Live from NYMF 2015 – Vol. 1

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


We are pleased to be partnering with New York Musical Theatre Festival (aka NYMF) again after the success of last year’s blog series featuring shows from the festival. This year the festival opens this Monday, July 7 and runs through July 27.

The New York Musical Theatre Festival nurtures the creation, production, and public presentation of stylistically, thematically, and culturally diverse new musicals to ensure the future vitality of musical theatre. We here at are all about supporting new musicals and their creators!

Over the next month, we’re going to give you a bird’s eye view into the development process of several NYMF shows, which are only a small portion of the 30+ musicals, readings and concerts presented during the festival. Each of the creative teams has agreed to blog for us at three different points during their rehearsal process, answering specific questions about their journey toward opening night.

Below are the shows we plan on tracking during this exciting NYMF festival season. You’ll find a link to each of their individual pages with information on the writers, cast, creative and production teams and links to purchase tickets.


210 Amlent Avenue logo

Becky Goldberg: Book
Karl Hinze: Music & Lyrics

Welcome to the Hamptons, where fireworks are about to go off – guests are gathering at the old Jordan estate at 210 Amlent Avenue for Fourth of July Festivities with their host, Mrs. Jordan, a retired actress. But one unexpected guest, Judah, a young poet, will soon ignite a firestorm of events. In his search for the truth, he will unearth long-kept secrets that will lead to unexpected consequences. This compelling new musical is inspired by the stylish storytelling of Ibsen, Chekov, and O’Neill.  

How did the idea of your musical come about? 

(Karl Hinze – Music & Lyrics): It started with the image of this big house, and the idea that this house could represent different things to different people—an escape, a prison, a future, a memory—depending on their experiences there. The play was inspired by all the kinds of stories I love: mysteries by Agatha Christie, well-made plays like Ibsen’s Ghosts, and more contemporary shows like August: Osage County and Next to Normal. (We’ve been describing it a little bit like August: Osage County mixed with A Little Night Music.) Above all, it’s really a show about family.

Have there been any large-scale changes to your production since your show was chosen for NYMF?

(Karl): Yes, definitely. We’ve worked to incorporate a lot of the feedback from our NYMF reading last year, including new songs and a changed ending we’re very excited about.

(Becky Goldberg – Book): We’re both the kind of writers that never really feel “done” with anything. I’m somewhat nostalgic about a few of the things we’ve lost over the course of rewriting (I still constantly find myself singing “Up On The Stage,” a song we cut well over a year ago), but am always of the mindset that something fresh and well-thought-out can do nothing but good for a story.

What do you hope to take away from this festival experience in terms of the shape of the show?

(Becky): I would love it to be trapezoidal. Ok, seriously now. We have built such an incredible team, and I’m just excited to see what they’re going to do with it. Someone once said letting a director take your piece and produce it is like giving up a child for adoption. You don’t love it any less, but you realize that it needs more than just you to grow up. It’s sad to think about, but it’s a tenet that I absolutely subscribe to. So Sami, raise my kid!

(Samantha “Sami” Saltzman – director): Becky, I really hope you mean the show…

How long have you been involved with the show and what attracted you to the musical? 

(Sami): I joined the team when 210 Amlent Avenue was accepted to the NYMF reading series last year. I’ve spent the last five months working on dramaturgical meetings, advising on re-writes, and getting the cast and crew assembled.

It’s wonderful to read a show with such a meaty, well-constructed plot and a real soul. The characters are fascinating people with real issues who aren’t afraid to attack their emotional problems head-on. I was drawn to the idea that family is more than biological and that we can build and tear down a family with little more than a rumor.

Read more about 210 Amlent Avenue here.


Calico BuffaloEJ Stapleton: Book
Peter Stopschinski & EJ Stapleton: Music and Lyrics

When the first-born son to the chief of all buffalo arrives covered with the markings of a calico kitten, the chief, his son, and the entire buffalo nation are catapulted into the adventure of a lifetime. The Calico Buffalo is a compelling theatrical experience. From the first musical moment, Grammy® Award-winning composer Peter Stopschinski lets us know we are in for one wonder-filled ride.

How did the idea of your musical come about? 

