a lunchtime networking session with other musical writers. You can fill your afternoon and evening with new musicals at the annual New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF).

There are pluses and minuses to having your show in a festival. Will it get lost in the suffle or found by the crowds? What are the costs? Will the prestige of being chosen help for future productions? These are among the many considerations. Find out if entering your work in a festival is right for you.

At our July 25th session, book writer-lyricist Matthew Gurren and composer-lyricist James Campodonico will be sharing their experiences about being in NYMF. Their new musical Who Do Critics Know was chosen as one of 10 shows for NYMF's Next Link Project for 2015. That means they received funding for mounting the musical in the festival, as well as dramaturgical support, and other perks. Our columnist Bill Squier (book writer and lyricist) will also be on hand to share his years of experience with festivals and other opportunities. Our subscriber Eric Sirota will speak about having his show Day of Wrath as one of NYMF's 2015 developmental readings.

RSVP and Buy NYMF Tickets Soon

July 25th meeting: If you can come to the morning and meeting lunch, please email me at carolmusical@gmail.com or send me a message by way of Facebook - caroldegiere (and feel free to friend me). Suggested donation $5 to help cover the cost of room rental. Location and Time: Manhattan Theatre Club Creative Center meeting room, 311 West 43rd Street 8th floor, 10:00 – 11:00 am. Be sure to let me know if you're coming, as there is a seating limit.

NYMF Tickets: NYMF is the largest annual musical theatre festival in America, and is popular. Some shows will sell out so buy your tickets ASAP. On Saturday I will be attending the 1:00 showing of What Do Critics Know as well as the 5 pm Manuel vs. The Statue of Liberty (also a Next Link Project selection). There are also concerts that day and several other show options. See the complete schedule at NYMF 2015 schedule NMYF show are all on 42nd street.

More festivals: If you are not able to come to NYC and want to know about festivals in Chicago, LA, Pennsylvania, Scotland, and elsewhere, see Musicalwriters.com/production/festivals.htm.

Articles for Your Summer Reading

Adaptation Rights and Repurposing a Musical

Michael Lunsford musical writerHaving trouble securing adaptation rights for a musical? Michael Lunsford offers a case study in what to do when there are rights issues with material being adapted. He's not the only writer I've heard from that has faced a problem, so I thought his article would be useful. He talks about repurposing material and finding a new life for his work.

His article is posted on our Musical Musings blog, with an introduction and a PDF file that you can read online or download.

Adaptation Rights and Repurposing a Musical

Noteworthy Tips for Getting Your Music Licensed for TV, Film, and Other Media

Trudee LundenHave you ever heard someone else's song playing during a TV program or movie and wished one of your pieces could fill a spot like that? In this article, songwriter Trudee Lunden explores the possibilities.

Please check it out on our blog with a PDF file of Trudee's article. Trudee's Tips - Song Licensing article

PHOTOS ABOVE: Composer-lyricist-bookwriter Michael Lunsford; Songwriter Trudee Lunden.

Tony Winner Lisa Kron on Writing a Musical

In an LA Times interview, Tony Award winning writer of the book for Fun Home, Lisa Kron, comments on her process and struggles for the show that just won Best Musical.

"….We wrote a million opening numbers, and we did the thing that you are supposed to do and that most of the time works — make it more specific, more specific. Why is she starting to tell this story? What are her circumstances, why does she need to tell it?...." Read more: LA Review of Books - How to write a musical

Jason Robert Brown on Sondheim- Video

The City of Philadelphia declared June 1st, Stephen Sondheim Day, when the legendary composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim was presented Arden Theatre Company inaugural Master Storyteller Award. In front of Sondheim and a crowd, Jason Robert Brown explains describes why he found Sondheim's work worthy of attention. BWW - J. R. Brown on Sondheim

New Musicals Submissions Update

Ball State University in Indiana

July 1st – January 2nd is the submissions window for a 4-musical festival in 2016 in Indiana. One of the four musicals selected will receive a full production in 2017 and be entered into the NAMT festival in New York City.

