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Musical Writerzine #38 - Summer 2017

Newsletter for Writers of New Musicals - Intro

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

Composers, lyricists, and bookwriters live all over the USA and world. Although New York City and Los Angeles are focal points for opportunities, we need to look beyond these key cities. "The National New Musicals Scene, Part I" is the theme for articles and notes in the first section below. I'm covering programs that either have remotely accessible programs for musical writers anywhere or influence the nation.

In the "Growing Stages" column at the end of this issue, William Squier profiles a theater company that is receptive to a wide range of new musicals: the Phoenix Theatre. You'll also find a charming guest blog about collaboration, ideas for networking, special events, deadlines, and more.

For Part II of the national scene, we'll look at the Dramatists Guild. If you have specific stories to share about how the Guild has helped you, please write me at carol@musicalwriters.com

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.

Online Programs and National Organizations

The National New Musicals Scene, Part I

NMI Scott GuyOnline Musical Writing Connections with NMI

The folks at New Musicals Inc (NMI) in North Hollywood have two new programs available remotely. Read about the upcoming Crafts Conference to be live streamed and the Biz of Musical Theatre Biz conference videos. They also are continuing other online programs. NMI programs online: Click here for the full article on our blog.

NAMT: National Alliance for Musical Theatre

NAMT office- Carol and Betsy(PHOTO - me at the NAMT office with Ms. Militello in front of several NAMT Festival Posters.)

Everyone developing new musicals in America should know about NAMT because it plays such a central role. To find out why NAMT is important and how to become involved, read my interview with Program Associate Karin Nilo and Executive Director Betsy King Militello. Article: NAMT Supports the Pipeline of New Musicals

Inside the NAMT Festival - What you can expect if you attend or submit your show. Article: Attending the NAMT Festival

PODCASTS, WEBINARS, YOUTUBE - Accessible from anyhere

TRU's monthly panel discussions are now being made available through podcasts (after the event). The July 18 panel "Is Off-Broadway Broken? And Can We Fix It?" may be of particular interest, as many writers are aiming at the off-Broadway market. See TruPods for podcast info.

Ken Davenport's Broadway-related Interviews: 116 podcasts can be heard online or downloaded from iTunes. Enlighten yourself about the inner workings of the theater world. Ken interviews other Broadway producers, directors, writers, designers, and others. Podcast interviews.

Ken Davenport's Webinars: Ken's programs are often angled for producers, but some of them are suited to writers or self-producing writers. He will be covering how to get an agent and what makes a good website for a show. Ken Davenport - Webinars.

Dramatist Guild Fund YouTube Channel. "The legacy Project: Dramatists Talk about Their Work" has many videos of key contemporary writers. From a statement: "An initiative of The Dramatists Guild Fund, The Legacy Project documents and preserves the creative process of America's most esteemed dramatists in a series of filmed conversations, each featuring an established stage author (or team of collaborators) and an emerging one." Dramatist Guild Fund YouTube channel.

Dramatists Guild Institute of Dramatic Writing: This fall, one of the Dramatists Guild Institutes courses aimed at bookwriters and lyricists will be available online (others in NYC). Music Essentials for Non-Musicians is a 10-week course that will "arm you with all the tools needed to better understand how music and words support one another in the creation of musical theatre. The delicate marriage of words and music can be tricky, especially if as a wordsmith you sometimes find yourself at a loss for just the right language to describe your vision to your collaborator." Fall 2017 classes - NYC and Online.

Collaboration, Networking, & Meet Ups

Musical collaborators Pam and Alice In Their Words

Special to the Musical Writerzine is a guest blog by collaborators Pamela Weiler Grayson and Alice Jankell. In their colorful story they describe how they met, how they work together, and the ways they "give each other platforms to jump off of." They may inspire your own collaborations. ARTICLE: Collaboration: We Make Each Other Better.

Finding Collaborators

It's a question I often hear: How can I find someone who will help me complete my show? Usually this requires research to find writers you like, networking at festivals and events, and luck. If you're new to Musical Writerzine, please also see the "Finding Collaborators" section in issue 37.

