New Work in Progress: Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival

We chatted with Brett Smock, the Producing Artistic Director at NAMT member Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in Auburn, NY, about the theatre’s upcoming world premiere production of Anne of Green Gables by Matte O’Brien and Matt Vinson. Anne of Green Gables was featured in NAMT’s Other Shows You Should Know jukebox last year.
How did Anne of Green Gables first find its way to Finger Lakes?
Anne of Green Gables, A New Folk Rock Musical was accepted to participate in our new works program, “The PiTCH.” Each year, we provide residency to five different creative teams and their emerging works. We offer them housing, transportation, marketing support, a dedicated venue, dramaturgical support and the beautiful backdrop of the Finger Lakes. They are able to immerse and work on their new musical and at the end of each week, the team is able to present or “pitch” their new material to audiences for three presentations. Basically, we create space and opportunity for musical theatre writers. To date, we have given 59 new new musicals development opportunity through “The PiTCH.” Last year, Anne was a big hit at “The PiTCH.” Matte O’Brien (Book/Lyrics) and Matt Vinson (Music) presented excerpts from the show to sold-out houses and during their week of residency it became clear that the show had incredible appeal across all demographics. We began discussions about the show’s needs, its development path and how we might help facilitate for the show and the team. That discussion led to us producing the premiere production this year as part of our 60th Anniversary season.

What kind of developmental work have you been doing with the writers as you prepare for the show’s world premiere?
Matt and Matte, along with the extended creative team, have been working diligently to hone the piece and marry storytelling with form. In association with Justin Nichols, the team came together in April for a week of development work. Born from that were more strategic improvements. We’re excited to get them up to Auburn as they begin to explore the world of Anne and bring it to life.
What makes this show a great fit for your audiences?
We have been looking to ensure one slot each season for the next generation and families. This show fit that need perfectly. Anne is a theatre event for all ages. Its commercial appeal and viability is present in all components—from book, score and physical storytelling to message and themes. It supports our expansive education division, our commitment to new works and our desire to build new audiences.

Why should everyone plan a trip to upstate New York this summer to check out the show?
The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival is located in the heart of wine country, New York—central to Syracuse, Rochester and Ithaca. The setting is beautiful and makes for a great escape. Additionally, we are a vibrant arts organization and attending one of our mainstage shows or new works will prove to be a compelling and very entertaining theatrical experience. We’re proud to produce world and regional premieres, new works, reimagined classics with innovative designs and a vibrant culture. Come check us out! 

For more information about Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival and Anne of Green Gables, visit Finger Lakes’ website.

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