New Work in Progress: Festival of New Artists at Goodspeed Musicals

An interview with Goodspeed Musicals’ Line Producer Donna Lynn Hilton about their 7th Annual Festival of New Artists happening January 13-15. The Festival is in partnership with fellow NAMT members The Hartt School and Boston Conservatory. The line-up includes readings of NAMT Festival Show The Dogs of Pripyat, Not Wanted on the Voyage from the NAMT alumni writers who wrote The Story of My Life, and Harmony, Kansas. There will also be late-night cabarets featuring NAMT alumni writers Jeremy Desmon, Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond. Plus special events all weekend!

What are the goals of the Festival of New Artists?
We have a number of goals for the festival…to provide a safe haven for very “young” musicals; to provide the opportunity for collaboration at a very early stage in the development of a new musical—for everyone involved—writers, directors, musical directors and performers; to provide young musical theatre performers the rare opportunity to participate in the creation of a new musical and its characters; and to give [these young musical theatre performers] access to the professional writers, directors, MDs and performers.

Having been at the Festival for the last 3 years, I have seen it really blossom. What additions do you have in store for us this year?
We haven’t expanded the programming of our festival weekend much this year but are very proud that, in addition to the 3 teams presenting their full musicals during the festival weekend, we are able to host 3 teams of writers for Festival Residencies and will feature the work of these teams in our Festival Cabarets. One of those teams will present a “sneak peek” at an exciting new musical being developed by Goodspeed and scheduled for the Norma Terris Theatre in 2012.

How did the collaboration with the Universities start and how does the students’ involvement shape the Festival?
The collaboration between the Hartt School (now in its 7th year) and with the Boston Conservatory (in its 2nd year) is a direct result of relationships begun and developed through our work with NAMT. Goodspeed wanted to provide another outlet for supporting new musical development in our quieter winter months and the universities were looking to expose their students to professional opportunities and training. It was a perfect match.

What is the Festival experience like for the writers?
The main focus of the first 11 days of the festival is on the writers, giving them the opportunity to hear their work read and encouraging them to respond to it with revision. The Festival presentations, while an important piece of the puzzle, are somewhat secondary from the writers’ perspective. Several years ago, in response to a similar question, one of our Festival writer said… “the presentation is our gift to Goodspeed for allowing us to be here for two weeks, to work on and rewrite our show.”

Goodspeed really provides a whole weekend experience filled with new musicals. What do you hope your patrons walk with when they leave the Festival weekend?
Several things – an appreciation for and understanding of the passion, hard work and commitment that go into developing a new musical; excitement about the talent that is entering the field today; and, of course, an acknowledgement of what a truly wonderful place East Haddam and Chester, CT and Goodspeed’s Artists Village are to develop and present musical theatre, established and new.

Why should your fellow members come to beautiful snowy East Haddam in January to catch the Festival?
You really won’t regret joining us…the synergy created by the art and artists on display will thrill you and inspire you as it has us each January for the past 7 years. In many ways, the Festival is the most exciting project we mount all year long.

For more information about Goodspeed Musicals’ Festival of New Artists, please visit

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