by Lorene Phillips, Contributing Editor
It’s a pleasure to introduce the contemporary musical theatre community to Josh Levine, web designer and database architect of the DIRECTORY OF CONTEMPORARY MUSICAL THEATRE WRITERS, launching at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com. Josh is not only a talented web designer, he’s also a very accomplished playwright, having received his MFA in Playwriting from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Josh came highly recommended by many writers represented in the Directory. Once we met him, we knew he would be a great fit for this project.
We recently took a moment away from discussing spreadsheets and font choices to get his insight into the project as a designer.
What attracted you to this project?
One of the reasons I love doing web design is because every project is different because every client is unique. And with each project comes new challenges, and this project has plenty. But the way I look at it, every challenge that’s met is a new item in my bag of tricks. The directory that you and David have curated will not only help promote new work, but it also creates a community for artists of all disciplines to share their work.
What types of technology are you using?
The site was designed using Adobe Creative Suite CS6, and it is being upon Drupal, which is an open-source content management system.
How did you come up with the design concept?
The design aesthetic was definitely inspired by the clean and modern look that David had created for the print-version of the directory.
Can you share insight into your creative design and data-architecture processes?
The reason I started doing web design back in 2002 was to offer affordable, creative solutions to artists, specifically performers. I found myself noticing a pattern in design where the only thing that made a site unique was the headshot. The layout, font, and colors were sometimes exactly the same. My approach is to communicate with the client to first get the design exactly right, so that they feel it best represents them, whether they be a performer, theatre company, or small business.
What is your strength as a web designer?
I would say my strength is my speed in getting things done, as well as listening to what my client needs.
What is the biggest challenge of this project?
My biggest challenge was learning how the content was going to work in the database. Like any open-source platform, there are a million and one ways to do something, so finding the right way for this project was a challenge.
What community do you tap into to find answers to questions about a project like this?
1) The internet. I am a self-taught web designer, and the internet is my constant source for training and new ideas. 2) My friends. Luckily, I have a couple of very talented friends who work in web design land and they are always a good resource.
How do you see the site growing over the next year?
I think that’s one of the most exciting, and brilliant, things about the project is that it is user generated. As long as there are talented people writing brilliant musical theatre songs, the database will be there to share their songs with the community.
What prior website designs are you most proud of?
Almost like my plays, the latest project is the one I’m most fond of because it is a culmination of all experiences that came before it. So I’d have to say (without blowing smoke), I know I will be most proud of this once it’s complete.
What excites you about musical theatre today?
As a writer myself, I am always excited about new work. So I feel like, as long as it’s new, I’m excited.
What shows have you seen recently that have entertained and inspired you?
I loved ONCE. I thought it was one of the best books of a musical I’d come across in a long time. The theatrical conventions they used, the way they moved through time and space, all while telling story and moving along the arc of the characters: brilliant.
What writing projects are you working on currently?
I am currently working on a new play in the Primary Stages New American Writers Group, and I am writing a loose adaptation of CYRANO for high school students up in Massachusetts.
How can we keep up on your design and writing projects?
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Visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 180 contemporary musical theatre writers and 550+ songs, all searchable by voice and song type.