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Musical Writerzine #35 - Fall 2016

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - Intro

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

Hello from Connecticut where I have been busy gathering updates for this issue. Our theme for the feature stories with this issue is gathering a team for readings and productions, starting with the director. You'll also find submissions opportunities for your new musical, upcoming musical writing classes, recommendations, and other resources.

Musical writer Stacy Glen Tibbetts provides the Growing Stages column for this issue about Penn State's new musical program. Please note that although their program is called a new works "festival" because of their original format in earlier years, now they accept submissions for two fall readings and a summer production. Writers don't have to cover expenses of readings or production as they usually do with a festival.

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.

Feature Articles - Directors Gather Your Team

Gathering a Team with a Director's Help

Working with a director is an unfamiliar experience for many writers. For this issue of the Musical Writerzine we focus on the topic of writer-director communication and how a director helps gather a team for mounting a reading or full production of your new musical. You'll find two interview articles I wrote for this Fall issue posted on the accompanying Musical Musings Blog (use underlined hyperlinks below).

Both Ilana Ransom Toeplitz and Jonathan Cerullo direct readings for new musicals and are available for other projects such as NYMF shows (New York Musical Theatre Festival) and full productions.

1) Director-choreographer Ilana Ransom Toeplitz: Video Casting and More. Ilana Ransom Toeplitz

In this interview you'll find out how video casting works for hiring actors and how Toeplitz helps focus expectations for completing readings or other projects. She also speaks of the important role of a stage manager, even for readings.

2) Jonathan Cerullo: Offering Transparency on New Musical Readings and Production Jonathan Cerullo director

Cerullo covers some several key considerations for a fruitful writer-director relationship. He talks about scheduling, when to hire a casting director, character descriptions, and what's involved in team gathering for readings and productions.

(Note: Mr. Cerullo, who also serves as an executive producer, is available for consulting for such things as contract negotiations and other aspects of the business.)

Classes and Critiques

Steve Cuden Webinar

Steve CudenSteve Cuden will be conducting his live webinar "Creating Stories for Musicals: Screen and Stage" on October 20. He will be presenting it from the Writers Store in Los Angeles. Cuden is the author of the popular book Beating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations as well as a new book on screenwriting. For the Webinar, see Writersstore - Cuden class.

TRU Workshops in NYC for Participants and Audiences

Of the many meetings and workshops that Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU) holds during the year in NYC, one of the most interesting for writers is their "TRU Beginnings" series "How to Write a Musical That Works." These feedback workshops cover a musicals beginnings, conflicts, and resolutions. I attended the final one last year and really enjoyed the brief presentations of musicals and comments from workshop leaders.

The next session is October 16. Submissions are due soon. Anyone can sign up to be in the audience. Find details on this program here: How To Write a Musical that Works. For questions on submitting your show to the workshop, write to truplaysubmissions@gmail.com. For other TRU events see TRUonline.org - events.

NMI - Los Angeles Update

Elise DewsberryElise Dewsberry, Artistic Director of New Musicals Inc., provides news of this past summer's conference. Plan ahead for the next one in the summer of 2018. Dewsberry also describes their year-long writers workshop. Here is her update:

The 6th biennial BIZ OF THE MUSICAL THEATRE BIZ Conference at New Musicals Inc. took place the weekend of July 22-24 in Burbank.  There was a great turnout of bookwriters, lyricists, and composers from all over the country who got to rub shoulders and ask questions of some amazing panelists including Sheldon Epps (Pasadena Playhouse); Michael Kerker (ASCAP); Broadway producer Heather Provost; Brady Schwind (Carrie); and the highlight of the weekend: an entire session with Broadway producer Ken Davenport.  For a full recap, visit their site page: NMI conference recap.

Next up at NMI is the launch of our famed Core Curriculum collaboration program where bookwriters, lyricists, and composers work together monthly from September through June, and end the season by getting their original 15-minute musical produced in Los Angeles.  Participants can be local or can join by video conference from anywhere on the globe; open auditions are being held on September 17 & 18. (We accept new participants until after the October sessions, Oct. 15/16). For more info, visit nmi.org/study/core-curriculum.

Ken Davenport's Podcasts and Webinars

Producer Ken Davenport is up to Podcast interview number 89. Each week he speaks with key people involved in Broadway productions or something related. You can download all of them free or listen on his website. To download from itunes: Producer's Perspective Podcasts. His upcoming Webinars this fall focus on marketing shows and related topics. Those are not free. Webinars.

