A guest post from Julia Meinwald, composer of this year’s show The Loneliest Girl in the World, written with Gordon Leary. Leary and Meinwald have previously been a part of the NAMT Festival in 2011 with their show Pregnancy Pact.
Like in any good sequel, Gordon and my return to NAMT promises the return of some starring players (welcome back awesome music director Rich Silverstein and sage consultant Steve Stettler!), some new blood to freshen up the franchise (welcome awesome director Michael Berresse!) and a tagline that we really like but in the end doesn’t quite represent the material (“Life’s a bitch and then you’re pied.”) And now you can experience the whole thing in crystal clear 3D at New World Stages!
Franchise-building potential aside, there are some differences being back at the NAMT Festival for the second time. For one thing, it helps banish doubts that the first time around was just a clerical error that everyone was too embarrassed to correct. Gordon and I sometimes worry that the stories we tell – often about footnotes to American history, often trying to humanize figures that the public tends to dismiss or despise – might not be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s probably true, but being included in the NAMT Festival twice bolsters our hope that the wider theatre community has a taste for our brand of aggressively empathetic theatre after all.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our gratitude to be included in the NAMT community. Our first time at the Festival, we felt immediately wrapped up in an inclusive group of artists. As we ramp up to the Festival this time around, we’re equally excited to spend quality time with this year’s teams. We might approach the art of mingling a bit differently this time, though. The NAMT Festival can be kind of like a wedding (planning my own wedding right now, I’ve got nuptials on the brain… but bear with me there’s a totally legit simile in here). On October 27 and 28 we’ll be in a beautiful venue with all our theatre family and friends, wishing there was more time to talk to everyone. I remember attending a NAMT reception back in 2011 hungry-eyed and stressed, wondering what combination of words would convey that our show was the perfect choice for anyone I talked to. I also remember having so many fascinating conversations that (if you can believe it) had nothing to do with our show. We chatted with producers about the scale and scope of shows they were most interested in, talked to fellow writers about the magical moments in their shows, and generally learned a ton about theatres all over the country. This year I think I’m going to take myself a little less seriously, seeking out more conversations like this instead of nervously reciting my elevator pitch under my breath while on line at the bar.
We’ll approach the whole Festival with a greater sense of calm the second time around. Five years ago, Gordon and I were here with the first show we’d ever written together. We hoped, maybe we knew, that we would have a long career of writing together, but it’s hard to shake the sense that This Is It. Coming back with a few more years and shows under our belts, I think we’ll be able to be less precious about cuts in the rehearsal room. We can be a little more adventurous with orchestrations. We’ll indulge in the NAMT Festival as not only an amazing opportunity for our show, but also a wonderful way to spend a week and a half. And if there’s an opportunity to turn this thing into a trilogy, needless to say we’re all for it.