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Musical Writerzine #36 - Winter 2017

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - Intro

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

I sometimes hear from writers and producers who believe in an older model of musical making: that it's only about writing a show, finding investors, and getting a New York City production. In the issues of Musical Writerzine, we explore broader possibilities for building support for new works.

Musical making today is about developing your talents and reputation as the show's authors, and building a show's resume. It involves such things as showcasing your work at a festival or cabaret, or finding theaters around the country that mount staged readings, or participating in a residency program or workshop where you can learn and network.

For the "Growing Stages" column in this Winter issue, William Squier interviewed the director of the new musicals lab "SigWorks" regarding their program and their submissions requirements. You'll find other opportunities for submitting your musical for readings, festivals, workshops, concert showcases, and productions in the USA and UK.

You'll find a special section on musicals for the Christmas holiday season, with a new submissions opportunity that I've been working on with a local theatre group. PHOTO by Ben Krantz Studio Scrooge in Love! 2016 at 42nd Street Moon.

Scrooge in Love!

This issue's theme for articles is Original Ideas and Adaptations. When you're ready to work on your next piece, what works? You'll find a set of related articles (links to blog posts), including a detailed report from last summer's NYMF panel discussion on this topic.

Watch for the Spring issue in late March that will include my report on NAMT. 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. William Squier is a musical theatre writer and freelance writer. William Squier

Feature Articles

Original Ideas and Adaptations

NYMF 20161) Donald Sanborn III reports on the NYMF 2016 summer festival panel discussion "For the Love of Originality: How to Invent New Stories in Musical Theater." Original Ideas and New Musicals. You'll find out how the writers of First Date, Come From Away, and Dust Can't Kill Me developed their original musicals.

2) "Starting Points" is my recent interview with Elise Dewsberry of NMI who gives practical points about ideas and adaptations. Starting Points: Judging Ideas for Musicals

Writing Musical TheaterBOOK SUGGESTION: One of the recommended books on how to write a musical includes a sizeable chapter "The Idea." It covers what makes a good story for a musical (evoking strong emotion, etc). Writing Musical Theater by Cohen and Rosenhaus (opens to Amazon.com).

3) From our Writing Tips archive, Stephen Schwartz comments on The Advantages of Adaptation.

4) One additional article for this issue is listed below.

Special Section - Holiday Season Musicals

Battle of the Christmas Musicals

Brookfield TheatreI'm very pleased to announce the first "Battle of the Christmas Musicals" reading and subsequent production at my local community theater, The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts (TBTA). This program is open for submissions for new musicals that "express some aspect of the holiday spirit such as generosity, acceptance, or family harmony."

Unlike some theatre companies or festivals, TBTA does not make contractual obligations as they help develop a new work, nor do they charge a submissions fees. Their experienced volunteer actors are mostly non-equity; photos and videos are allowed, which can be helpful for a show's future website.

I'm providing an introductory article that includes my interview with the group's president, and details about submissions. Start here: New Musicals at Brookfield Theatre for the Arts. The submissions deadline is the end of April.

PHOTO: Brookfield Theatre for the Arts in Connecticut.

On Writing Musicals for the Christmas Season (Scrooge or No Scrooge)

Theater groups are always looking for shows for their holiday seasons. To provide readers with a perspective on writing suitable new works, I interiewed my friend Duane Poole, a prolific writer who has provided the book for two commercially produced Christmas musicals: A Christmas Story and Scrooge in Love! Blog post: Writing Christmas Musicals - Duane Poole interview

Submissions Opportunities - Various Locations

From Page to Stage - London

"From Page To Stage" from Aria Entertainment welcomes new musical submissions from across the globe. The deadline is "Tuesday 28 February 2017," as the press release explains. Scheduled for mid August through early Sept in London, the organizers plan to pack the festival with shows and related events. According to the announcement, "over 20 shows will be showcased, and performed by top West End performers, directors, musicians, musical directors & choreographers. From one fully produced musical production in the theatre to workshops, semi-staged performances and extracts in the theatre and studio; plus readings and songs in the bar - there'll even be pop-up talent performing new songs from new musicals in the box office and foyer!" Read more at Broadwayworld - From Page to Stage article

SigWorks - Washington DC area

See the Growing Stages column at the end of this issue for a full report about this opportunity. Note that housing is provided for writers whose shows are accepted for development.

