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New Work in Progress: Marie, Dancing Still

Next, we chatted with Bill Berry, the Producing Artistic Director at NAMT member The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA about the company’s upcoming premiere of Marie, Dancing Still – A New Musical, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Marie, Dancing Still is set to begin previews on March 22. 
In 19th-century Paris, an era of groundbreaking artistry, a girl named Marie dreams of being the next star of the ballet. Despite the odds of her hard-scrabble life, she scrimps, saves and steals in pursuit of her ambitions. But when fate leads her to the studio of Impressionist Edgar Degas, she unknowingly steps into immortality—becoming the inspiration for his most famous sculpture ever: Little Dancer.

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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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We are thrilled to announce 16 awards granted from their National Fund for New Musicals, a major funding program to support NAMT member not-for-profit theatres in their collaborations with writers to create, develop and produce new musicals. Now in its ninth year, the Fund will provide grants totaling $53,000 to organizations across the country.
NAMT Executive Director Betsy King Militello stated: “We are honored and excited to support our member theatres as they work with this inspiring group of writers to develop these innovative and provocative new musicals.  With these grants, we have now awarded 104 grants totaling $411,500. These projects will join a growing list of important new musicals added to the canon with support from our National Fund for New Musicals.”

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Festival Show Update: Beatsville

Beatsville, written by Wendy Wilf and Glenn Slater, appeared in the 2008 NAMT Festival. The show is now preparing for its world premiere in a co-production with NAMT member the 5th Avenue Theatre and Asolo Rep Theatre. This month, we caught up with the writers to hear about the work they’ve done on the piece since the Festival leading up to this premiere.

What was the response to Beatsville like after the 2008 Festival?
We had a great Festival—our cast was spectacular, and made the show look fantastic—and we received a hugely gratifying outpouring of interest from various theatres and organizations who wanted to help us take the next step forward. We sort of fumbled the ball a little—we felt that we still had some writing to do, and weren’t sure what that next step should be, and then we got swept up in other projects. Luckily for us, when we were finally ready to move forward, there was still a lot of goodwill in the community from people who remembered it from the Festival, and they proved instrumental in helping us get the show back on track.

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Members in the News

NAMT in the News

NEA Awards Grants to NAMT and Our Members

The National Endowment for the Arts has recently announced that it will award over $30 million in grants to fund artistic projects and research, with $3,505,000 going to companies working in the field of Theater & Musical Theatre. Many NAMT members have been selected to receive grants in this cycle, including $55,000 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:
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Ars Nova
Atlantic Theater Company
The Lark
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
The Old Globe
Playwrights Horizons
Portland Center Stage
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. Watch the NEA’s video above to learn more about their impact on the arts in America.

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Late last month, the inaugural recipients of The Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge for High School Students were announced. The program is a joint initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and Playbill, Inc. with additional support from Disney Theatrical Group.
Angel Rodriguez, a student from Puget Sound Adventist Academy High School in Seattle, Washington was named National Champion; Rodriguez was initially recommended to the program by Seattle NAMT member theatre The 5th Avenue. The two runner-ups were Jake Berglove from Perpich Arts High School, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota and Chelsea Mayo from R.L Turner High School in Dallas County, Texas.
Now, Playbill has uploaded videos of all three songs being performed by Broadway talent! Watch the full videos and see what’s in store for the future of musical theatre. Congratulations to all three of these young songwriters–we can’t wait to read your Festival submissions one day!

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Sharing Ideas and Putting Them Into Action

I got one of my favorite kinds of NAMT emails last  week, from Sean Kelly at The 5th Avenue Theatre and Kristin Buie and  Nena Theis at North Carolina Theatre.  At the recent Spring Conference,  several  members talked about promotions where subscribers’ seats were tagged with  renewal requests when they attended a show, to engage them while they were  actually in the theatre. At The 5th, for renewing early and on the spot, they  were given a bottle of wine to take home and free parking. Kristin and Nena thought this was an easy enough project to initiate  quickly (not that it didn’t require a fair amount of work, identifying  subscribers and their seats, for example), and low cost enough (thanks to deals  to the theatre on the wine and the parking) to be basically risk-free, so they  gave it a shot. I’ll let Kristin tell you how it went:

“Our goal was to bring in $100,000 during the  ten-day show run (this is how much we brought in during the first ten days of  our renewal period last year by doing our standard renewal mailing). Well, we  brought in over $100,000 in the first four performances alone…Our  grand total was $536,747.50, including donations from brand new supporters and  44 new subscribers. Our patrons really appreciated the personal attention and  convenience to take care of it on the spot at the show.”

