Festival Shows in the News


Festival Show Update: BLEEDING LOVE

This month, we check in on Bleeding Love from our 2012 Festival of New Musicals as it prepares for productions in Connecticut and Denmark. The show’s writers, Harris Doran, Jason Schafer and Arthur Lafrentz Bacon have been hard at work during the past year to prepare the show for its next steps. 

Bleeding Love is a post-apocalyptic musical comedy about a sixteen year old cellist who has never left her building, who risks going out into the dangerous world in order to get her one chance at love.
When you presented Bleeding Love at the Festival, it was the premiere of the musical for any audience. What did you learn about the show from finally seeing it in front of an audience? 
Yes, NAMT was our very first reading! We learned a great deal about how specific the tone was, because it rides the line between bleakness and comedy, and honest emotion and farce, so we had to make sure we were making that balance clear to the audience.
You were up at Goodspeed Musicals last winter for the Mercer Writers’ Retreat.  What was the focus of that devoted time away?
That was an incredible experience. More productive than we ever could have imagined. The three of us, who do not all live in the same city, got to be together for a week straight and just write. We ended up writing an entirely new opening number, completing a very complicated multi-scene song and brainstorming what the end of the musical would be. An unbelievable amount of productivity in such a short period of time.
The show will have a premiere production this season at The Spirit of Broadway Theater in Connecticut.  What work are you doing on the show to prepare for its first production? 
We are tightening the show to make sure it is production-ready as well as getting our first orchestrations together. We are very excited.
What are you hoping to discover and sort out when the show finally gets on its feet in a production? 
We are excited to finally get the chance to see what the show is as a whole without the rhythm being impeded
by stage directions or mimed props. The show takes place in different areas of an apartment building, so a lot of the storytelling is dependent on the shift from location to location, the life that exists within those locations, and visual props and phenomena (snow, growing flowers, etc.) much more so than most other musicals. So we are excited to see the piece fully realized.
The show will also head to Denmark next season for a premiere there. Are there any anticipated changes for its European premiere? 
Well, the biggest change is that it will be in Danish! We are going to see what we learn from the Spirit of Broadway production and are lucky to be able to make those changes and see them implemented in the Denmark production.
What are the long range hopes for the show after Connecticut and Denmark? 
We hope to bring it to a commercial audience in NY. The show is in the vein of other comically dark pieces likeLittle Shop, Urinetown or Sweeney Todd, so we hope for it to find its NY audience.
Why should people swing by Connecticut (or Denmark) to check out Bleeding Love?
Because Bleeding Love is a unique, well-made musical. It has an original voice, fun characters and exceedingly melodic music. The show itself uses magical theatrical conventions that can only be seen in full production. The readings we have done have gotten people excited, laughing, and moved and we believe you will be, too.

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FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: The NAMT Festival Experience

A guest blog entry from Arthur Lafrentz Bacon about his experience at our Festival with his show Bleeding Love.   
Being at NAMT was an awesome, once in a lifetime (hopefully not just once!) experience.
Everyone knows about NAMT, and it’s a big deal. A big deal because hundreds of theater companies and producers come to see the 8 shows that are chosen each year. Where else does this happen? Nowhere. A huge, golden  opportunity for any writer, courtesy of the amazingly talented, hard working staff at NAMT. 

For me as the composer, I knew that getting the score together for the singers and musicians was my first priority. With help from my friend Harris (lyricist of Bleeding Love) and his expertise with Finale software, we got it done just in time, although I was still tweaking the guitar parts minutes before each show. Speaking of guitar, in true rock star fashion, our guitarist was late to the 2nd show, popping out of the curtain just before he had to play…. the reason?… a stalled subway car!