Critiques: Helpful Feedback For Your Show

On the Critiques / Feedback page you will find a range of feedback services that address the overall musical or specific notes on the script. I've recently added Stuart Spencer Script Consultations (as recommended by a friend) and my dramaturg friend Cate Cammarata who can walk writers through all the stages of the page-to-stage process.

Recommendation: It is often wise to engage two or more different critique services for a range of perspectives over the course of your show's development, or one service and the dramaturgical advice of a director for a reading or production. (I've recently seen several artistically unsuccessful shows that could have been improved with more advice, and a successful reading by a writer friend who consulted at least three advisors.)

New Musicals Submissions by Deadline Date

Jonathan Larson Grants - Sept 30

Submissions deadline is September 30th for 2017. Grants by the Jonathan Larson Foundation are for lyricists, composers, librettists, or any combination of the three, or teams. They are for "artists who are creating new, fully producible works for the theatre, and advancing the art form." (This is for a person, not a show) Jonathan Larson Grants

Sound Bites Festival in NYC - November 1st

The submissions deadline for this festival of 10-minute musicals has been revised and is now November 1 for the 2017 Sound Bites Festival in NYC.  “We want your best 10 minutes!” say the guidelines page. Last year’s Sound Bites was one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had in NYC.

What I believe works best for such a short performance is an original 10-minute musical or a plot-heavy excerpt. They aren't looking for individual songs. The piece should feel like a tiny musical with a beginning, middle, and end. (For an excerpt, it could be, at most, two segments of a show united with a brief on-stage explanation.) Sound Bites at TNNY

One of the requirements is a recommendation from a theater professional. If you need a recommendation letter and I think your material would work for Sound Bites, I can provide that letter (I'm approved by the Sound Bites literary manager to provide one). Contact me at carolmusical@gmail.com

NYMF Summer Festival - November 1

NYMF badgeIt's that time of year again: Submissions for the 2017 summer New York Musical Festival's "Next Link" program are coming up fast. Being part of this large, carefully run musical theatre festival in the heart of New York City's theatre district can be helpful and great fun. (Photo: my NYMF pass from summer 2016 for attending shows.)

Through the Next Link program, NYMF offers varied seminars led by industry professionals, networking events, dramaturgical support, a $5,000 production subsidy, casting assistance, and the immense marketing and industry exposure that comes with appearing at the Festival. EARLY BIRD DEADLINE: October 10 at 11:59 PM EST; FINAL DEADLINE: November 1 at 11:59 PM EST. See their FAQ page for submission details at Next Link FAQ.

If you are considering submitting a show to NYMF or other festivals, you might want to read comments by writers who have recently participated in them. Inside NYMF and Other Festivals Part I and Part II (from Musical Writerzine issues 31 and 32).

National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) - Fall

NAMT's submissions window for 2017 is November through January. NAMT’s annual Festival of New Musicals in NYC presents eight musicals in 45-minute presentations before an audience of over 600 industry professionals. Over the years they have introduced more than 300 new musicals. NAMT festival

National Music Theater Conference, Eugene O'Neill Center - Fall

Each summer, the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Center in Waterford, CT includes several playwrights, lyricists, and composers endeavoring to create fresh and bold work from an array of music theater genres. The open submissions process begins each fall. Check later in the fall with Theoneill.org/ for their submissions form for the summer of 2017.

Women's Work Festival NYC - November 1

Following the success of their 2016 event, the Women's Work Festival is accepting submissions for summer 2017. To qualify your show must be at least 50% complete and be written by a woman or a team that is at least 50% female. If accepted, they provide the New York City venue and associated trappings (lighting, ticketing, house staff, etc), some marketing, networking opportunties, and an open audition day. You provide a fully staged show with a temporary set. Women's Work Festival FAQs.

According to their website, writers with shows running on Broadway tend to be around 80-90% male, 10-20% female. This group wants to encourage women writers.

Berkshire Theatre Group - MA - Ongoing

Do you remember "Alice's Restaurant," Arlo Guthie's song? The colorful piece was about Stockbridge, MA, home of the Berkshire Theatre Group. Although this company takes agented submissions for full manuscripts, they also accept unsolicited submissions of smaller packages: query letter, synopsis, etc, for their consideration. See Berkshire Theatre Group.

