We are thrilled to announce the line-up of new musicals for the 30th Annual Festival of New Musicals, which takes place on Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26, 2018 in New York. The Festival events will kick off on Monday, October 22 with Thank You, 30!, a gala event to celebrate the 30th Annual Festival.
Now in its 30th year, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals attracts theatre producers from around the world for this industry-only event to discover eight new musicals presented in 45-minute concert presentations over two days. All production costs are underwritten by NAMT, at no cost to the writing teams.  As a non-profit organization, NAMT funds the Festival entirely through donations, sponsorships and contributions. 

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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.

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Festival Show Update: Lempicka

This month, we caught up with Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer, the writers of 2016 Festival show Lempicka, to check in with them before the show receives its world premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer. The show is presented by special arrangement with NAMT member Seaview Productions.
 
What was the initial reaction to Lempicka after the 2016 Festival?
There was a lot of enthusiasm around the piece. NAMT’s Festival was our chance to get back on the map. Our show had been floundering for a while and our NAMT presentation helped to jump start our world premiere production. 

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Next, we chatted with Branden Huldeen, the Artistic Producer at NAMT member Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA about the theatre’s upcoming world premiere production of The Royal Family of Broadway by William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin. 

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Festival Show Update: Big Red Sun

This month, we caught up with John Jiler and Georgia Stitt, the writers of 2010 Festival show Big Red Sun to check in with them before the show receives its world premiere at NAMT member 11th Hour Theatre Company. The show received a Writers Residency Grant from NAMT’s National Fund for New Musicals in our 2015-2016 Granting Cycle.

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This month, we caught up with Gordon Leary and Julia Meinwald, the writers of 2016 Festival show The Loneliest Girl in the World to chat about the work they’ve done on the show since the Festival, and to learn more about the show’s upcoming world premiere with NAMT member Diversionary Theatre. The upcoming production received a Production Grant from NAMT’s National Fund for New Musicals. Leary and Meinwald are also Festival alumni for their 2011 show Pregnancy Pact.

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New Work in Progress: Soft Power

Next, we chatted with Michael Ritchie, the Artistic Director of NAMT member Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, CA about the theatre’s upcoming world premiere production of Soft Power by David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori. Soft Power was recently awarded a production grant from the National Fund for New Musicals.
How did Soft Power first find its way to Center Theatre Group, and what makes it such a great fit for the theatre?
Soft Power was originally commissioned by Center Theatre Group about four years ago as a world premiere play to cap off the Mark Taper Forum’s 50th Anniversary Season. And as the play evolved into its current form, it became clear it needed to move to a bigger stage, and we had that in the Ahmanson. Plus, David—who happens to be an Angeleno—is no stranger to the company, having premiered works including Yellow Face and Flower Drum Song at the Taper.

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We are thrilled to announce 18 awards granted from the National Fund for New Musicals, and five awards granted from the Innovation & Exploration Grant program. Now in its tenth year, this year the Fund is providing grants totaling $58,000 to organizations across the country. The Innovation & Exploration (I&E) Grant program, now in its second cycle, is providing grants totaling $7,000 to organizations nationwide.
NAMT Executive Director Betsy King Militello stated: “We are honored and excited to support our member theatres both as they work to develop innovative and provocative new musicals, and as they explore ideas to create new best practices in the field. With these grants, we have now awarded 135 grants totaling $481,000 to NAMT members across the country. These projects will join a growing list of important new musicals and initiatives supported by NAMT’s granting programs.”

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Festival Show Update: String

This month, we caught up with Adam Gwon and Sarah Hammond, the writers of 2014 Festival show String to chat about the work they’ve done on the show in the past few years, and to learn more about the show’s upcoming world premiere with NAMT member Village Theatre. Gwon is also a Festival alum for his 2011 show Bernice Bobs Her Hair and his 2008 show Ordinary Days.
String has had quite the journey since it appeared in the 2014 Festival! What was the response to String like after the Festival?
For the first couple days after the Festival, people would stop us in the street to tell us how much they liked the show. That was a thrill. It was the first time we really showed it off in New York to a big swath of industry folks so it was encouraging to see it get the laughs, and then learn how much it hooked people. In typical NAMT fashion, it also led to other professional opportunities for us—we were invited to places like McCarter Theatre and Feinstein’s/54 Below, and, of course, the Village Theatre in Seattle, which is how we wound up answering your questions while in tech for our world premiere!