If you’ve never done NAMT before, nothing can really prepare you for the moment you walk into New World Stages and see the hundreds of people that are there, waiting in lines to see the shows. It was almost overwhelming for me until I started to talk with some of the people, and get comfortable with it all. (I played in The Caroline Rhea Show band on NBC for a year, and I didn’t think I’d be phased by the crowds and hoopla, but I was!)  I also think our Bleeding Love team may have had some extra nerves going on, because we never had had even a reading of the piece before this. But with our stellar cast, and terrific director, music director and musicians, they pulled it together in a wonderful way. Before I knew it, there was Sarah Stiles, Nancy Opel and the rest bringing the piece to life in front of a packed audience. All of the songs that I heard in my head for the last couple years, sounded even more terrific when the singers gave them a voice. I was so happy to be able to hear Harris’s
captivating lyrics, Jason’s witty and wry dialogue and see the story unfold. A beautiful thing to be realized and shared with each other.

By the second show, everyone had found their groove, and was killing it (after 25 hours of rehearsal!). I was so proud of them all, and so thankful to be given an opportunity like this. After the second show, I had the pleasure of speaking with many theater companies and producers, all of which were very positive and encouraging. Being told by producers that they loved my melodies made my heart smile the most, for that is my life…melody. A big thank you to Branden, the NAMT staff, the staff at New World Stages and to everyone who came to the festival!

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“On The Road To NAMT” will be a special sub-series of the Festival Countdown featuring blogs from Tom Mizer (Book & Lyrics of TRIANGLE) that will also be featured as part of his blog The Broadway Blog.  This is Tom’s second entry in the series. 

William Ryall, Robin de Jesus, Sarah Stiles, Damon Daunno, Nancy Opel & Nicolette Hart rehearsing “Bleeding Love”. Photo by Jason Schafer.

Writing musicals can be a lonely business. Most of the time it’s just you and a collaborator in a room together. So when I was presented with the chance to talk with a few of my fellow writers presenting shows at NAMT this year, I jumped at the chance. If nothing else, it would be like group therapy. But rhymed.
Just over a week ago, I sat down with two amazing writers: Gaby Alter, composer and co-lyricist of the recent Old Globe hit Nobody Loves You; and Harris Doran, lyricist for the post-apocalyptic fairy taleBleeding Love. With presentation preparations hitting high gear, we took a brief moment to breathe, talk about our inspirations and discuss the best part of writing versus acting in a musical (hint: booze).

Gaby Alter. Photo by Stephen Mallon.

When did you get the bug to write music theater because…how old are you?
GABY: Old.
HARRIS: I’m younger.
GABY: Usually people are younger than me.
HARRIS: You look younger.
GABY: Well, thank you.
And I’m the oldest one in the room so shut up.
HARRIS: But you look younger than me.
That’s staying in the final interview.
My point is that when I look back and think about when I was in high school and college, music theater was not popular. There’s a renaissance right now…
HARRIS: Is there? Because of Glee?
When I talk to an 18 year-old or a 22 year-old, within a certain segment, they think music theater is cool.
HARRIS: True. There are musical movies now and Glee and something else…
And Smash. There are certainly now people wanting to get into the field. An excitement. And that wasn’t so much the case when I was that age. So how did you start?
GABY: It was sort of an accidental thing, a convergence of stuff that I did. It was after high school and I had a friend who wrote plays. He was like, “Want to write a musical?” It was over the summer. Neither of us were musical fans. It’s not like I hated musicals, I just knew very little about them except what I knew as kid. I knew the Rogers and Hammerstein stuff. He said, “Do you want to write a rock musical?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” But I thought it was a ridiculous idea.
GABY: I also didn’t think we were going to do it. Especially when you’re 17 or 18, you say so but…actually he had a whole plan and he was very organized. He came over the next day and had some lyrics.
HARRIS: Oh wow.
GABY: So we ended up doing it over that summer. And it was the high of doing it. “Let’s get our friends who were actors in high school and involve everybody.” And you invite your family and you feel really cool because you’re all of a sudden on stage. I hadn’t had that experience except in a band. But it was easier for me to write stuff in that format. I was writing with him. “You do this and I’ll do that.” There are clear guidelines. Like fun homework. I really responded to collaborating and working as a group… Later I came to appreciate musicals and how difficult writing the really good ones is.

We can all second that.
HARRIS: I had no idea.
GABY: What about you guys?

Harris Doran. Photo by Chris Pereira.