REMOTE COLLABORATION: You don't have to live in the same city to write a musical together. I know several American writers who rely on technology--email and phone, Skype, Facetime, Dropbox, and shared Sibelius files--to collaborate with people in other parts of the globe.

NETWORKING TIPS FOR EVENTS: This is obvious but it's surprising how many people don't do it. Always carry a business card for meeting writers or others in the theatre world. Include your contact info and the address of a website that has your full credits. Also, don't be a wallflower. Be curious about other people's work and they may be curious about yours.

Here are some upcoming networking opportunities in NYC, CT, and Los Angeles

NYC Meet-Ups for Summer 2017

Connecticut Meet-Ups for Summer 2017

Los Angeles "A Little New Music"

Join the mailing list or submit your work for A Little New Music cabarets. At these concerts of new works, there will always be other writers participating. For the August 21, 2017 concert, submit work by Monday, June 19, and for the November 13, 2017 concert, submit it by Monday, September 18. It is not required that you submit your own songs to attend.

Finding Festivals for Networking and Exploring

Please check the recently updated Festivals Page. It includes the burgeoning Hollywood Fringe, Miami Short Plays, Toronto Fringe, and others. Once there at a show, you may be able to ask the usher if the writers are in the room. In any case, if you like the work, the printed program may have a website for the writer(s) so you can reach out later.

Teaming with Consultants

If you mainly need help from a guide who is not a collaborator, see Critiques - Feedback page for a list of people who specialize in musicals and/or theater.

Submission Opportunities for Shows and Writers



July 15 is NMI's annual deadline in their search for new musicals for their reading series NMI "Search" - readings.


TRU Speed Date: Writers/Producers: TRU regularly schedules these "speed dates" that allow writers to practice pitching their show. They have a large list of producers expected to attend the upcoming one in late June. They will allow Musical Writerzine subscribers to apply up through June 16. Meet producers at TRU.

TRU Readings 2018: This is an ideal opportunity for writers without a lot of funds to mount their own reading of a completed or nearly completed musical. Application deadline is August 12th, 2017. See TRU Reading. From their website: "Let us pay for a developmental reading of your new play or musical! Created to nurture producers as well as writers, TRU VOICES seeks producer-driven projects, and also matches writers with producers. Each reading is followed by a 'Dollars and Sense' panel discussion with prominent New York producers, general managers and artistic directors focusing on potential venues, marketing and budgeting of the work."

July 16 TRU: How to Write A Musical That Works, Part III - (as mentioned above in the networking section.) Writers are able to witness professional feedback sessions. Submit a piece of your own show to be considered for feedback during the workshop. See details at TRU workshop Part III

SHENYC SUMMER THEATER Festival: NYC's only festival devoted to full-length works by female writers. They charge a fee to cover many of the festival's expenses. Submissions are expected to open in the fall of 2017 for the summer of 2018, with a deadline in November. You'll find some details on their FAQ page SHENYC.

NAMT Festival: See the article on our blog, as mentioned in the first section above.

Other Submission Ideas and Locations

Be sure to check out the Growing Stages below, our updated producing theater page, and recent issues of the Musical Writerzine.

"Growing Stages" by William Squier

Bill Squier

The Festival of New American Theatre

How do you celebrate a century of bringing live theater to the greater Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area? By becoming a nationally recognized birthplace for brand new plays and musicals. That's the thinking behind Phoenix Theatre's "The Incubator" – a year-round program of development they plan to launch as a part of their upcoming 100th Anniversary. But, the centerpiece of that program is already in place: the theater's annual Festival of New American Theatre – a two-week series of readings and other events that are related to the cultivation of new works.

Phoenix TheaterThe Festival of New American Theatre is actually nothing new. It was founded in the late 1990's by local playwright, Richard Warren, and director, Mark DeMichele, and hosted by Phoenix Theatre for the next decade. The theater assumed the management of the festival in 2008 and it evolved into its present form under the guidance of Associate Artistic Director, Robert Kolby Harper, and Associate Producing Director, Pasha Yamotahari. They began by staging two script-in-hand readings of full-length plays per week. Then, over the years, they've added a program of short plays, a 24-hour theater project for local actors, directors and authors, a writer's slam with an open mike and occasional "down-and-dirty" table readings.

