This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com.
This will be out last blog post from The 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). It’s been three exciting weeks of contemporary musical theatre and, while hectic, I think everyone involved would say it has been very rewarding.
For this blog we asked our guest bloggers to reflect a bit on the process and what they and their shows got out of participating. For those of you thinking of submitting a show to the Festival in the future, they offer some good advice. We have also listed links to all our featured shows’ web pages so you can keep tabs on what they’re up to.
David and I enjoyed meeting and making lots of new friends at NYMF. We can’t wait to see what happens next for all these new musicals. In the meantime, if you’re not already a subscriber to contemporarymusicaltheatre.com, please consider joining. We plan to add some of the new exciting composers and lyricists we’ve met to our ever expanding roster of talent.
Until next year…
What are your next steps with the show? We’ve been blessed to have a lot of outside interest through several producers and our options are continuing to grow. We definitely want to have a commercial run and right now we’re focusing on finding the right fit. Until then we’re going to continue having a blast at the festival!
How can our readers keep tabs on you and your musical? Feel free to keep up to date with us either via twitter (@BayonetsOfAngst), Facebook: (facebook.com/BayonetsOfAngst) or our website (www.BayonetsOfAngst.com)! And once again, thank you for all the support!
Blogger – Heather Shields (Producer)
In what ways did the NYMF experience surpass your expectations? The support from the community, people who like to see new musicals, was unbelievable. We could not have anticipated the reaction and attendance of so many people who just wanted to be entertained – they didn’t come to see a big name, Broadway star…they were intrigued by the premise of the story. And they were rewarded for it!
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? That it’s going to be a lot of hard work. Many people think that the writers are done once the rehearsals start – or by opening night at least. But I will tell you that Dan Wolpow and Adam Spiegel were hard at work every day for the last year readying this show. Even during performances, they were taking notes, coming up with ideas, and planning their next steps in the show’s development. And stapling programs before curtain. I keep my creative team busy!
Tell us about one stand-out moment in your show’s run. There is nothing like opening night – especially at NYMF! We were honored to be the opening night show for the entire festival on July 7th – so getting to go to the Opening Night Party that was celebrating 30 new musicals was especially exciting. Though, I can’t imagine many people at that party had the elation (andrelief) that Team Cloned! had. We took about 800 pictures and were about as loud as you would expect this tight knit group of actors, designers, musicians, and creators to be!
What are your next steps with the show? The response has been incredible. Now that the run is over, it is about finding out what all the options are and choosing the best path. We want to be careful and consider everything.
How can our readers keep tabs on you and your musical? You can find me at www.CitySaltTheatricals.com and the show can be kept up with at www.ClonedtheMusical.com – you can also follow the show on Facebook (facebook.com/clonedmusical) and Twitter (@clonedmusical).
Blogger – Jon Provan (Book/Music/Lyrics, Producer and Musical Director)
In what ways did the NYMF experience surpass your expectations? The NYMF staff was incredibly helpful and professional, and the Signature Theatre itself is phenomenal. Most unexpected, though, was the reach of the Festival. We assumed we’d be responsible for most of our ticket sales, but the patrons and the public at large filled half our seats. As a presentation platform, NYMF is killer.
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? Many, many things, but primarily: use the feedback you will get along the way. By considering the input of each actor, creative head, administrator and audience member, whether you implement it or not, you make your show better. It gets clearer, either on the stage or in your head. Don’t shut it out — the work is never done!
Tell us about one stand-out moment in your show’s run. Since I played keys throughout our run, I didn’t have the best vantage point for much of our stage time, but for me, the best moment came during our final performance. I looked up at Ryan Jesse as he sang “Trees,” the final solo in Coming Of Age, and he was gazing out at the audience, smiling, connecting with them at a deep level via my song about a young man realizing that he can’t determine his fate, but he can choose to grow. That sentiment encapsulates my feelings about the NYMF experience, so it was moving to watch him give the song away to the audience, completing our purpose.
What are your next steps with the show? Revisions, of course! Aside from that, we’re speaking with several producers and theatres about giving Coming Of Age its next run. There’s been a lot of interest, which is heartening. With its rock combo pit, small ensemble cast and minimalist approach, the show was designed to be portable and stageable in a variety of contexts. I’m psyched to attend the first third-party production!
How can our readers keep tabs on you and your musical? We’ll post updates to our Facebook page and to comingofagemusical.com — in addition to keeping contemporarymusicaltheatre.com abreast of any exciting developments.
In what ways did the NYMF experience surpass your expectations? (Alexandra answers) For being a festival, NYMF really feels like the real thing. There are professionals working on this show from every aspect. It’s incredibly organized and well publicized. The fact that a new musical can start from scratch and become a full production in one month is amazing.
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? (Alexandra and Sean answer) I would tell them they need to build a brand for their show early on, they need to be prepared for a large budget that will need help from crowdfunding or investors, and that casting it right can be one of the most important things. I’d also tell them to try to put as much of their life outside of NYMF on hold and fully immerse themselves in the experience. There are just so many moments along the journey’s path and it flies by so quickly. It’s very much like being present to watching the growth and development of a newborn child.
