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Musical Writerzine #33 - Spring 2016

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - Intro

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

In this Spring issue, in addition to news and events notices, we are focusing on the developmental reading process for new musicals. You'll find both basic and advanced tips articles that cover some of the do's and don'ts of readings and a slew of suggestions for submitting your show for a produced reading. The issue also highlights several new articles about demo recordings.

For the Growing Stages column at the end of this issue, William Squier interviewed Baayork Lee (the actress, singer, dancer, choreographer, theatre director, and author) for a story about the Discover: New Musicals program. This annual program seeks submissions of one-act musicals or excerpts from full-length musicals for a New York City reading. (Note: Lee's organization supports Asian-American actors and directors, but it is not necessary to be an Asian American to submit a show.)

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 bookCarol 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.

Developmental Readings for New Works

Chance Theater - a Reading

Whether you are setting up an informal reading of a script with friends in your living room, a staged reading with professional actors in a theater, or anything in between, ultimately you are responsible for enhancing the process and maximizing the results.

For this issue, I've prepared two articles - one basic and one advanced - plus a long list of places where you can submit a show for a reading.

1) How to Plan a Musical Reading - for those who are new to readings, this covers key points: How to Plan a Musical Reading article on our blog.

2). How to Run Developmental Readings for Your New Musical - for any musical writer. Can things go wrong with readings? Yes! There’s much to learn from experienced musical writers about how to get the most out of the time, money, and effort. You'll find many tips from bookwriter and lyricist William Squier. How to Run Developmental Readings - a PDF file you can download and/or print out.

TIP: Before or after a reading, consider using one of the critique services mentioned on our Critiques/Feedback page.

PHOTO: From a reading at the Chance Theater. See the Growing Stages column for Musical Writerzine issue 30 for a write up about their readings.

Readings Produced by Others

Readings of new musicals can be costly. It makes it easier if someone else is footing the bill for the venue, recruiting actors, or helping with any other part of the process.

Many festivals that accept new musicals have a readings option. However, these festivals usually only provide venues and some publicity, but not a cast or director. (See the Musical Writerzine 32 for details about festivals like NYMF, Fringe, Midtown, Planet Connections, and others.)

Writers with agents will have more opportunties for submitting but here are some places where any writer can submit an unsolicited script to be considered for a produced reading.

Where to Submit New Musicals for Readings - NEW to Musical Writerzine:

The Vortex in Austin, TX: Read our recent blog post about the monthly reading series at the Vortex and how to submit your show. The Vortex - Reading Series

New Musical Theatre Exchange - MN: The Exchange seeks to sponsor three full readings a year to showcase and develop new work being developed in the workshop. Members can sign up to share selections from their work at their gatherings. NMTE.org

Theater Latte Da in MN is developing a showcase program for new musicals in varying stages of development (see their NEXT program on their website). Although not staffed to respond to all submissions, they do allow them. Theaterlatteda

Shawnee Playhouse in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania is accepting submissions for original unpublished works for their reading series in 2017. Each year, Worthington Players produce and perform portions of original work, chosen from among submissions (with an emphasis on writers from the area). Submissions are now being accepted for the 2017 productions. The deadline is December 31, 2016. Shawneeplayhouse

Pittsburgh CLO - Readings: Pittsburgh CLO accepts and reviews submissions of new, unproduced, small-cast musicals for consideration in their CLO Cabaret seasons. Their programs include commissions, readings, workshops, and eventually a Festival of New Small musicals. Pittsburgh CLO Submissions

Discover: New Musicals - See the Growing Stages column below!

Readings Submissions Updates from TRU and NMI

We've mentioned TRU and NMI before but have updates from the organizers:

TRU in New York City: The annual TRU Reading Series is an opportunity for writers to submit a musical that has not previously been produced. TRU will pay for a 90-minute New York City reading of your show and organize a "Dollars and Sense" panel discussion afterwards with prominent New York producers, general managers and artistic directors focusing on potential venues, marketing and budgeting of the work. From the submissions for this year, three musicals will be selected for readings scheduled for January 2017. TRU provides a producer (if necessary), performance space with piano, access to their database of actors and staff, some marketing support and more. Submission will be open June 1st thru August 15th. TRUonline - reading info

New Musicals Inc in Los Angeles: Search for New Musicals. All full-length musicals submitted (at any level) to NMI by JULY 15 of any year will be automatically entered in the Search for New Musicals for the next season. The winning show receives a workshop, detailed feedback, and a concert reading. NMI - New Musicals

Where to Submit New Musicals for Readings - As noted in previous issues

4th wall - 3-8 people and show that doesn't require historic or other elaborate production values. See Musical Writerzine 6

Amas Musical Theatre - The Six O'Clock Musical Theatre Lab Series is an ongoing program that stages readings of new work, often for the first time. See Musical Writerzine 20

The Chance Theatre - readings of various sizes. Musical Writerzine 30 - Chance

Millikin University. "We like to have casts of 12 and up, and the more women, the better." See Issue 25 Growing Stages column - Musical Writerzine 25- Millikin.