"We get people who come here for eight hours," says "Robbie" Harper of the festival audiences. "So, we have a bar and a kitchen that serves food. We try to create an atmosphere of conversation around what they've seen. That's where the excitement really lies." But, the one thing that was missing until fairly recently was a significant presence for new works of musical theater. "I get many more play submissions than I do musicals," Harper explains. "So, my goal over the past year has been to try and expand our reach because we do a lot of musicals at Phoenix Theatre. So, we know musical theater." We chatted with Harper to get the details.

PHOTO: A reading at Phoenix Theatre

A reading at Phoenix Theatre

Musical Writerzine: There are new works festivals around the country that showcase everything from plays that are at the idea stage to completely polished works. Seems like you fall somewhere in the middle. Talk to me about the philosophy that drives Phoenix Theatre's Festival of New American Theatre?

Robbie Harper: "Development is kind of a nebulous thing. People do it different ways. You can have a new play festival that's more of an event and not part of your culture. But, our Producing Artistic Director, Michael Barnard, is passionate about new play development. We wanted to open up a space for playwrights to work on their pieces. And give them a good set of collaborators to do that. Along with Pasha Yamotahari, we introduced dramaturgy into the festival about six years ago. Pasha has a journalism degree and apprenticed at the O'Neill Festival. So, he had a lot of information to share. It made us get really specific about what we're here to do. What we try to give playwrights is time. They need to be away from their lives, someplace where all they need to do is focus on their piece."

MW: Have musicals always been a part of the festival?

RH: "No, they haven't. We've been folding them in. It's a little trickier because a 20 to 25 hour rehearsal period will basically get the music learned and maybe a read-thru. Musicals also cost more because there are more people involved. But, we're getting to the place where we can do that on a regular basis. That's our goal."

MW: How are new works selected for the festival?

RH: "The first round for musicals involves our readers listening to the demo recordings and reading the first ten to twenty pages of the libretto. After we make our first cut, we read the first acts with the music. Then, we make another cut, whole musicals are read and we have conversations around it. Twenty pieces may get through to the final round that would be great for the festival. Then, it comes down to what we're budgeted for."

MW: Is there anything authors should consider about the content of the work they submit?

RH: "We're open to just about anything. I want to read a good story and feel something. If a piece doesn't inspire me to ask myself a question, then I'm not as interested. The music is the heart. And if it isn't telling the story or making your feel something, you almost don't need to read the book scenes. Good storytelling that helps us to experience a different point of view creates compassion. That's what we need in this world.

Phoenix Theatre reading projectI'm also looking for writers who want to explore their work and have questions asked of them. If we're going to give them 20 to 25 hours of rehearsal with a team, they might was well take advantage of it. Sometimes we get writers who say, 'I need to hear and see it the way it is.' So, they don't make a lot of changes. And that's fine. But, other playwrights come in and just gut it! I think that it's always good for people to work with collaborators that they don't know. They get an objective, fresh-eyed take. The dramaturge and the director usually connect with the artists and have conversations about a month before they arrive to form questions about what they want out of the process."

MW: Your readings conclude with "guided" feedback sessions. Can you give me a sense of what those are like?

RH: "We work with the writers to develop the questions. And we have trained moderators to run the talkbacks. We prefer the moderators to be completely outside of the process.

We set the boundaries before the talkback. The moderators speak and no one else is required to respond. What we want is for the audience to tell us about their experience with the work. We don't need them to tell us how to fix it. So, we have a set of stock questions like, 'What do your remember the most about the show that you've just seen?' That's always very telling. Or 'During the piece, did you experience what we call 'a bump' – something that was said or done that pulled you out of the action?' Or we'll say, 'You've seen this reading and you're going out with friends. Can you describe it to them in one sentence?'

Sometimes the writers will have a very specific question about a character or an interaction. But, there's always someone who wants to tell you how to fix it. So, we train our moderators to acknowledge, validate and reframe their comments in a way that's actually useful."