Pittsburgh CLO for Small Shows

Becoming known by the Pittsburgh CLO could be an important step for writers of small shows. The leaders of the company are also involved in NAMT and other new musicals programs. The group considers new, unproduced, small-cast musicals for their CLO Cabaret seasons. This is ideal for career musical writers. Pittsburgh CLO - New Works

Raleigh, NC - Staged Reading or Concert

North Carolina State University's "Musical Stages" program invites submissions of completed musicals. There is no listed restriction on cast size, so this may be a good opporunity for writers with larger musicals. Selected projects will be given a 30-hour rehearsal followed by two performances of a staged or concert reading in Raleigh, NC as part of NC State University Theatre's season. Electronic submissions only, deadline March 1st, 2017. NCSU - new musicals

Connecticut - UN-Charted New Works Festival - July

Updated 2/2/17: This new festival has a submissions deadline of February 28th. It is for new works in development that haven't had a professional production. Those accepted will work daily with a director and company of Equity performers, as well as a music director. See details at Un-Charted festival at Unquowa Repertory Theatre.

Submissions to Publishers that License Shows

For writers whose shows have already received productions, MusicalWriters.com has a licensing agency page with information about companies that accept submissions. We describe Dramatic Publishing, Dramatists Play Service, StageRights LTD (Steele Spring Stage Rights), Theatrical Rights Worldwide, Drama Source, Eldridge Plays and Musicals, Heartland Plays Inc., Leicester Bay Theatricals, Pioneer Drama Service, and YouthPlay.

Submissions and Events in New York City

Planet Connections Festivity in NYC Summer 2017

Planet Connections Festivity will be back June 12-July 9th in NYC. The submissions deadline is January 27. This socially conscious/eco-friendly annual festival provides the venues and miscellaneous other support for productions that are in the 45- to 90-minute timeframe. This is a good festival to gauge audience response to a small show, even a one-person show, especially if there is a social message, though you will be responsible for hiring a director, cast, and all. Note that you won't have control over the schedule of performances (as is often the case with festivals). Visit their site at planetconnections.org

NYC Residents Only - Random Access Workshop Readings

The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2017 (so if you're reading this later, keep it in mind for another year).

RAWR looks like a great program for developing new works in 3 stages: table reading, invited audience reading, and a public staged reading. Although they don't specifically mention musicals in their submissions materials, I contacted them and received this reply: "Though we aren't specifically looking for musicals, it happens that half the shows we've included in the program have been! As such, we're happy to accept musical submissions."

Visit their website for details Random Access Theatre site - look under the RAWR tab. "...RAWR is highly interested in theatre that imagines and reclaims work and themes of the past as a way to engage in modern issues. Work that adapts or enters into conversation with preexisting theatre, text, mythology, folklore etc. is very appropriate. Due to the heavy focus on script development, early-stage work is most appropriate for this series. Women, people with disabilities and people of color are strongly encouraged to apply."

Midtown International Theatre Festival

This year the Midtown festival folks have decided not to offer a spring event so they can focus on summer, to be held July 15th through August 6, 2017. The festival deadline is April 15. This annual festival is less well known than NYMF but it has its own following. It's usually less expensive to run a show at MITF than at NYMF. MITF site.

"TRU Beginnings" series for Submissions or Attending

The Conflicts and Obstacles workshop will be held Sunday, February 19. Submissions deadline is Feb 8th. TRU workshop

I recommend this program of Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU). I've attended two workshops from this series and was impressed with the feedback the participants received from Skip Kennon, a long-time BMI teacher, and the other panelists, as well as by the hosts TRU Bob Ost and Cate Cammarata. Writers are invited to submit a portion of their work-in-progress and/or attend. It's great fun to network with a roomful of creative people.

Part I was in October but it's not necessary to have attended it before coming to the next one. Part II in February will focus on songs and scenes in the middle of a musical, including "Turnaround Songs" in which a character changes his course of action, a climactic moment (sometimes the first act finale), and more.

(By the way, the idea for this series came from the Musicalwriters.com Feedback Fest of 2013.)