(EJ Stapleton – Book, Music & Lyrics): The initial idea for The Calico Buffalo came out of a dream. Many of my project ideas have come to me that way. I dreamed I was standing at the edge of the Painted Desert with my arms slung over the necks of two huge animals. The animals began to run, carrying me along with them. When we reached the other side of the desert, I saw the animals were two calico colored buffalo, covered with white orange and black spots. The next morning, the project began.

Have there been any large-scale changes to your production since your show was chosen for NYMF?

(EJ): There have been significant changes since our association with NYMF began. Mostly in 2014. The Calico Buffalo was included in the staged readings at NYMF series last year. Part of that process was six months of work with NYMF honing the book. It was a fabulous opportunity to interact with fresh “eyes and ears”. This year our work with a NYMF dramaturg served to fine tune our project. NYMF has provided a wonderful environment in which the work can be beautifully polished.

What do you hope to take away from this festival experience in terms of the shape of the show?

(EJ): What we hope to take away from our experience as a full production NYMF show is two-fold. First is to have the opportunity to see the show, living and breathing, up on its feet. After five years in development, we will get to see, first hand, how it moves. This production will be the first time for our creative team. It is, for us, the birth of The Calico Buffalo. And second, we take away the response from five New York theater audiences. That alone is reason enough to be here.

Read more about The Calico Buffalo here.


Foolerie logoSantino DeAngelo: Book, Music & Lyrics

Come be an invited guest of the Great Earl in this exclusive chance to meet Clowne, the most infamous jester of the age, and his traveling troop of fools as they employ madcap madness and musical comedy in their desire to divert you! Wits will be battled…

How did the idea of your musical come about?

(Santino DeAngelo – Book, Music & Lyrics): I was working in Florida with a producer on a musical version of the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, but when another company beat us to the punch with their own version we decided to shelve the project and work on a comedy. My assignment from my producer was to write an original musical comedy, not based on any source material, and I had to write the book, music and lyrics. I was so frustrated about starting over, and the nature of art in the 21st century, I decided to write a show about it.

Have there been any large-scale changes to your production since your show was chosen for NYMF?

(Santino): I think of all the shows in the festival, Foolerie may have seen the most drastic changes this season. Having access to such brilliant collaborators really inspired me to push the envelope. Following a meeting with my scene designer, who suggested setting the show outside, I completely rewrote the book, cut two songs, added three, changed characters, and more. I’m actually still changing it as we speak. I like to work in a constant state of flux — it ensures that the best ideas always make it into the show.

What do you hope to take away from this festival experience in terms of the shape of the show?

(Santino): New York has the greatest audiences in the world and the chance for them to see my work is the underlying opportunity that the New York Musical Theater Festival represents. While the audience watches the show, I will be watching them — which moments land, which don’t, when they’re engaged, when they’re not. I don’t believe in focus groups, or self-polling, what separates a great playwright is the skill to watch an audience and understand what’s going on inside them.  That is the most critical part of the shaping process. Opening night, the creative team’s work may be done, but my work is just beginning.

Read more about Foolerie here.


Ethan Anderson: Book, Music & Lyrics

Eric is writing a musical about his life. But instead of actors, he’s using voices…the voices in his head. Frustrated with his own writing and his relationship with his mother, Eric brings his “HeadVoices” to life, and together they begin to musicalize his story. HeadVoice is a funny, touching, and original musical that tells the story of a young composer growing up and discovering love, loss, and the power of music.

How did the idea of your musical come about?

(Ethan Anderson – book, music & lyrics): I began writing music during high school (at the peak of my teenage angst) as I experienced several of my firsts: love, loss, frustration with my parents, and growing up in New Orleans. I became fascinated with how writers turn personal experiences into music. From that seed came HeadVoice. Loosely based on my life and experiences, HeadVoice is the story of Eric, a young composer, using the voices in his head to write a show about his ideal musical life as a way to cope with reality.

Have there been any large-scale changes to your production since your show was chosen for NYMF?

(Ethan): Since HeadVoice has been chosen for the festival, there have been several changes to the piece. I chose Charlie Johnson to direct the show since I knew he would challenge me and force me to take a closer look at each lyric, line, and note. Since we’ve begun editing, several songs towards the end of the show have been replaced with new ones as we’ve clarified the exact story we want to tell. I thought it would be more difficult to part with old material, but I’ve found it very exciting!

