Creating New Dialogues Through New Work

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com

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As regular readers of our blog know, The Directory is a resource dedicated to helping folks find largely unpublished contemporary musical theatre repertoire. We’re grateful people around the world are finding us. Our subscription sales, Facebook, MailChimp and Twitter followings have all significantly risen in recent months due to our concerts, presentation at the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Brisbane, Australia and other marketing efforts. Special thanks to Broadway celebrity and all-around mensch Seth Rudetsky for the great mention in his recent “Obsessed” video on Playbill.

But as we near our first anniversary, it dawned on us there were a lot more connections we could be making in service of our writers, musical theatre educators and students.

The Directory has never been a boutique experience. While we maintain a high standard by only representing songs that are well-written and vocally responsible, The Directory launched last November with about 150 writers and 300 songs. We’re now well past that marker with lots of new writers, songs and even some duets. While that’s great news for those interested in the present and future of musical theatre, we understand it can be a bit overwhelming to take it all in. Yes, there are search functions, which allow subscribers to find what they’re looking for, but it’s still a lot of information to wade through. We never designed The Directory to be an impersonal database; we want our subscribers and writers to develop relationships with each other.

That’s why we’ve rolled out a whole new set of opportunities for colleges and universities to more fully access The Directory and engage its writers. Along with recently reduced institutional memberships, we’ve created a series of masterclasses and workshops that connect teachers and students directly to the writers whose songs they’re performing or, as in the instance of our upcoming Marymount Manhattan College workshop, the writers who will be writing works specifically for the students.

This past week, director Laura Josepher (who brilliantly helmed our concerts at Second Stage and 54 Below) and I auditioned over forty and cast twenty-one Marymount Manhattan College musical theatre students for The Directory’s inaugural workshop production, entitled VOW, which will be produced at the Theresa Lang Theatre on campus the last weekend in January. The Directory hired four writers with extensive credits to hand-select the students and write pieces utilizing their particular gifts. We’re proud to announce our four illustrious writers:

Russ Kaplan HeadshotRuss Kaplan is one of the four co-creators of the a cappella musical In Transit (Primary Stages). Created with James-Allen Ford, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Sara Wordsworth, In Transit received the most award nominations of any Off-Broadway musical in 2010 (including Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle).  Also with fellow In Transit writer Sara Wordsworth, Russ has collaborated on the one-act musical comedy collection Shortstack (York Theatre’s 4@15 series), and is currently completing the new alternative rock musical The Do-Over with Wordsworth and playwright Daniel John Kelley.  Commissioned work with Wordsworth includes the upcoming Dear Albert Einstein for family theatre company “Making Books Sing,” and original songs for the play High School Confidential, recently published by Dramatic Publishing.  His debut album as a jazz composer/pianist – a song cycle based on The Odyssey called The Ulysses Cycle – was released on Ropeadope Records in April 2013.  www.russkaplanmusic.com

Sara Wordsworth HeadshotSara Wordsworth is a New York City-based musical theatre lyricist, librettist, writer, performer, and coach. Her work in New York theatre has been nominated for Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle & Lucille Lortel Awards. Writing credits include the Off-Broadway a cappella musical In Transit (Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award 2010; Primary Stages Fall 2010, O’Neill National Music Theatre Conference). She has also written book and theatre/cabaret/pop lyrics for Off-Broadway’s York Theatre, The NY Fringe, NYMF, DC’s Theater Alliance, WA’s Key City Public Theatre, NY Theatre Barn, Prospect Theatre Company, NYU, UC Irvine, University of Texas at Austin, Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, Musical Mondays Theatre Lab, nationally syndicated XM/Sirius Radio, the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop CD No More Revivals and Over the Moon: a Broadway Lullaby Album. With Russ Kaplan, Sara is currently developing a commissioned family musical for “Making Books Sing” (slated to open in NYC in 2014) and wrote original songs for the musical play High School Confidential, recently published by Dramatic Publishing.  Sara is an honors graduate of Fordham University, the College at Lincoln Center and a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre & Librettists Workshops, and a BMI Affiliate Artist. www.SaraWordsworth.com