Nu.Musicals at Penn State - Ongoing

See the Growing Stages column below

Others - Ongoing

Please see our recent back issues for submissions ideas, such as to the Conundrum Theatre Company, Woods Hole, Vortex, 4th Wall, The York Theatre in NYC, and many others who are still seeking scripts. Issue 34; Issue 33; etc. (Links are in top left hand column on each page.)

Schedule Your Own Reading near Broadway

Many writers plan their own readings to test their materials. In NYC there are hundreds of studios and other spaces where rehearsals and readings can be held. Some of the popular ones for producers are Ripley-Grier, the Duke, and the Pearl Studios NYC, but you can do a search to find others at nyc.spacefinder.org.

The directors interviewed for this issue are available to help you, as are many others. TRU has a member directory that includes directors and other resources. It's available online. Go to TRU - Directory and wait for the page to slowly load the large file.


Essential books: holiday gifts to yourself

Any purchases through the Amazon.com links here help support the Musical Writerzine. Please keep us in mind for holiday purchases.

Viertel bookYou may have heard of producer Jack Viertel's hot new book that has received reviews in major newspapers and online: The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built. I highly recommend this book to all musical writers and producers. It covers the structure of a musical in a fresh way with dozens of examples, seeing it from the audience's perspective and from a producer's perspective.

Mckee book on dialogueRobert McKee, who wrote the essential book STORY, has a new work out focusing just on dialogue. I haven't read it but McKee knows what he's talking about. Mckee - Dialogue

PLEASE SEE MORE BOOKS on our Recommended books pages. By the way, if you have Wicked or Godspell fans in your household, I have autographed copies of my books signed by Stephen Schwartz (and myself as author). They make great gifts. Reach me at carolmusical@gmail.com.

Everything Else

Submitting Musicals for Licensing

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, see our recently updated Licensing page.

MTF in NYC Open Mics and More

The Musical Theatre Factory site has a new look mtf.nyc/ and starts a new residency this fall at Playwrights Horizons. This volunteer organization is a cooperative venture for mutual support between artists. They are presenting new musicals this fall and have other events including the open mic salons.


10/5/16 at 8PM at the Robert Moss Theater, 440 Lafayette Street
12/5/16 at 8PM

From a press release: "Factory Salons happen every-other month, and are informal open mic nights for new musical theatre songs. Salons are curated by an established musical theatre writer who invites additional guests to perform featured sets of new work. These community-building events provide an open platform for all artists to share their work and to seek out new collaborators. The drop-in evening serves as a beginning point for new projects or a check-in for long gestating shows. For many, the Salon serves as an introduction to the Factory and its mission."


Have you discovered Show Off Your New Musical group on Facebook?

Growing Stages

Penn State's NU.Musical Theatre Festival – Developing New Works and New Professionals

Stacy Glen TibbettsBy Stacy Glen Tibbetts

(Photo by Jeni Kocher Zerphy)

As the three-part gospel harmonies of composer Chris Rayis's new musical Deep Water Ballad rang through the dark theatre, the sizable crowd at the Friday afternoon summer performance was mesmerized by the close-knit voices of the young cast. The well-rehearsed singer/actors inhabited their characters with considerable comfort and seemed at home under the lights. Accompanied by an onstage piano and creatively using only their chairs, a few large black cubes, and a music stand or two, they vividly brought to life the homes, jobs, youthful romances, conflicts, rituals, and day-to-day lives and deaths of small-town Appalachian coal miners and their families.

A few audience members had been drawn into the modern 150-seat theatre seeking a break from the hot, busy streets of downtown State College in mid-July during the concurrent annual Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. Others had seen the well-promoted reading listed in the Arts Festival guides available in racks outside. Some had been attending the NU.Musical Theatre Festival performances for several years, and many in the crowd were familiar with Penn State's highly acclaimed Musical Theatre BFA program, which hosts the festival each year.

A "Split Focus"

The BFA program in Penn State's School of Theatre also gives the NU.Musical Theatre Festival its unique "split focus" on both training students and developing new work. Says Rayis, "The core of each cast is undergraduate musical theatre students. The development of the students involved is just as important as the development of the musical being performed." That said, Penn State has an extraordinary musical theatre program -- with many recent graduates now performing on Broadway and touring the world -- in addition to an accomplished group of master's degree students specializing in music directing, directing, and voice pedagogy for the musical theatre. These graduate students are typically involved with the NU.Musical Theatre Festival, as are occasionally some members of the Penn State faculty.