Where Kristin, Nena and Sean dream of subscription  renewals, I dream of stories like this. One of NAMT’s main goals with our  conferences is to send attendees home with ideas they can use, as quickly as  possible. We stress adaptability, so what worked for a $21M organization in  Seattle can be scaled for a $3.5M organization in North Carolina, or even  further for a $5,000 budget with a volunteer staff of two. And of course that  works in both directions, taking a grass-roots idea and growing it into  something that will work for a larger organization.
I love that Kristin and Nena got something so  concrete out of the Spring Conference so quickly, and I love that they shared  their success story with Sean and me. It’s proof of the power of this network,  and a great reminder of how well risks can pay off, something I’ll definitely  be keeping in mind as we plan the 2012-2013 conferences (about which more  soon!  Watch this space!).

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Seattle Views

I’ve taken two trips to Seattle in the past year – one last June and one just last week – to prep for the upcoming Spring Conference. It’s a beautiful city, and I’m a fan of taking pictures, so to whet your appetite for your trip to Dramatic Marketing next month, here are some photos of what you’ll have to look forward to.

View from the W Seattle hotel, site of the Spring Conference:

Those of us in the office who have been to Blue C Sushi are so obsessed with it we’ve gotten everyone else obsessed with it too. Small plates of freshly made sushi (and other Japanese goodies) whiz by you on a conveyor belt. You take what you want, and when you’re ready for the check the waiter counts your color-coded plates. This is a few blocks from the hotel and The 5th Avenue Theatre.

A lovely spot for a conference coffee break or side meeting:

…and a lovely place to retire to at the end of a long day discussing marketing:

Very modern new light rail and bus station a block away from the hotel. Just $2.75 to get from the airport!

View from The Village Theatre’s First Stage building:

Sunset from The 5th Avenue Theatre: 

Monorail! Left over from the World’s Fair, this will take you from downtown (a couple of blocks from the hotel) to the Space Needle.

Views from the Space Needle:

Pike Place Market, a short walk from the hotel:

Sunset view from in front of Village Theatre’s mainstage last June:

Any Twin Peaks fans out there? Snoqualmie Falls, site of the Great Northern Lodge on the show, is a short drive from Village. (These were taken on a trip a few years ago.)

In the green room of The 5th Avenue Theatre: 

“Musical theater and those who create it are critical to the enrichment of our soul. Your work is about entertainment and enlightenment of the human spirit. We take this wondrous journey with you. Through our laughter and tears are all who we were, who we are and who we could become. Bravo to you who light our way!” -Kenny & Marleen Alhadeff

These are just a few of the sights Seattle has to offer. I hope you’ll join us and explore them all for yourself! Conference registration for NAMT members is open until March 8. Details at namt.org/conference.

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The Spring Conference...already!

The Fall Conference is barely over, and I’m already at work on the Spring Conference! I actually have been since June, when I traveled to two cities selected by the members as possible locations (on both trips I did double duty, attending a conference in one and visiting members in another). A lot goes into finding the right location for the conferences, both in New York and elsewhere. Hotels are great because they’re all-in-one: Attendees can stay there, and facilities, catering and audio-visual services are all packaged together. Many factors are considered, taking into account the diversity of our membership. It’s important to find a place where everyone will be comfortable and well taken care of, and is also affordable to all of the members. We also strive to keep NAMT’s own costs down, so that we can pass those savings on to you in the lowest possible registration fees. And with all the time we spend in the conference room, it can’t just be any old space. You’d be surprised how few hotels have event spaces with windows! It’s important for me to make these trips to see the venues in person, try the food, and spend the night in the hotel when possible (it’s worth noting that this doesn’t cost NAMT anything, since the hotels are after our business and treat me pretty well!)
For the city, we survey the members periodically to see where you’re interested in going. It’s better for me if we have a member in town. Some host at their venues, but even if not, having local knowledge is extremely helpful.
The 2012 Spring Conference will be held on March 22-24 in Seattle, WA. We have an amazing rate at the beautiful W Hotel, which I think you’ll all like very much, and we’ll also spend time at the 5th Avenue Theatre and Village Theatre. Save the date and watch for details in the coming weeks!

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New Works Director on the Road

I just got back from two weekends of catching great Festival shows. First I was in Seattle to catch Vanities a new musical (Fest ’06) at The 5th Avenue and Iron Curtain (Fest ’09) at The Village Theatre. Then this past weekend I swung down to see Liberty Smith (Fest ’00) at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. All three productions were fantastic, inspiring and very worthy of future productions.

The Festival is just the first step in the process of getting great new musicals out into the field. The next steps rely on theatres seeing each other’s work, sharing work and spreading great musicals around the country. I know the economy is still rough but when you set your next budget, try to find money to include some travel for your key staff to see other work around the NAMT membership and maybe even find a little more to help host a NAMT member at your theatre during your next great project. No one wants a new musical to only have one production, and that can change with you taking one quick trip to a fellow NAMT member to see their great work!

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