Here are some details: Ball State University's selection person or committee will chose four new musicals that will receive a workshop and a 45-minute staged reading at Muncie Civic Theatre in the summer of 2016. The reading will include feedback from multiple guest artists and industry professionals. Each creative team will receive $500 travel and lodging stipend for the summer workshop in Muncie, IN. At the conclusion of the festival, an overall winner will be selected. The winning musical will receive a summer workshop and a fully realized production at Ball State University in the fall semester of 2017. This production will then be a full entry at the American College Theatre Festival for the 2017-2018 school year as well as an entry to the National Alliance of Musical Theatre. BSU - new musicals

NMI – New Musicals, Inc

July 15, 2015 is the submissions deadline for this year's Search for New Musicals at New Musicals, Inc of Los Angeles. NMI New Musicals

Submissions Resource

A new feature of the NMI website is a musical theatre writers’ resource center with a long list of theater names and links. Some accept unsolicited script submissions. NMI - resource-center

(As you know, our Musical Writerzine issues include profiles of selected theatres that accept new musicals, although our listings are more limited than in NMI’s resource center.)

Submitting a Musical to Publishers/Licensing companies

Has your musical already been staged a few times? Consider submitting it to one of the publishing companies that deals with licensing. For information on submitting your new musical materials to Dramatic Publishing, Theatrical Rights Worldwide, StageRights LTD, and Heartland Plays Inc., and others see our Licensing page.

Learning Opportunties

Dramatists Guild

Are you a Dramatist Guild member or associate member yet? (If not, see the supporting materials needed on the membership page) You may want to consider the national conference in mid July "Writing the Changing World." It features many workshops and networking opportunities. Dramatists Guild national conf 2015

Also check the regional events on their website. For example there's a "Self-Production Primer" in Connecticut and in Chicago there's a master class on musical theatre songwriting with Andrew Lippa and Craig Carnelia. There will alo be a panel on licensing, publication, and performing rights.
Dramatist Guild Regional (read down the page)


If you are new to Musical Writerzine, be sure to also visit our book suggestions pages for tips on how to write a musical, reference guides, and more.

Finances, Marketing, and More with TRU; Ken Davenport

We've often mentioned TRU before, but this summer they are having a different kind of workshop: TRU pathways focuses on the business side of being an artist.

Ken Davenport's next "Get Your Show Off the Ground" seminar will be held online in July.


The Chance Theatre: On the Radar

William SquierBy William Squier

Artistic Director Oanh Nguyen has been quoted as saying that he co-founded the Chance Theater with a coterie of other artists to provide Orange County, California, with "those spontaneous moments you can never predetermine, that make the magic people come to the theater for." And that's apparently what the area's playgoers were craving because the Anaheim-based theater company has grown from a 50-seat storefront space in 1999 into a mid-sized performing arts complex with two stages, a larger lobby and dressing rooms, offices and a classroom.

chancetheater-imageInitially founded to present new plays, the Chance's programming has also grown into a mix of edgy works, like Neil LaBute's Bash or Stephen Belber's Tape, and family-friendly fare, like a string of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas or their series for young audiences.

In recent years the Chance has staged lesser-known musicals and premieres, like The Boy in the Bathroom (Book & Lyrics: Michael Lluberes, Music & Additional Lyrics: Joe Maloney), Rooms: A Rock Romance (Book, Music & Lyrics: Paul Scott Goodman) and Triassic Parq (Book: Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz & Steve Wargo, Music: Marshall Pailet). So, we decided to chat with Jennifer Ruckman, a resident artist and the Chance's Literary Manager, to learn a bit more about theater's growing commitment to developing new works of musical theater.

MusicalWriters.com: Your website describes Chance as an "ensemble-driven company." Tell me a bit about that?

RUCKMAN: "We have a group of resident artists who call the Chance their artistic home. It includes actors, designers, stage managers and runs the whole gamut – I am one of those. Some of us have staff positions as well. And we're all very involved in all of the productions year round."

MW: Musicals have always been a significant part of the programming at Chance. But then you moved into producing lesser-known and new titles. How did that come about?