What do you hope to take away from this festival experience in terms of the shape of the show? 

(Ethan): In terms of the shape of the show, after seven years of working on this puppy, I truly believe I’ve finally reached the show I set out to write. That being said, I’ll be eager to see how an audience reacts to and engages with the show. Most importantly, however, I hope for the New York audience to embrace HeadVoice and the story it tells. It’s one that everyone can relate to because it’s about being a child and being a parent, which all of us have been at least one of those!

How long have you been involved with the show, and what attracted you to the musical? 

(Charlie Johnson – Director): Ethan asked me to direct HeadVoice a couple of months ago – March, I believe. He gave me the script along with some demos. After going through the material, I knew I had to be a part of this production. The show had real heart, a tuneful score, and a unique premise that intrigued me. I knew putting this material on its feet would be challenging- and that excited me. I was also jazzed for the opportunity to work with Ethan. He’s a smart guy, and we have a terrific working relationship. It was a no brainer- I agreed to direct.

Read more about HeadVoice here.


Spot on the Wall logoKevin Jaeger: Book & Lyrics
Alex Mitchell: Music

Spot On The Wall tells the story of one family’s search for expression and empathy inside a museum. Paul Hunter, a talented photographer, is about to have an exhibition of his work at the museum – but when his artwork focuses on his mother’s recent lost…

How did the idea of your musical come about?

(Alex Mitchell – Music): Spot on the Wall was born out of a late night conversation while Kevin and I were working as performers as the Surflight Theatre.  We both were very passionate about musical theatre as an art form but felt that we hadn’t truly discovered our place in this industry.

(Kevin Jaeger – Book & Lyrics): I have a degree in Classical Civilizations with a focus on Greco-Roman Society and Culture and had always wanted to write a show that incorporated classic elements of mythology in a contemporary story.

(Alex): So from that night of brainstorming, the idea that would become Spot on the Wall was born.

Have there been any large-scale changes to your production since your show was chosen for NYMF?

(Kevin): One of the best parts of NYMF is that they pair you with a professional dramaturg.  We’ve been working with Brandon Anderson, a genius who brought a fresh and intelligent set of eyes and helped us really discover the story we are trying to tell.

(Alex): So we cut a major supporting character–

(Kevin): And that change led to smaller changes that really focused the piece.

(Alex): Musically, we’ve cut two songs, rewritten some lyrics, and written a new eleven o’clock number called “Don’t Wait” that we’re really excited for people to hear.

What do you hope to take away from this festival experience in terms of the shape of the show?

(Alex): Since this is the World Premiere of SOTW, we’re both just so thrilled to have this opportunity to see the piece come to life and grow and develop.

(Kevin):  A show starts its life on the page, but it takes on a life of its own when you add a brilliant cast and creative team.  We’re looking forward to meeting these characters in the rehearsal room and onstage and finding the intangible moments that transform a show into an experience.

(Alex): Plus–it would be great to see if it works…

(Kevin): Yeah, that would be great.

How long have you been involved with the show and what attracted you to the musical?

(Katie Kavett – Production Stage Manager) I’ve been involved with Spot on the Wall since 2012, when a 15-minute excerpt was featured in the West Village Musical Theatre Festival. I again stage managed the show in the 2014 WVMTF, and I’m thrilled to finally work on the full-length version! I think the music is gorgeous and the story is very touching. Plus, we have a fantastic team putting it all together!

(Madison Stratton – Actress): I auditioned for the very first incarnation of SOTW back when it was called A Modern Myth almost 3 years ago but I didn’t play the role of Laurel until the first official reading almost a year later. I keep coming back to this story and these creators because of the incredible playground offered to me as an actor by their beautiful words and one-of-a-kind music. The creative license and permission to play and be a part of the creative process has me totally hooked on this team and I will always be one of their biggest fans.

(Allicia Lawson – Choreographer): I’ve been involved with the show since I choreographed the selections of SOTW featured in the 2014 West Village Musical Theatre Festival and took part in early readings.  So many things attracted me to this musical. It’s such a moving and relatable piece of work.  It takes the audience on a deeply emotional journey and each character is so beautifully written.  Also, the music is so wonderful and current. I truly think Spot on the Wall has the whole package. I’m very excited and honored to be a part of building such a new and exciting show.