Amas Musical Theatre - Ongoing in NYC

In case you missed it, one of the theatre groups we profiled before (Musical Writerzine 20) is Amas Musical Theatre. Their focus is on musicals with ethnic themes, with characters who are perceived as "different," and the like. They have several ongoing programs: their Six O'Clock Musical Theatre Labs Series is a development program for writers, lyricists, and composers to mount staged readings of their new musicals. The Amas Workshop Program gives composers, lyricists and librettists the opportunity to continue to work on a more polished and complete version of their new work, with longer rehearsal periods and more production values. Amas Musical Theatre

Concert Showcases

A Little New Music

A Little New Music LA - logoMy friend Peter Welkin runs Los Angeles' A LITTLE NEW MUSIC. Their event series provides an opportunity for musical writers' work to be heard in Hollywood. Songs are often presented by stars of the stage and screen. The program accepts submissions year round, but the submission deadline to be considered for the upcoming April concert is Monday, February 13th, 2017.

Here are some details about their program, with a link to submissions details: A LITTLE NEW MUSIC is a fast-paced hour of new and unheard musical theatre material. Whether a premiere from an established writer or an undiscovered tune from a promising up-and-comer, our mission is to showcase talent with a program that keeps our finger on the pulse of the musical theatre scene. Our next concert is scheduled for Monday, April 24th, 2017 at the Catalina Jazz Club in the heart of Hollywood. For more information on A Little New Music and how to submit: A Little New Musical - Submit

Since 2013, A Little New Music has introduced an impressive array of nearly 200 songs by established and emerging composers alike, including Tony nominees and recent Golden Globe winners Pasek & Paul (LA LA LAND, A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL), Miller & Tysen (TUCK EVERLASTING), Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, and many others.

Concert Showcase at NYMF (New York Musical Festival)

The annual summer NYMF includes several concerts that are promoted with the rest of the festival. Participating is a way to network with other writers and get a little bit of notice without a lot of cost. From the website: "Concerts usually have between 1 - 3 performances. To apply for a Concert, email literary@nymf.org with the subject line, "NYMF Concert Consideration: Title of Show or Artist." Please include at least 50% of the music you are interested in showcasing."

Webinars, Workshops, Residencies, and Events

Rhinebeck Writers Retreat - One Week Summer Residency

Rhinebeck Writers Retreat submissions window for 2017 is January 13 to February 17. This program provides a fully furnished private home for a writing team for one week in Hudson Valley, New York to write their new musical. All writers' costs are covered including home and food. Travel costs up to $750 per writer are reimbursed. Each writer receives a $500 stipend. Go to Rhinebeckwriters.org to read testimonials from participants of previous years and find the application details (posted there on the 13th).

ASCAP /DreamWorks Workshop LA area Feb 1 and 2, 2017

Stephen Schwartz will again direct the ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop, in partnership with DreamWorks Animation and The Wallis. Free tickets are available while they last. This workshop is highly recommended for anyone in the LA area. Bring your business cards and network with the people around you, or hang out afterward and speak to the writers and panelists. (Submissions will open again in fall 2017.)

On Wednesday, February 1 at 7:30pm, the workshop session will feature the presentation of two songs from each of four new original musical works—Welcome to Shoofly, Witch's Night Out, The Emperor's Birthday Suit and Lobster Boy. The session will also include critiques and panel discussions about writing for theater audiences and distinguishing theater songs from pop songs.

On Thursday, February 2 at 7:30pm, a 45-minute presentation of the new original musical work-in-progress The Ballad of Brightwater will be presented for professional critique with accompanying expert panel discussions. See ticket ordering info and other details at ASCAP 2017 workshop.

LA Program for Writers Under Age 26

New Musicals Inc. in Los Angeles sponsors an annual New Voices Project, in which young playwrights, composers and lyricists under age 26 receive workshops and concerts of their work, with feedback sessions from executives from Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment and New Musicals Inc. Deadline for Submissions: February 15, 2017 New Voices

TRU in NYC - Other Events

Check the TRU events calendar from time to time, or become a member. TRUonline.org - events. Events include panel discussions, readings, and workshops that are especially relevant for anyone who needs to self produce some part of their show's journey.