MW: In addition to readings of new musicals, you also put together cabaret evenings that feature new theater songs. How long has that been a part of the festival?

RH: "We added it about four years ago. It's intended to highlight up-and-coming voices. We usually choose three writing teams, take four or five of each of their songs and create a cabaret. However, this past festival I took two teams and did a 30-minute cabaret of each of their work. So, I'm going to continue to expand on that. And, next year, I want to bring in a director separate from the music director to form more of a collaborative team."

MW: Any final thoughts for authors who are considering submitting their work?

RH: "We're looking for collaborators that are interested in trying things. We just had the playwright who wanted to make the end of his play immersive for the audience. So, he tried it. He totally worked the process. He changed the last third of the play from the Friday night reading to the Saturday afternoon reading. Then, he did some tweaks for the Saturday evening reading. What he discovered was that it just didn't work. That's fine. And, when he left, he knew exactly what the end of his play needed to be."

The 2018 Festival of New American Theatre is planned for March 5 through March 18, 2018. And Phoenix Theatre will be accepting submissions of new works until August 1, 2017. If your musical is selected, you must be available to be in residence for six to seven days leading up to your presentation in the festival. The same is true for original songs -- the dates to be determined after selections are made.

Musicals selected will receive a development process with a director, dramaturg and actors. This includes twenty hours of rehearsal time and up to three performed readings, with script in hand, in front of an audience. Airfare, nearby lodging and a shared rental car are also provided along with a small honorarium.

Here are the submission details for Full Length Musicals:
1. Musicals should be original and unproduced.
2. Musical Revues are being accepted.
3. No Theatre for Young Audience pieces will be accepted.
4. The writing team should consist of a maximum of three collaborators (book writer, lyricist and composer).
5. Cast size is limited to 8 actors. However, if your musical requires a larger cast, you can submit it if you indicate how it can be performed with 8 actors playing multiple roles.
6. A blind copy of the complete libretto should be submitted online as a pdf. The libretto should be sent to the email address provided in your registration confirmation. Simply write "Full Length Musical Submission" or "Musical Revue Submission" in the subject line. The body of the email should include the show's title, your name and the names of each collaborator, your address and telephone number(s), a brief synopsis that includes the number of acts.

Unfortunately, the theater no longer accepts printed submissions via mail. "We used to," Harper explains, "But, it was incredibly hard to get them to the readers. So, this is the first year that we're doing submissions completely online though our website. If you have any problems navigating it or have questions, please email me at newworks@phoenixtheatre.com." Links to a dropbox (or other downloadable sites) are fine for full zip files, including demo recordings. A notice of receipt will be sent by email once your script has been received.
7. There is a submission fee: $10.00 to be paid online. However, it is waived for members of WGA or Dramatists Guild, so long as you provide either a link to your DG/WGA page, ID number or photocopy of your membership card.

These are the submission details for Original Songs for their Composer/Lyricist cabaret:
1. The theater requests that you submit piano/vocals and demo recordings for three complete, original songs: a ballad, an up-tempo and a production number that represent a sampling of your work. The songs can be from an existing musical or be stand-alone pieces.
2. A blind copy of the sheet music for each song should be submitted online as a pdf. And they need to be complete piano/vocals. Lead sheets won't be accepted. The recordings don't need to be professional quality.
3. The songs should be sent to the email address provided in your registration confirmation. Simply write "Composer/Lyricist Cabaret Submission" in the subject line. The body of the email should include the show's title, your name and the names of each collaborator, your address and telephone number(s). Links to a dropbox (or other downloadable sites) are acceptable for full zip files, including demo recordings. Use QuickTime, WMP (Mp3 or Mp4) formats for your recordings.

Passing the Hat

Passing the Hat message: My volunteer effort on these newsletters takes a lot of time and there are some expenses. I'm not officially a non-profit organization, but if anyone wants to support the work with a small contribution, send it by mail to Scene 1 Arts, LLC, PO Box 909, Bethel, CT 06801-0909 or by Paypal to carolmusical@gmail.com


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