HARRIS: I’m an actor. I’ve done musicals over the course of my career. But mostly I’ve done plays and more recently films. I’ve always written, even as a little kid, I wrote poetry. It was recommended to me that I go to BMI (Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop) and I was like, “I don’t know.” I ended up having the interview for BMI and still hadn’t written anything so I spent the night before writing some stuff…
HARRIS: I went in there with my lyrics and I acted them out for them and I got accepted. I thought, “OK, I guess I’ll do that.” I didn’t take it seriously. Got some good feedback but still couldn’t care less and then I was assigned to Arthur, who is still my writing partner, and we were paired up to write an assignment on It’s a Wonderful Life. We wrote this rock song. I went through and thought, “This movie is so boring.”
HARRIS: But there was this one tertiary character who’s got this idea, “You’ve got to have plastic.” And he comes back all rich at the end so we wrote this song called “Plastic is Fantastic” which was killer and I thought, “Maybe I can do this.” And I kept going.
You saw you could come at musicals from a different angle.
HARRIS: Exactly.
Same thing for you, Gaby, coming at it from a rock/pop angle.
HARRIS: Over time, it has given me something else to put my energy into. If I’m not acting, I’m writing. And I usually forget that I do the other while I’m doing the one. I say I’m an actor and I feel like I’m a liar. Then I’m writing and I feel like a liar because I’m an actor.
Didn’t you find that, because I was at a similar fork in the road, that writing is something I can do wherever, whenever I want. No one has to hire me as a writer. And I loved that I could go home and be creative.
I mean, I could go home and do my monologues but the roommates don’t really want to hear you doing that Brighton Beach Memoirs monologue again.
HARRIS: (in perfect Simon accent) “Two up, bases are loaded…”

Harris Doran in “Brighton Beach Memoirs”. Image via the Pioneer Theatre Company.

I played a lot of young Jewish boys. Look at me. How that happened I have no idea. But in the Midwest…
HARRIS: …this is as close as it gets.
Gaby, you spoke of R&H. Is there some show of theirs that you are able to look at now, with experience, and you do see it as a goal?
GABY: I went to Tisch; the graduate musical theater program there is really good. It got me thinking about the classic musicals and why are they classic. And then I saw South Pacific at Lincoln Center and I remember thinking I was very skeptical about it. I know their stuff is good but…it seems a little bit schmaltzy and dated. But it wasn’t those things. It was a romantic musical but it wasn’t cheesy. It looks at racism and it looks at death. And they were great songwriters… I wouldn’t write like them now but you can see the things that were at stake.
HARRIS: Did you see that Carousel revival? Lincoln Center years ago?
GABY: It was good?

Lincoln Center revival of “Carousel”. Photo by Joan Marcus.

HARRIS: Oh yeah! There might be a video at Lincoln Center library. If you liked that South Pacific revival, thatCarousel was unbelievable.
What blew me away was…you think of all those songs that you’ve heard, but the way they are woven through scenes is so modern. They don’t stop to just sing one of those pretty songs; they flow through the scenes. I hadn’t realized…
HARRIS: And those shows were written very quickly. Now we spend years and years writing and developing with everyone’s opinions. We actually wrote this musical [Bleeding Love] in less than a year. We talked a lot about The King and I, which I guess they had the entire structure worked out but started rehearsals without a second act and they wrote the second act while they were rehearsing. If you take the time to focus on the structure before you write a word then you save yourself a lot of rewrites later…
That sounds like heaven.
HARRIS: If you write a show without everything figured out ahead of time, you write a song and you’re like, “Wait, that song is 5 degrees off.” It’s not like it’s the wrong song. It’s almost…but you’re f*cked…oh…
You can say f*cked, it’s fine.
HARRIS: If that little wrong is the core of the song, then you’re screwed.
GABY: It’s true. Figuring out structure is smart… But sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what it is. The last few musicals I’ve worked on we didn’t know. It’s sort of developing its own tone and world as you write. The one I’m working on now with Itamar, he’s very good at structure, but structure also changes or in this case changed as we did it.
Harris, would you ever want to act in your own stuff?
HARRIS: (beat) I don’t really want to do musicals.
And why is that?
HARRIS: You can’t drink.
HARRIS: It’s a lot of worrying about your voice. It’s a lot of work.
They work hard.
HARRIS: They work hard.
HARRIS: I don’t love doing musicals. I love the idea of musicals. I love watching them.
Which music theater performers do you look at — do you think have the acting chops and the musical talent to pull it off?
HARRIS: Vicki Clark. I thought that Alice Ripley was amazing in Next to Normal. Tanya Pinkins inCaroline or Change… I like a performer that is risky. I like the cast that we’ve got [for Bleeding Love]. They’re a bunch of quirky, interesting performers. It took us a while to find these people because we were like, “No, much quirkier, much weirder.”
HARRIS: We wanted people who would jump at it and bring it to life… You guys have had workshops and productions?