What are your next steps with the show? (Alexandra answers) We hope to take this show to the next level, and soon. Whether that’s a regional theater, a tour, off-Broadway, or straight to Broadway, who knows! We’re open to anyone who wants to take this journey with us.
How can our readers keep tabs on you and your musical? Please check our website (www.madameinfamy.com), Facebook (facebook.com/madameinfamy), and twitter (@MadameInfamy). We have built up some amazing fans so we’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date!
Blogger: Stacey Weingarten (Book & Lyrics)
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? Know what you want to get out of the festival, your purpose for doing NYMF. What I mean is — if your show is in development and you need to see it on its feet to know what you have, great. Know that going in. If you want to pitch it to producers/etc? Also great. Just know what your goal is and work toward it. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Also, know your show and don’t get ahead of yourself; understand not every show is a “Broadway show”, and that’s ok. Oh, last but not least – while I’m at it – don’t be afraid of rewrites and cutting material. Make choices that are best for the show at large, not your ego. You can save things on your computer, print out copies. What serves the show best will ultimately serve you (and your teammates!) best. Actually, I lied. One more thing. Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate.
Tell us about one stand-out moment in your show’s run. Can I have two? First, we did a TDF Autism-Friendly performance, and there’s a moment during the show where Squish teaches Rue to howl at the moon… and all the children howled along. It was so innocent and sweet to hear all the kids softly howling along, completely in the moment. Number two? In one of our other performances, we have a moment toward the end of the show where Rue’s Fairy Dogmother asks if anyone has a meatball sub lying around, and without missing a beat, a little boy in the audience goes, “I got one!”. For a moment I thought we were going to have a One Man, Two Guv’ners moment! Kids are the best.
What are your next steps with the show? We are sussing through some interest on the show, and waiting for some feedback. Our hope is to find a producer for a commercial run, and/or a licensing company who can take on our project (then again, who isn’t?) since I’d love to see it have a future. I’d love to see it have more life… keep on spreading the word about dog adoption, and telling my little Rue’s story!
How can our readers keep tabs on you and your musical? By following us at @RescueRue on Twitter and instagram, and at facebook.com/rescuerue are probably the best bets — but RescueRue.com will remain active as well!
Blogger: Brian Sutton (Book/Music/Lyrics)
In what ways did the NYMF experience surpass your expectations? Tough one to answer, because I didn’t really have specific expectations. But I was really impressed with the quality of the production: the creative team, the cast, and the crew were all remarkably talented, and very nice as well. I was also very happy with the response to the play: audiences laughed a lot and applauded the songs a lot, we got partial or complete standing ovations for all five performances, and the reviews have been almost uniformly favorable, including a couple of reviews that were practically love letters to the show and the production.
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? 1) It’s really intense, especially if you’re the sole author rather than part of a collaboration, so that all of the revisions, and all of the producers’ headaches, ultimately fall to you. 2) You’ll probably be encouraged—strongly encouraged—to revise your play far more extensively than you had ever imagined. On the whole, this will almost certainly be a good thing, and your play will probably end up being much better as a result. This was the case for me. But it may be painful at times, especially if you hate confrontation (as I do), and thus are prone to do things to placate people and then to sulk afterward (as I am prone to do). Ideally, you’ll develop a sense of when to recognize (a) that you’re receiving good advice from people who want your play to succeed just as much as you do, and that you should follow that advice and be grateful for the opportunity to improve, and (b) that in certain cases you need to trust your gut and stick to your guns and say, “We’re doing this part the way I wrote it,” even though a number of other people, all with strong New York theatre credentials, are (repeatedly, persistently!) urging you to change it. Distinguishing (a) from (b) is extremely important, but extremely difficult, and I can’t give you any guidelines for it.
Tell us about one stand-out moment in your show’s run. Just hours before we opened, our male lead had to go to the hospital. We had no understudy as such. On less than two hours’ notice, we asked our assistant to the director to go on as the male lead. We had originally hired him as a favor to a friend of the director and because he was free—he needed three credits to graduate from college, and this made a nice internship. In other words, we hired him without regard to whether or not he could sing and act. He had never acted in, even a college production, and now he was going to be our male lead on less than two hours’ notice. Our music director gave him a crash course in the songs, our fight director arranged a simplified version of his fight scene, our costume designer confirmed that he more or less fit in the male lead’s costume, and we all hoped for the best. Dan was, in a word, terrific. After he sang the male lead’s first solo song in the show (fourth song into the show, not counting overture), the audience applauded and applauded and just wouldn’t stop. He continued to play the male lead for the rest of the run of the show and improved with every performance. By the final performance, less than 96 hours after he had been informed that he was to remain the male lead throughout the run, he was off book. An incredibly lucky break for him—but also for all of us connected with the show.