The York Theatre - developmental reading series. See Musical Writerzine 31 - York

Woods Hole - see Woods Hole - Musicalwriters.com blog post from the last issue. Small casts only.

Hot Metal Musicals Incubator program. See the Growing Stages column for Musical Writerzine 27. Note that one of the writers needs to be living in the Pittsburgh PA area. One reason for including it here is that it could be a model of musical theater artists collaboration for other areas of the country.

Tips for Demo Recordings of New Musicals

Recording A New Musical - Suggestions for Demos

Producing a demo recording of your new musical (or at least some of the songs) is essential for sharing your work. But because demos can be expensive to make, it's helpful to know some of the pros, cons, and technical details before launching into making one. On our Recording New Musicals page you'll find two articles about recordings, and also lists some musicians whose services can be hired.

Weston Playhouse's New Musical Award for Pro Demo Recordings

The Weston Playhouse in Vermont offers a New Musical Award that supports the creation of a 30-minute demo CD of a new or substantially revised full-length musical. This involves equity union actors and a recording session with Kurt Deutsch of Sh-K-Boom and Ghostlight Records. They do not take submissions but accept nominations from ASCAP and BMI workshops, Feinstein's/54 Below, NMYF, O'Neill National Music Theater Conference, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, and elsewhere. Get yourself known! See Weston Playhouse - New Musicals Award.

News and Events

Jack Viertel The Secret Life of the American MusicalBook News

Jack Viertel's The Secret Life of the American Musical is a hit with general readers and a valuable resource for musical writers. Viertel has decades of experience judging audience response. Read more about it on "Making Of" book list. Making of Musicals - Essential Books

Kleban Awards Annual Submissions

The submissions window for the 2017 Kleban Awards is March 15 to May 15, 2016. Substantial monetary awards are given out each year in musical theater to experienced writers as a way of encouraging further work. If you fit the criteria, mark your calendar to check back in the spring for the 2017 award applications window. NewDramatists site - Kleban

Los Angeles: New Musicals Inc Biz of the Musical Theatre Biz

NMI is again offering their biennial Biz of the Musical Theatre Biz Conference with the dates of July 22-24. Check on their site for updates or view their previous conference info. DISCOUNT FOR SUBSCRIBERS:

Register for the Full Conference or the Full Conference + Pitch Review, and proceed to the Checkout.  On the Checkout page, you will see a spot near the top to enter a Coupon Code.  Enter the Code “MUSICALWRITERS” to receive $100 off your registration. NMI - Conference

New York: The Musical Theatre Factory

The MTF has been busy manufacturing some good times for writers, with open mics, workshops, and more. At their "4 x 15" events, writers workshop challenging parts of their show and volunteer performers present a 15-minute segment to an audience. mtf.nyc

New York - How to Write a Musical.... TRU Workshop

"How to Write a Musical That Works (part 3): Reckoning and Resolution" will be scheduled for Sunday July 10th or 17th, pending the availability of our feedback panelists. Details will be posted at Truonline - events

New Musicals Festivals: Chicago and Elsewhere

See the previous issue for the Chicago Musical Theater Festival and other events.

Growing Stages

The 5th Annual Discover: New Musicals Program

and the National Asian Artists Project

William SquierBy William Squier


When she was five years old Baayork Lee was chosen to portray one of the Siamese children, Princess Yaowlak, in the original Broadway cast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. Over the years since, Lee has been involved in the Broadway premieres of no less than eleven other original musicals, either as a performer or a choreographer. And, in 2006, she restaged the choreography for the Broadway revival of the groundbreaking musical A Chorus Line. So, if anyone has seen what goes into the launch of a new work – whether it was from the vantage point of debuting the famous 'Turkey Lurkey Time' dance with Margo Sappington and Donna McKechnie in Promises, Promises or participating in the workshops that became A Chorus Line – it's Baayork Lee!

Baayork Lee and companyWe caught up with the diminutive powerhouse when she was taking a breather between an assignment overseas and the start of work with students at Pace University, to ask her about the National Asian Artist Project (NAAP), where Lee serves as Artistic Director, and that organization's development program Discover: New Musicals.

PHOTO 1: NAAP's 2015 5th Anniversary Gala
left to right: Nina Zoie Lam, Baayork Lee, Steven Eng
. Photo by Gary Durnan.

MUSICALWRITERS.COM: Let's begin by touching on your Broadway background. Twelve of the shows you were involved with were premiere productions of new musicals. Did that experience influence your thinking about developing new work?

LEE: "It definitely shaped my wanting to do new musicals. I worked with some of the best: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cy Coleman, Burt Bacharach. But, in that era you created a show and then you went out of town to several different cities to try it out before you came into New York. That doesn't happen too often now. With My One and Only, the Gershwin piece that I did with Tommy Tune, we threw out the entire book and brought in a new writer. And we got new songs from the Gershwin trunk. The Discover program that we have at NAAP operates on a much smaller level. But, the excitement of creating something new is the same. It's very important for the theater."

MUSICALWRITERS.COM: Your friendship and close collaboration with Michael Bennett went all the way back to the High School of the Performing Arts. How did that relationship affect the way you approach a new musical?