The festival's Artistic Director, PSU voice professor Raymond Sage, explains the process: "Our junior performance studio workshop class in the fall serves as the 'umbrella' for the festival. We cast and then rehearse the new work over four to five weeks during daily class times, adhering to a 29-hour Equity Reading model. Our teaching is the priority – we want to expose the students to what they will encounter in their professional lives if they help to develop new work. The writers usually come in for a week or 10 days near the end of this process, and we are able to cover their travel and housing costs as well as provide a small honorarium for expenses."

"Sheer Commitment"

The NU.Musical Theatre Festival provides many helpful resources to participating artists. The Penn State Downtown Theatre Center, in which many readings are held, features a modern 150-seat theatre with raked seating, dressing rooms, and a full light and sound package. "Deep Water Ballad was given five performances, with time to edit and rehearse on performance days," says Rayis. "I was delighted that the festival arranged for a music director to cover preparations when I wasn't present during early rehearsals. Overall, Ray Sage brings a lot to the table in terms of his sheer commitment to the work being performed. He's very interested in how to properly develop the pieces chosen for the festival and really strives to make them the best they can be."

Nu Musicals at Penn State - a reading"Although we can't provide age-appropriate casting," says Sage, "we do offer a low-pressure situation for writers, and we encourage revision during the rehearsal process – that is usually up to the writers. We don't offer a lot of opinions on the work unless we're asked, preferring instead for the writers and student performers to learn from each other about the piece. The festival benefits both groups – we've had student actors use songs from the shows as audition pieces, which helps the writers get known, and we've had actors get seen and hired as a result of their participation in our readings."

"Because of the somewhat limited funding of this festival, there is not a huge stipend for a visiting creative team," says Rayis. "And Penn State's desire is to involve its graduate students and faculty in those roles. However, if there were a certain director or music director desired by a writing team, it is possible that Penn State would accommodate the request or at least contribute to its cost."

The festival typically develops two new works a year, with readings held in October and late November or early December. The additional summer performances are budget-dependent and co-produced by Penn State's School of Theatre and the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, which provides financial support and a returning festival audience.

Filling the Void

Sage is optimistic about the future. "When we started the festival about 10 years ago, I felt there was no real passion for new work at Penn State, a void that needed to be filled for the sake of both our students and the art," he says. "The theatre festival craze hadn't happened yet, but TV shows like American Idol and others seemed to indicate that people wanted something new in their entertainment."

Nu Musicals at Penn State Sage continues, "Now that we're receiving 200-250 submissions a year and have helped writers like Kait Kerrigan, Brian Lowdermilk, Neil Bartram, Will Reynolds and Adam Gwon develop their work, I'm very glad to be able to say that we have become a pretty stable, well-supported program. Even Penn State's new theatre department head, John Simpkins, has been very involved in new work professionally, and I can't imagine that the NU.Musical Theatre Festival won't continue to grow under his guidance."

How to Submit Your Show

Submissions are accepted year round. A synopsis, script and a recording of some of the songs in the score is preferred. Raymond Sage notes that he "reads everything that comes in," but that there's also a student committee that meets throughout the semester to read and evaluate the submissions. Sage makes the final selections along with the festival's artistic staff.

Although there's no stated limit to the cast sizes that the NU.Musical Theatre Festival is willing to consider, Sage has expressed a preference for smaller shows. No subject matter is off limits. "A lot of care goes into choosing the artists who are involved in the festival," says Sage, "and into providing a nurturing environment that's very low pressure." Read about the program at Numusicals.psu.edu/.

To submit original works, writers should send contact information along with any publication and/or recording of the piece by mail. The address is The Penn State Nu Musical Theatre Festival, c/o PSU School of Theatre, 210 Theatre Building, University Park, PA 16801. The artistic staff will review all submissions and contact the creative team of any piece being considered for the festival." Inquiries about the festival can be directed to psunumusicals@psu.edu.

Additional resources:
Artistic Director Ray Sage bio
2016 Festival Composer Chris Rayis

Stacy Glen Tibbetts (www.stacyglen.com) is a singer, composer/lyricist, and guitarist who teaches at Penn State and performs regularly. He has written the music and lyrics for two full-length original book musicals, as well as dozens of stand-alone songs, and can be reached at stacy@stacyglen.com.


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