Read more about Spot on the Wall here.


Tonya_and_Nancy logo

Elizabeth Searle: Book & Lyrics
Michael Teoli: Music

Two girls going for the gold. Based on the Olympic skating “knee whack” scandal, Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera is the story of two girls going for the gold. Produced in Boston, LA, and Portland, OR, it’s drawn strong reviews (“Brilliant and touching”; “Absurdly funny…surprisingly poignant”; “Black Swan on ice”). The show has inspired its own media madness on Good Morning America, ESPN Hollywood, NPR, CBS, the AP, and more. It’s a dark comedy done with heart.

How did the idea of your musical come about?

(Elizabeth Searle – Concept, Book & Lyrics): I was obsessed with the Harding-Kerrigan knee-whack scandal and took notes on it before I knew what I’d write. First, I wrote a novella, Celebrities in Disgrace. When my composer niece, Abigail Al-Doory Cross, asked me to collaborate on a chamber opera, my first thought was: Tonya & Nancy as opera. Right away, I was hearing ‘Why Me’ as an aria. Over the years of developing the opera, then with Michael Teoli, the rock opera, many people have told me that story obsessed them too. As the screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine said to me: “Someone had to write that.”

(Michael Teoli – Composer): I had been wanting to write a musical that allowed for a high-energy rock experience that also had a fun and meaty story people could relate with. I felt that most “rock operas” were really “pop operas”, and had the desire to put the Rock back in “Rock Opera”. I was scheduled to help turn Elizabeth’s chamber opera into a full-length, but hoped to re-write the musical as a rock opera. Luckily, she had the same idea! The larger-than-life story was a perfect match for a progressive rock score, and the emotional content allowed for a full pallet of musical styles.

Have there been any large-scale changes to your production since your show was chosen for NYMF?

(Elizabeth): YES – and to anyone who might have seen our show before, I can promise surprises in the new version! Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera is the first musical I’ve written. I have revisited our book and lyrics – our Director, David, helped me to re-structure and asked all the right questions. So I think we have a tighter show with more character development and opportunity for humor than ever. Also – Michael Teoli has made some exciting musical changes, which have been implemented by our awesome Music Director, Rock of Ages‘ Henry Aaronson. I thank NYMF for the opportunity to further develop our show and get it ready for NYC.

(Michael): Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera is always growing and developing with each production. The NYMF version will find a tighter book with streamlined storytelling. We are experimenting with moving around the order of songs to allow for an experience that is more chronological and easier to follow. Past versions of the show dealt with some of the side stories and follow ups in the lives of Tonya & Nancy in greater details, but the NYMF production will have a greater focus on the show’s main points.

What do you hope to take away from this festival experience in terms of the shape of the show?

(Elizabeth): I hope to learn from each and every rehearsal and performance- and also from the performances of fellow NYMF shows– and to come away with a finished (or nearly finished!) product. We aim to truly get the show ‘in shape.’ Some shows are just beginning at NYMF; we have already had several productions so we really hope to get our show geared up to move forward- whether in NY, on tour, or overseas. Opportunities are already brewing! Being a part of NYMF has already helped to expand the shape of our show and its future.

(Michael): We feel like T&N is something special and we hope to bring it to the next level. NYMF will be the first time in years we’ll be performing on a proscenium stage so we’ll get to see how that works and also test the most recent changes. NYMF provides an amazing opportunity to put the show in front of a New York audience! I am hopeful our intentions will resonate, and that our show’s potential will speak for itself and find the right path for continuation.

How long have you been involved with the show and what attracted you to the musical?

(Henry Aronson – Music Director): I was brought onboard by the show’s General Manager/ Creative Consultant, Kimberly Eaton when the team for NYMF was being put together. I love that Michael chose to dramatize this story in such a grand epicrock language. That, combined with the real empathy for the characters in Elizabeth’s libretto, makes it a truly dramatic and personal statement, not a superficial tabloid treatment. The cast is sounding great, and I’m looking forward to working with Michael and the band to rock this out!

Read more about Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera here.


For more information about these and other shows taking part in the festival, check out the NYMF website. Our LIVE FROM NYMF – Vol. 2 blog will be published on July 16th!


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