What are your next steps with the show? Marketing it. The likeliest markets appear to be high schools, plus perhaps colleges and maybe regional theatres that do Shakespeare and want to find a way to make Shakespeare more appealing to a broader audience. I need to arrange for a new set of demo recordings, since we overhauled the music thoroughly compared to previous versions of the show, so that the old demos are no longer accurate. And I need to get the finished product from the video of the show, especially the one-minute highlight reel or “sizzle.” Once I have those, I need to start approaching theatres, play publishers, and possibly licensing agents, armed with quotations from the almost-unanimously-favorable reviews.
In what ways did the NYMF experience surpass your expectations? I was delighted by what an interest there is out there for new musical theatre work, and by how many people in the industry come to NYMF rooting the shows on, and hoping for them to succeed. We are the future.
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? I would tell them to take the NYMF experience as an opportunity to work hard on the writing of their show. Because of many limitations that are part of the NYMF experience, a glitzy production is not possible, so it’s best to treat the whole thing as an ornate workshop. People who come to see NYMF shows watch the productions with this in mind. No one will think less of a well-written show that is not extravagantly produced, but they will think less of an overly-ambitious, unsuccessful production of an unfinished show.
Tell us about one stand-out moment in your show’s run. The walls of the Signature Center are decorated with portraits of great playwrights. The door to the Ford Studio Theatre, where The Travels played at NYMF, is across from a portrait of Paula Vogel, who is not only one of my favorite playwrights, but also was the grad school mentor of my college playwriting teacher, Laura Schellhardt. Laura used to talk to us a lot about what a inspiration Paula was, and about how much she learned from her. I stood at the door to the Studio Theatre, watching the audience come in to watch our first performance, with Paula Vogel looking over us from across the hallway, and it felt very special.
What are your next steps with the show? We have some rewrites we’d like to do now that this production is over, but then, after that…who can say? We hope to have another production of the show done in the near future.
In what ways did the NYMF experience surpass your expectations? I was most grateful for all the support I received as a debuting director. Not only from NYMF but also from current director friends and most especially from other directors I’d just met through the whole NYMF process. I wasn’t expecting that kind of camaraderie and it was just a whole new wonderful side of NYMF I got to experience.
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? Honestly? Don’t be the first show in any of the theatres. The lack of tech is hard enough when the theatre you’re in has already been ‘tested’ out for technical bugs, rigging, etc. But to be the first show of the festival is to be the ‘technical guinea pig’ of whatever theatre you’re in and we had some added technical headaches (in addition to the regular expected ones) because of it.
Tell us about one stand-out moment in your show’s run. Our rave from the NY Times was certainly a standout moment for us. They came on a technically disastrous night for us (see above) and we were absolutely expecting the worst. When it came out and it was really positive, we were all kinds of relieved, shocked and thrilled.
What are your next steps with the show? I believe there are already some meetings on the calendar both here on the East coast and on the West, which is very exciting. We also hope to get an official cast recording done ASAP since our cast was top-notch and we’d love to get them all in the recording studio before the show leaves their chords.
In what ways did the NYMF experience surpass your expectations?
(Blake answers) Several, but the one that jumps out most (to both myself and, I think, our audiences) is the quality of our cast. Although the concept and script behind WikiMusical undoubtedly played a role in attracting our incredible cast, I believe a large portion of their desire and willingness to take the leap of faith had to do with the fantastic tradition and track record of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Just as we (Frank, Trent and myself) wanted to be part of NYMF, so too do some of New York’s most talented actors and that enabled us to present our story with a caliber of performances that I never could have imagined.
If a writer friend told you they were going to do a NYMF show next year, what would you tell them they needed to know? (Blake answers) Sleep now because you’re not going to be able to do so during the months leading up to the festival. And then I would add that despite the crazy, chaotic sleep-eradicating schedule that they would be in for, that constant need to hustle, re-evaluate and adapt will make their show evolve quickly and in exciting, unexpected ways.
Tell us about one stand-out moment in your show’s run (Frank answers) Our opening night was both nerve-racking and electrifying. With a NYMF show you only have one day in the theater to tech the entire show; needless to say, we barely made it through our cue-to-cue before we had to take a dinner break. But when the proverbial curtain came up, everything somehow fell into place. It was the first time Blake and I got to watch the show together with a large audience that wasn’t just friends or members of our creative team, and it was thrilling to see everyone laughing, smiling and clapping.
What are your next steps with the show? (Frank answers) We’ve gotten incredible feedback on the show, and now that we’ve seen the piece as a fully staged production, we know what’s working really well and what still needs tweaking. So in addition to continuing to work on the show, we are actively researching regional theaters and ideally would love to find a home for WikiMusical off-Broadway. Several people have mentioned to us that it seems like a show that would fit right in at a place like New World Stages, which would be amazing.
How can our readers keep tabs on you and your musical? (Frank and Blake answer) Please visit our website (wikithemusical.com) and join our mailing list, “like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/wikimusical), and follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @wikimusical.
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