Adam Kantor and Old Globe Cast of “Nobody Loves You”. Photo by Henry DiRocco.

GABY: We had a production in May in San Diego.
HARRIS: And you applied to NAMT?
GABY: We applied because we didn’t know what was going to happen after the production. These days, unless you have a producer signed on, as I’m sure you know, it’s up to you to find the next thing. Depending on how it works out, we wanted other people to see it and we didn’t know if they’d come out to the West Coast. We found out we got in [to NAMT] during the production and we thought, “Well, good!” How about you, guys?
Our [journey] is harder to describe. Triangle is at an earlier stage because we haven’t had a production yet. Basically, the show existed for a while [with drafts in 2005 and 2006] then it went on a shelf because of a bookwriter issue. [After a number of years], the show became ours to work on again and we did a reading of it at Northwestern last year, testing a completely new half of the story. The modern half of the story we totally rewrote. We thought, “this can work,” so we started applying for stuff to do this year. We applied to NAMT and got into TheatreWorks at the same time. We did a two-week workshop at TheatreWorks [in August]; you do a reading, rewrite for a few days, do a reading, rewrite and reading. It’s sort of a natural progression to be here now…
HARRIS: We’ve never even had a reading of our musical, other than me and the bookwriter. We were pretty good, though.
GABY: Awesome.
That first presentation is going to be so exciting.
HARRIS: Monday [the first rehearsal] is going to be exciting when we have actors.
You’ve never had actors read it?
HARRIS: No one. The only actor that’s ever read it is me. It’s going to be so exciting to have an amazing cast do the first reading.
What’s your favorite part of the process when you’re writing, from the moment the idea comes up to presenting to an audience?
HARRIS: When it’s being performed.
You like that? I find it maddening.
HARRIS: Really, why? Because you feel like it’s not being interpreted how you intended?
No. No. Because I want to be involved — maybe because I was an actor at one point – and that’s the part I have to sit back and twiddle my thumbs. I get so nervous.
HARRIS: I’m really excited about what an actor can bring.
Oh, I totally get that.
HARRIS: I get a feeling of pride, not in my work, but in them. Look at them shine. I really like that.
Gaby, what’s your favorite step?
GABY: God, I don’t know. The cocaine.
The party after.
HARRIS: The money.
(sustained laughter)
GABY: No. It sort of depends. I had done a production with Band Geeks but somehow with Nobody Loves You it felt more…no they were both momentous. Make or break. I was terrified. I was sh*tting myself. We’ve worked on this for five years… you’ve crawled over broken glass to get there and actually this might go wrong… I don’t think that part is fun. You know, it might be when you are in rehearsal and everyone’s all in to it and you stage a number for the first time and you’re like, “Oh my god, that’s so much better than I would have imagined.” And the actors are like, “Yeah, that’s awesome!” And there’s no audience there to say, “What is this sh*t?”
We’ll find out how those presentations go, harrowing or triumphant, this Thursday and Friday in New York City. 

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FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: First Rehearsal...

A special entry from Harris Doran, lyricist of Bleeding Love, about their first (ever) rehearsal for their Festival show.  

After months of watching hundreds upon hundreds of youtube videos, our six person Broadway dream cast —Damon Daunno, Robin de Jesus, Nicolette Hart, Nancy Opel, William Ryall, Sarah Stiles— stepped out of youtube, walked through the door, and were casually chatting and snacking on the honey wheat pretzels I had bought for them. 