WREYNOLDSWill Reynolds is an actor/songwriter most recently seen in the NY revival of Sondheim’s Passion at Classic Stage Company (dir. by John Doyle) and can be heard on the cast recording produced by PS Classics.  Will is the composer of The Greenwood Tree (NYMF, Kennedy Center “Page to Stage” Festival) and Poems & Moon Songs, a song constellation – with the song “Tavern” featured on Audra McDonald’s most recent album Go Back Home.  Will is one of ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Project songwriters, and A 2013 Dramatist Guild Fellow.  He has worked on Broadway assisting composer David Yazbek on Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (starring Patti Lupone), and he worked in the music department for the pre-Broadway workshops of A Christmas Story  and Scandalous (5th Avenue Theater.)  Other acting credits include the American premiere of Love Story at Walnut Street, Tony Kushner’s The Illusion Off-Broadway at Signature Theater, Emma and A Room with a View at The Old Globe, and Mamma Mia! on the road. CMU graduate.@willcreynolds www.willreynoldsonline.com.

clay2011

Clay Zambo has been named by the York Theatre Company one of the musical theatre’s “New, Emerging, Outstanding” composers; and his work is included in The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers. The title song from Clay’s musical They Fly is listed among the Directory’s Top 25 songs, as introduced in a presentation to the National Association of Teachers of Singing. His most recent project, Windjammers, written with Robin Share, is enjoying a summer-long run at Wisconsin’s American Folklore Theatre. Recent work includes Lost in Staten Island (produced at La MaMa ETC) LiSI, Post Modern Living and Shlemiel Crooks (with Scott Ethier, book by Sean Hartley and Bob Kolsby, based on stories by Anna Olswanger) was commissioned by NYC’s Kaufman Center. Greenbrier Ghost (book by Susan Murray) was produced by Spirit of Broadway Theatre, is the winner of Academy for New Musical Theatre’s Search for New Musicals, a finalist for BMI’s Jerry Bock Award, and was selected by Stephen Schwartz for the ASCAP/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop. Clay’s music, lyrics, or arrangements have been heard Off-Off Broadway (Modern Living, Downtown Dysfunctionals, The Fall of Eve and Adam, The Woman); in nationally and regionally touring educational-theatre productions (Inside Broadway, National Theatre for the Performing Arts); and an audiobook (Forbidden Fruit). I Am Star Trek (Rick Vorndran, book; Scott Ethier, music) was produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and transferred to London. His work has been featured on NPR’s Car Talk. Many of his scores were commissioned for premiere at NYC’s Merkin Hall, including Yo, Jonah!, They Fly (a retelling of the myth of Icarus and Daedalus). A former faculty member at Carnegie-Mellon University and the Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, he currently teaches at the Lucy Moses School in Manhattan, music-directs productions for the Kaufman Center’s Poppyseed Players, and serves as Director of Music Ministries for Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Connecticut. A member of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and the Dramatists Guild, he is an alumnus of Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College.

Our writers are currently beginning work on their musical “shorts,” which will all be based on articles from the Weddings/Celebrations section of the New York Times. They will be reaching out to the performers to ask specific questions about their vocal range and find out more about them as actors and individuals. In early December, we will do a table reading of the drafted pieces, giving the writers an opportunity hear their work and Laura and I a better sense of how we can shape the entire piece as director and musical director. Solo songs from The Directory will be given to some members of the ensemble, weaving the musical “shorts” together. We will begin our three-week workshop on Monday, January 6, 2014, during Marymount’s January semester. In addition to Laura and I, we’ll be inviting other writers in to work directly with the students, helping them to grow in their interpretation of new work and also given them all an opportunity to network. The performances on Friday, January 31 at 8 PM and Saturday, February 1 at 7:30 and 9:30 PM will be open to the public.

Laura Josepher shares, “The experience of having original material written especially for them and working one-on-one with the writers is going to be such an amazing opportunity for these students. Working on new material has its own special set of challenges, but it is such an important skill for young actors to have: creating a character, adapting to changing material, learning quickly. Having access to our wonderful writing teams and other Directory writers is sure to be an invaluable experience for all involved.”

Our deepest thanks to Patricia Hoag Simon, Mary Fleischer and the entire theatre staff at Marymount Manhattan College, who have made this workshop a reality. We expect this will be the first of many masterclasses and workshops to come!

If you’re interested in finding out more about our current educational offerings, click on the below hyperlink to see our brochure, or contact me directly at david@contemporarymusicaltheatre.com.

Directory Masterclass/Workshop Brochure

We look forward to keeping you posted on our progress!

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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.

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