RUCKMAN: "As we grew and evolved and were figuring out our distinct voice, we definitely decided that we wanted to put more emphasis on fostering playwrights and developing new works. So, we started our On the Radar program, which is our reading series, around 2010. We do four readings every year. Then, we did Marshall Pailett's musical Triassic Parq the year that he was our resident playwright (2013). As a result of that relationship, we did readings of newer works that he was writing, including Loch Ness musicalhis musical Loch Ness (Music & Book: Marshall Pailet, Lyrics & Book: A.D. Penedo). We started with a reading of the first act. When he'd finished it, we did a reading of the entire script. The year after that, we produced the World Premiere (Jan. 30 – Mar. 1, 2015). So, we got to see it through from beginning to production. It was very exciting."

PHOTO: Katie Brown and Julia Cassandra Smith in the World Premiere of Loch Ness. Photo credit: True Image Studio

MW: You moved from your original space into a theater with 150 seats and then recently added a second stage. Has that affected your development work?

RUCKMAN: "Absolutely. Our second space has 50 seats. And it has a classroom as well as the stage. So, it gives us multiple options for rehearsals and performances."

MW: How are the pieces presented in the On the Radar series selected?

RUCKMAN: "They come from a variety of places. We get blind submissions. We get pieces referred by friends-of-friends. Sometimes we hear about playwrights or read a script and look into more their work. And we have a resident playwright every year. So, we try to continue those relationships. Zayd Dohrn was a resident playwright three years ago and we're doing a reading of his this year. Sometimes we'll do a reading in On the Radar that Deadly musical reading at Chance Theaterwill then get picked up for a production some place else. Our resident playwright last year was Nick Jones. We did a reading of his script Verite and then it was announced that it would be produced at LCT3 (Lincoln Center) this year!"

PHOTO: The On the Radar reading of Deadly (Book & Lyrics: Vanessa Stewart, Additional Lyrics: Guy Picot & Trey Perkins, Music: Ryan Johnson). Contributed photo.

MW: What's the format of the On the Radar series?

RUCKMAN: "We do a mix of straight plays and musicals. Musicals obviously need a little more rehearsal time. So, we do between 3 and 5 rehearsals for a one-night reading. Because the purpose of the reading is to foster the creative process, we have a talkback after the reading. And we have a form that audience members can fill out if they're not comfortable speaking up during the talkback. And then, there's a reception afterward where they can speak with the playwright."

MW: Do you have any kind of physical restrictions that writers should keep in mind when they submit their work, like cast size, number of sets, etc..?

RUCKMAN: "Probably the greatest restriction is balancing the four scripts. We try to have a mix during the season. So, if we've already decided, for example, that we want a large musical with a cast of 20 as a part of On the Radar, we're probably not going to do another one of that size. So, we'd choose a smaller musical for another reading."

MW: Do you have any guidelines that you'd like to share as to content?

RUCKMAN: "Our mission statement is to inspire dialogue in the community. So, our biggest focus is to tell stories that start a conversation. We have talkbacks after every performance of our full productions, as well as the readings.

MW: Should writers address how and what kind of dialogue they think their work will inspire in their initial pitch to you?

RUCKMAN: "Absolutely. We get a lot of one-page synopsis / tag line kinds of submission. And it definitely catches my eye when it's immediately clear what the piece's theme and social dialogue would be about.

MW: What types of materials do you want to receive in an initial submission?

RUCKMAN: "To start with, synopsis and a sample [scene] is the way to go. Then, I can follow up with the writers after that to get more."

MW: Do you prefer mail or electronic submissions?

RUCKMAN: "We prefer electronic submissions whenever possible. That has changed in the last few years. Three years ago, most of what I got was a hard copy. But, now I think it's almost all electronic. It makes it easier for me to pass along something I've read to other members of my team."
Musical theater writers interested in submitting their work to The Chance Theater should email Jennifer Ruckman at jruckman@chancetheatre.org. Mail submission should be sent to

The Chance Theater
5522 E La Palma Ave,
Anaheim, CA 92807.

For more details visit www.chancetheater.com.


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