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New Work in Progress: Penn State Musical Theatre

This month, we chatted with John Simpkins, the Director of NAMT member Penn State Musical Theatre in University Park, PA about the school’s new commissioning program. The school just presented its first full production of a show developed through the program, and will be holding a concert reading of their most recent commissioned show next month.
Penn State Musical Theatre started a commissioning program for new musicals a few years ago. Can you tell us a little about Penn State’s history with new work and what inspired this program?
Penn State Musical Theatre has always been open to new work—and has done readings and workshops along the way inspired mostly by professional relationships and a desire to meaningfully connect the students to writers and process wherever possible. When I got to Penn State in 2015, one of the things I began was our New Musicals Initiative, whose key component is the commissioning program. The inspiration for this unique commissioning idea was driven by finding the intersection of multiple objectives. For the writer, we hope to give each team a safe and creative place to think write, collaborate, and experiment with talented young artists who hunger for opportunity and will apply the fullness of their artistic souls to everything they do. For the training process, there is no better way to teach character development and the ability to engage with new works than to have a new musical forming around and with the students every year. And for the collaborative engine of 21st century musical theatre, we are very proud to commission shows to add to the repertoire and even continue on as co-producers in the professional journey of some of the projects.

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Next, we chatted with Mark Hoebee, the Producing Artistic Director  at NAMT member Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ about the theatre’s upcoming world premiere of The Sting, by Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone, Fest ’04), Mark Hollmann (The Girl, The Grouch, and The Goat; Fest ’91) and Greg Kotis. The musical is based on the 1973 film of the same name.

New musicals are the key focus of Paper Mill Playhouse’s mission; tell us a little more about that mission, and what makes Paper Mill such a special place to develop new work.

A key part of our mission is to foster a creative environment for advancing the art form. We strive to be as supportive and collaborative as possible during the arduous process of premiering a new work. That means committing all of the resources of our organization including a skilled and dedicated staff, a state-of-the-art facility, and the best stage crew in the business. It’s also an advantage to be so close to New York City, which enables the artists involved in our productions to maintain a “home base.”  Our mission also stresses developing future theater lovers, and what better way to do that than to present new work.  Our audience becomes part of that birthing processthey get to see it first!

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Festival Show Update: Sam's Room

This month, we caught up with the Sam’s Room writing team to find out what work the group has been doing on the show since October and to find out more about their reading at NAMT member Red Mountain Theatre Company’s inaugural Human Rights New Works Festival. Sam’s Room was featured in the 2017 Festival and the writing team is made up of Dale Sampson, Trey Coates-Mitchell, Caitlin Marie Bell and Marc Campbell. 

What has the post Festival response to Sam’s Room been like?
The response has been extremely positive and broadly helpful and we were confident in the presentation. What we weren’t expecting were so many opportunities from different angles. The Sam’s Room story and the way we tell it happens to involve eclectic communities outside of the theatre, such as the pop music industry, the National Speech and Debate Association, and the special needs community. NAMT not only catapulted us into the business side of the project, but gave us wonderful introductions into these other worlds as well.

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Members in the News

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NEA Awards Grants to NAMT and Our Members

The National Endowment for the Arts has recently announced that it will award over $25 million in grants to fund artistic projects and research, with just over $3 million going to companies working in the field of Theater & Musical Theatre. Many NAMT members have been selected to receive grants in this cycle, including $60,000 to NAMT itself, in support of our Festival of New Musicals and Fall Conference. Congratulations to those members receiving grants in this round of NEA funding, including:
Ars Nova
Atlantic Theater Company
Dallas Theater Center
Diversionary Theatre
Goodspeed Musicals
Horizon Theatre Company
The Lark
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
MCC Theater
NAMT
The Old Globe
Playwrights Horizons
Prospect Theater Company
The Public Theater
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Village Theatre
ZACH Theatre
Congratulations to all, and thank you to the NEA for supporting arts organizations throughout the country! For a full list of the recipients, visit the NEA’s website. 