Webinar On March 8th

If you're at the point where you're doing a reading in NYC, LA, or London, you might consider Ken Davenport's webinar "How to Get Producers to See Your Show." In his advertising he says he'll cover who to target and when to target them, what kind of invitation to send, what producers look for in an invitation, what makes or "producer catnip," and what do you do next. Fee required. Davenport Webinar - producers....

"Growing Stages" by William Squier


The Signature Theatre's SigWorks Musical Theatre Lab

Before being named "Resident Director/Director of New Works" at the Washington, DC, area's Signature Theatre, Joe Calarco had earned a title as a freelancer that was almost as long. His curriculum vitae at the time could've been headlined "actor/director/author/adapter." But, it was that combination of skills that made him the right man for the job at Signature.

"It took years for my writing and directing to inform each other in the healthiest way possible," Calarco points out. "And I think they do. If I'm going to be brutal with someone about trying something new, then I have to do the same myself. The other writing informs my dramaturgical brain in terms of structure and how to talk a writer."

Joe CalarcoA graduate of Ithaca College, where his emphasis was initially on musical theater, Calarco came into prominence in 1998 as the creator of Shakespeare's R&J, an Off-Broadway hit that the Wall Street Journal praised as "the most innovative reimagining of a classic in years." With both his writing and directing careers successfully launched by the play, Calarco spent the next sixteen years working at Off-Broadway theaters like Primary Stages, Playwrights Horizons, the Transport Group and the Lucille Lortel, as well as regional theaters around the country, including mounting sixteen productions at Signature.

By the time he was approached by Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer about joining his staff, Calarco says that he was ready for a bit more "balance" in his life. "And there couldn't be a more perfect place and perfect position," he feels. In his first two years, Calarco has focused much of his energy on SigWorks – a portfolio of readings and workshops devoted to new works. So, we caught up with Calarco to discuss the SigWorks Musical Theater Lab. It's an intensive developmental workshop held for two weeks in the summertime at Signature's Arlington, VA, home, with housing provided for the writers at apartments within walking distance from the theater.

MusicalWriters.com: How did you originally get involved in the theater – and in musical theater in particular?

Calarco: My degree is actually in musical theater. And I grew up in Rochester, where I directed musicals before I went to Ithaca. There was a student-run summer stock company where I directed my first musicals. But, then I didn't direct another one for a decade. I did all plays. Signature was the next place that I directed a musical.

MW: How did you connect with the Signature Theater?

Calarco: When R&J was still running, I came down to DC to meet with the Shakespeare Theater – obviously because of that show. And I asked my agent at the time to set up meetings with other theaters. I met Eric and we really hit it off. I remember at that very first meeting I saw that they were doing Sideshow in their next season and I begged a little to direct it. And eventually did.

MW: Am I correct that the SigWorks Musical Theater Lab was inspired, in part, by an experience you had at the National Theater in London?

Calarco: R&J was in the West End at the time. And they called me and said, "Would you like to do something at the studio? We have a space where we invite artists over to try out an idea." I said, "What's the goal of the week? What am I expected to present?" And they said, "You can present a moment. Or you can present nothing and just tell us what you've learned." Which, to me, was unbelievable! So, I picked a play – Antigone – and they sent me every translation imaginable! I asked for two actors – the two sisters – and I ended up writing an opening scene. It was very exciting and very free. There was no pressure for anything.

MW: What other experiences shaped the way the Lab is structured?

Calarco: I think my combination of writing and directing; having done the O'Neill, Yale, Goodspeed, and a lot of other development around the country. I saw what worked at other places and what was helpful.

"There's nothing harder or more vulnerable than writing something and presenting it in front of people. I'm aware of what they're going through." -- Joe Calarco

Musical Theater Lab Open Submissions

MW: How does the SigWorks Musical Theater Lab differ from Signature's American Musical Voices Project?

Calarco: The Musical Theater Lab has a fully open submission process, whereas AMVP commissions specific writers. The first year we got 160 submissions for two slots in the Musical Theater Lab.

Last summer was everything you'd want it to be. Two great shows that did huge amounts of work. The most I've seen, in my experience, in a two-week period--doing massive rewrites and not being pressured. We said from the beginning that we were going to push them. It's not a writing retreat. We want you here to work. Try something new.

MW: So, you're interested in musical theater pieces that are early in their development?