LEE: "You don't realize when you're 13 years old that you're working with a genius! Michael was just a friend that I helped to see his choreographic ideas through. It wasn't until he decided to develop A Chorus Line that the entire process – which took about a year – began to influence my life. I was his assistant when we started on the ground floor. We were a bunch of dancers who didn't know how to write the book to a musical. So, we told our stories to Michael. Then, Joseph Papp said, 'I don't know what this is.' But, he gave us a skeleton crew to find out. There were twelve of us. There was no music. We danced with a drummer. And in the afternoons we would sit around and Michael would ask us what we did at the age of four and five and six, all the way to when we came to New York. And that became the theme of our show. In the next workshop, Michael brought in Marvin Hamlisch and the other writers. That was the process. And the process, more than anything else, is what's so important about the Discover series. Getting from a musical from the page to the stage."

MUSICALWRITERS.COM: How did the National Asian Artists Project begin?

LEE: I had been thinking about it for many years! I was very lucky as a performer and an Asian artist. But, there were only a few shows for my colleagues. Then, I got a chance to direct a tour of The King and I and went on the road with all of these wonderfully talented people. But, I started wondering where they'd go after it was over? My assistants, Steven Eng and Nina Zoie Lam, said that they were used to that. They'd take day jobs and wait for the next The King and I or Flower Drum Song or Miss Saigon to come along. But then, I told them how I'd been thinking about forming a company for Asian Artists. And Steven said, 'Let's do it! I have a friend who knows about 501(c)3s!' He was relentless! We wouldn't have a company if it weren't for his tenacity! Because I needed that little push.

Today, we have a lot of outreach programs: an after-school program in Chinatown that introduces children to musical theater; we've also started a choir that sings musical theater tunes and performs a concert every three months; and then we have the Rediscover series, which produces a big musical like Oklahoma, Carousel, Oliver! or Hello, Dolly! And that uses both the choir and the children.

MUSICALWRITERS.COM: And, of course, you founded the Discover: New Musicals program in 2012 to give Asian Artists the opportunity to work on new musicals. Prior to that your organization focused primarily on staging classic works?

LEE: "Yes. We started with Oklahoma. I felt that we had to do it because it changed the musical theater! Then, we found out that there was an underground Asian city in tunnels under Oklahoma City. After the mines were closed and the railroads were built, the Chinese population didn't want to leave. So, they migrated to Oklahoma where they could get free land. So, I went to R&H for permission to produce the show and they asked, 'Why Oklahoma?' I said, 'Why not? We've been there for a long time!"

MUSICALWRITERS.COM: Let's talk about Discover: New Musicals. Is there going to be a 5th Annual edition?

NAAP Discover: New Musicals 2015 - group

PHOTO: NAAP's Discover: New Musicals 2015: " Let Her Kick" by Brandon Michael Lowden (Book/Lyrics) & Minjoung Hwang (Music). Photo by Gary Durnan.

LEE: "Yes. It's very exciting. In the past, we put ads out to all of the schools with musical writing programs, like NYU and Pace. And we've had professionals come in with new work. But, now we've opened it up, carte blanche, to anyone! Good music and a good story can come from anywhere. We need young writers and composers in the theater. And they need to have a platform for their work. Through our organization Asian actors get the opportunity to perform in their shows. And now, we've expanded the program to include Asian directors."

Submission Opportunity for New Musicals

Though the specifics are still being finalized, Lee anticipates that this year's submission process will be much the same as in the past. NAAP will accept submissions of new work from July to October 2016.

They are looking for one-act musicals that are, at most, 30 minutes long. But, they will also consider excerpts from full-length musicals that have been edited to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. "We give each of the writers fifteen minutes to a half an hour," Lee explains, "so that we can get four musicals into the presentation. It gives them the opportunity to see their work on its feet." The performance is scheduled to take place in New York at the beginning of December. (In 2015, musicals were performed at the 47th Street Theatre on a Monday night.)

Musical Theater writers interested in having their work considered for Discover: New Musicals should submit three copies of the libretto and three demo cds with a representative sampling of the score, along with an application form that can be downloaded from www.naaproject.org. "We're limited in terms of cast size," Lee says. "We haven't used more than fifteen actors in one show – one of the pieces had a choir in it. And we don't accept shows that have already been performed in New York City."

Lee emphasizes, "The subject matter has to be interesting--something that hasn't been done and isn't cliché at all. The music can vary: we'd love a 'Philip Glass' as much as a 'Cy Coleman.' It has be well integrated into the story."

And, of course, the musical needs to be a work that can be cast with Asian-American performers. "We're all sixth or seventh generation, so we're part of the Melting Pot!" Lee points out. "The whole point is to open up the box for us to be able to perform western stories. Hamilton has blown that wide open."

Submission should be mailed to:

National Asian Artists Project
10 West 66th Street
Apt. 23C
NYC, NY 10023

NAAP does not accept electronic submissions at this time.

Baayork Lee's dream for the Discover: New Musicals program is to, one day, be able to stage full-length original works. "I hope we get to the point where we can afford it," she says. "There have been so many pieces where we've thought, 'If we only had the money we could go to the next round.' But, we're able to give them their beginnings – the baby steps."


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