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Over the summer, NAMT member New Musicals Inc. conducted a series of interviews with producers and writers of new musical theatre. The interviews were originally streamed live during the 2017 Stages Musical Theatre Festival, and are now being released on NMI’s online musical theatre writers resource center. NAMT’s executive director Betsy King Militello was featured as part of the broadcast, and her video interview is now available! Check out the interview to learn more about NAMT, our new works programs and more. Visit NMI’s website to see other videos from the series.

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New Work in Progress: Queensbury Theatre & Unlock'd

Next, we checked in with Marley Singletary, the Producing Executive Director at new NAMT member Queensbury Theatre in Houston, TX about their new works program. We also chatted about Queensbury’s upcoming regional premiere of Unlock’d, by Derek Gregor and Sam Carner.

What is Queensbury Theatre’s mission, and how does new works development fit into that mission?

Queensbury Theatre exists to serve the diverse community and culture of West Houston by providing exceptional theatrical entertainment and education while creating an environment where Houston artists and teachers can do meaningful work.

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Festival Show Update: Darling Grenadine

This month, we chatted with Daniel Zaitchik, the writer of 2017 Festival Show Darling Grenadine to find out what work he’s been doing on the show since October and where the show’s going next. Darling Grenadine previously received a Production Grant from the National Fund for New Musicals for Goodspeed Musicals’ 2017 production.

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New Work in Progress: Pittsburgh CLO & Up and Away

This month, we chatted with Mark Fleischer and Van Kaplan, respectively the Producing Director and Executive Producer at Pittsburgh CLO, about their new works program. We learned more about the program’s history, their upcoming festival of new works, and their spring world premiere musical, Up and Away, written by Kevin Hammonds and Kristin Bair. The PCLO new works festival will have its inaugural season this spring in conjunction with the NAMT Spring Conference.

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Time Magazine: The Top 10 Plays and Musicals of 2017

This week, Time Magazine released their list of the Top 10 Plays and Musicals of 2017, and two musicals in the NAMT family made the list! Come From Away (NAMT Festival ’13) by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and The Band’s Visit (NFNM Cycle 8 Production Grant recipient) by David Yazbeck and Itamar Moses respectively claimed the fourth and second spots on the list.
Both shows have been supported by NAMT members throughout their development processes. After its 2013 Festival presentation, Come From Away was first produced at La Jolla Playhouse with Junkyard Dog Productions, both NAMT members. The Broadway production claims seven NAMT members as producers, including Junkyard Dog Productions, Michael Rubinoff with Sheridan College, Nancy Nagel Gibbs, Spencer Ross, Yonge Street Theatricals, Wendy Gillespie & La Jolla Playhouse. The Band’s Visit received a Production Grant from the National Fund for New Musicals for its Off Broadway production at NAMT member Atlantic Theater Company, and bookwriter Itamar Moses is a NAMT Festival alumnus for his 2012 Festival show Nobody Loves You. Additionally, two plays produced by NAMT member The Public Theater were included in the list, including their production of Sweat which was named the number one play of the year.

The stupefying boredom of forgotten hamlet in the Israeli desert, where the residents are jolted out of their trance-like existence by a visiting band of Egyptian musicians. The inhabitants of a remote rocky island off the coast of Canada warmly embrace the passengers of 38 jets stranded there in the wake of 9/11… In this most polarized of years, a number of the best productions celebrate man’s shared humanity and the possibility of even the most entrenched enemies finding common ground and a path forward.

Visit the Time Magazine website to see the full list.