Calarco: Eric felt passionately about that. He didn't want SigWorks to just be another stamp of approval on a show that had already done Sundance or the O'Neill. It's never about leaving with a finished show. It's about getting it to the next step.

Lab Schedule – What's it Like?

MW: Can you walk me through the schedule for the two weeks?

SigWorks reading

Calarco: The cast is there from the very beginning. There's a reading at the end of each week – which I think is important. The minute you have new eyes on it, you see it differently. The first summer, both shows had a slightly different process. They were so completely different from one another. I'm really proud that both teams said that it was the best development process that they've had. They felt really safe, yet pushed. And they felt they had the resources they needed.

Skin and Bones came in the first day with a 180-page script! So, we read and sang through the show. It was the first time that they heard it. Then, they wrote a new first act by Wednesday. We did some big note sessions. They came up with more rewrites. I pushed them to try some daring structural changes, which they did. Not even overnight, but during the lunch break! The last day of the first week, Saturday, we did a presentation in front of an audience. The night before that reading, Ben Clark, who wrote the score, wrote a new song. There was no time to teach it, so he sang it. That's a great opportunity to educate the audience. For them to actually see the process is, for me, important. And that was a perfect example.

MW: Each of the pieces in the summer lab benefits from a pretty large staff (director, music director, assistant director, stage manager, dramaturge and, of course, actors). Is that important?

Calarco: It's what's needed. The great thing about musicals is how collaborative they are. As someone who directs both plays and musicals, and loves doing both, the thing that's different about a musical is that there are more ideas in the room. I never think that's a bad thing.

Submissions Notes

MW: What should writers keep in mind when submitting to SigWorks? For instance, is there a preferred cast size?

Calarco: If someone had a cast of 25, that would probably be an issue. It's problematic when it's that big.

MW: Any restrictions on subject matter?

Calarco: Not at all. We're adventurous. So, if they can think it and write it well, we'll give it a shot. I'm always looking for something that's going to thrill me. Something that I haven't necessarily seen or heard told in that way -- a really unique voice. We try to find writers who are exciting and have something to say. A new point of view – that's what I'm itching for.

MW: Are you primarily interested in book musicals? Would you consider other types of shows?

Calarco: Anything. In two years, I've seen everything. I've seen works that border on opera, much more traditional book musicals, through-sung, and this year someone emailed to ask if we'd take a revue. Send it! Who knows?

MW: Could you give our writers some guidance about the artistic statement that's part of the submission package? What are you hoping to learn from the writers?

Calarco: That they really want to work on it. I've been lucky that I've always worked with writers who really want to get in and dig around. Really get messy with it. If you think the show is done, this is the wrong thing for you. It's not about throwing a production up. In New York, doing 29-hour readings, it's so often an audition for the show. We're trying to take all of that pressure away.


Musical theater writers interested in having their work considered for future SigWorks Musical Theater Labs should consult the submission guidelines on the Signature Theatre website at www.sigtheatre.org to make sure you have the most up-to-date information. However, here is this past year's list of requirements:

• The submitted project must be a musical.
• The authors have to be United States residents.
• The project can't have been produced, but workshops or readings are fine.
• Commissioned pieces with written permission from the commissioning organization are eligible.
• Adapted works with written proof of the rights are eligible.
• Projects scheduled to start rehearsals for a professional production before October 26 of the festival year are ineligible due to Signature's agreement with Actor's Equity.
• Artists can only submit one project per year.

The submission materials required:

• 1-2 page artistic statement stating the team's objectives for the workshop.
• A biography or resume for each creative artist (one page in length)
• A synopsis of the work (one page in length)
• A cast breakdown (one page in length) that includes ages, ethnicities and any other information that would be pertinent to the casting process.
• A history of the work's development prior to submission.
• The first 25 pages of the script.
• At least 5 musical selections as audio files.
• Letter of acknowledgement from a commissioning organization (if applicable).
• Proof of fully secured rights (if applicable).
• A single page with the name and contact information (phone, address and email) for each member of the creative team.

Back Issues

If you are new to the Musical Writezine be sure to check recent back issues for additional submissions suggestions, You might enjoy articles as well. We've covered these topics: Festivals, Developmental Readings, Short Presentations, and Team Gathering: Directors etc.


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