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New Work in Progress: The Woman in Question at AMTP

This month, we chatted with Brannon Bowers (Producing Director) and David H. Bell (Artistic Director) at the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University about their program as a whole, and the next musical they will present, The Woman in Question, written by Peter Eldridge and Festival Alumna Cheryl Coons (Fest ’94, Phantom of the Country Opera; Fest ’05, River’s End). Later, we check in with Cheryl to learn more about the process from her perspective.

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Festival Show Update: 5 Things You Should Know

Do you want to know more about the shows in the 29th Annual Festival of New Musicals? See the Five Things each show’s writing team wants you to know before you come to the Festival!

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New Work in Progress: KPOP

Ars Nova‘s upcoming production of KPOP, written by Jason Kim, Helen Park and Max Vernon and produced in association with Ma-Yi Theater Company and Woodshed Collective, is not to be missed. We reached out to Jason Eagan, Ars Nova’s Artistic Director, to learn more about the show and what audience members can expect when they experience the show for themselves. KPOP previously received a NFNM Writers Residency Grant at Ars Nova.
How did KPOP first find its way to Ars Nova?

KPOP began more than four years ago! Woodshed Collective’s Artistic Director (and KPOP‘s director) Teddy Bergman invited me to lunch to share his fascination with the burgeoning Korean Pop music industry and shared the seeds of an idea to create a massive immersive show based on the phenomenon. I was immediately taken with the idea and eventually commissioned Woodshed, along with bookwriter Jason Kim and Helen Park and Max Vernon to write music and lyrics. Since then an incredible array of wildly talented collaborators have assembled around this project and we’ve become collectively obsessed with translating the behind-the-scenes craft of K-Pop into an immersive theatrical experience.

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Festival Show Update: The Mad Ones

This month we caught up with Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, the writers of 2016 Festival show The Mad Ones (formerly known as The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown). This November The Mad Ones will receive an off-Broadway run with new NAMT member The Prospect Theater Company, preceded by a concert with NAMT member Philadelphia Theatre Company. We talked with Kait and Brian about what’s been happening with the show since the Festival and how they’re preparing for this next exciting step.

What was the post Festival response to The Mad Ones like?
We had a powerful response to the piece. It’s a show that people in the industry have heard songs from for a long time so I think there was a lot of interest in seeing what the show was about. It was exciting for us to have the songs seen in context and have the piece feel like more than the sum of its parts. We were able to make connections with lots of theaters that might be interested in doing the show down the line as well as develop a few new relationships with champions of the piece.

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Last week, Variety took a look at Apples and Oranges Arts‘ new works program, THEatre ACCELERATOR to dig into the unique way that this NAMT member is looking at new musical development. The Accelerator uses Silicon Valley entrepreneurial techniques to speed up the new musical development process. Variety spoke with Tim Kashani, Apples and Oranges’ co-founder, to get some further insight into the program’s creation and its goals.

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New Work in Progress: Goddess

Every year Theater Latté Da’s NEXT Festival introduces their audiences to new musicals. We reached out to Peter Rothstein, Theater Latté Da’s artistic director, to learn more about a show featured in this year’s Festival, Goddess, written by Saheem Ali, Jocelyn Bioh, Mkhululi Z. Mabija and Michael Thurber. The show was recently selected to receive a Writers Residency Grant from NAMT’s NFNM.


Can you tell us a little about the history of Theater Latté Da’s NEXT Festival and what your goals are for the program? How does the program tie into Latté Da’s mission?

NEXT is Theater Latté Da’s new work festival showcasing three works that stretch the boundaries of musical storytelling. It officially began in the spring of 2013. Each show receives two or three public readings with time for the writers to implement changes between each presentation. Following each performance is an in-depth conversation between the audience, playwrights, composers, lyricists and directors, facilitated by a dramaturg.
Latté Da’s mission is to create new connections between story, music, artist, and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater. As our world changes, so does our need to produce work that reflects that evolution. NEXT is a significant part of Latté Da’s investment in the bold future for American Musical Theater.

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