We didn’t know what to expect, because BLEEDING LOVE has the great fortune of being chosen for NAMT after never even having a table read, so the first time the cast was reading the script was the first time we had ever heard the script read out loud other than the one day we spent recording songs for our demo—or that time Jason and I read though the script in a rehearsal studio. We were decent.

I’m sweating, couldn’t sleep the night before, nervously eating the organic black licorice bits I had also bought for the actors. We had worked very hard to get a cast that was as bold and unique as the piece. Each of them a shining star all in one room, and I had lost my sunglasses earlier in the day, so I happily accepted the glare. Back to the sweating… the script is cracked open and John Michael Crotty, our fantastic stage manager (highly recommend), is reading the stage directions. So casual. Having no idea how he’s the first one to read our stage directions, which of course would have no significance to anyone else in the world but us. And our mothers. And we’re off.

One by one watching these actors feel as if they had walked off of the page and were suddenly sitting in chairs around the table.
Arthur Bacon, our composer, and Jason Schafer, our bookwriter, laughing, crying, and sharing shocked faces and thumbs up as each of the actors opened their mouths and gave life to the characters for the first time. Our piece has a tricky tone because it’s both dark and light at the same time. Like a Tim Burton movie. It has to be both very real and very big at the same time, very funny and yet very emotional, and although I knew the actors we had gotten were capable of doing it, I didn’t expect them to nail the tone in that first read thru. Nailed it, they did. Jumping through the script like an obstacle course, fearless, funny, moving. Needless to say, we got to the end, and if I had the skills, I would have done a one-legged triple axel back flip for each of them.

We had met with Stephen Brackett, our smart, smart, smart and warm director a few times beforehand. It was very important to us that we found someone who was a real actor’s director and Stephen is just that. But still, as with everything, you never know. When the day was done, and he had commanded the room with such egoless ease, we stayed after and he gave us some notes. The exact right notes. Jason Wetzel, our musical director, who we’d never worked with, but heard was wonderful (and the rumors were true) played the score effortlessly and taught the music with confidence and efficiency.

It’s a funny thing, expectations. And balancing them. You never know on the first day what you’re going to get when you’ve never worked with people before. But what I do know is there are extraordinary, talented people out there, who shine if you just let them. It is a miracle to us that such incredible people have all come together in order to make BLEEDING LOVE happen. We feel tremendously lucky.

And that was just day one.

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A post from Jason Schafer, bookwriter of Bleeding Love about where the show came from and what is means to his show to be accepted into the Festival.  

I’ve written a musical and I think hope pray know it’s amazing…  Now what?  For me, this question seems to surface when nearing the completion of the first full draft. Maybe it’s my brain putting off those final bits of work – before the rewriting begins, of course.  Or maybe, for the first time, so much of the show is actually written, it finally seems real.  It exists.  Not just in my head where it’s been for some time, but on paper.  It’s suddenly possible to visualize actors stopping the show with the songs, to imagine audiences laughing at the jokes or being moved (to tears?) by the characters and the story.

Bleeding Love began with a desire to write something that offered audiences a huge emotional experience.  I brainstormed a list of my most peculiar fascinations – anything that ever elicited a powerful and preferably mysterious response in me.  This included Brooklyn brownstones, the sound of a cello, Klaus von Brücker from the films of Bruce La Bruce, my childhood piano teacher, the fairytales of Oscar Wilde, my mother’s greenhouse, the line art of Aubrey Beardsley, longhaired men and punk goddess Nina Hagen, to name more than a few.  Hoping this unusual combination of elements might have a similar effect on others, I fashioned them into a narrative, but the result was so rarified, it seemed no one but me could possibly appreciate it.

Harris (lyrics) and Art (music) initially rejected my “rose story.”  “We want to write something commercial,” Harris said.  But as the three of us continued to talk about it, Bleeding Love’s very strangeness seemed to be its greatest selling point.  And commercial or not, it was a show all three of us wanted to see.  A year later, when we sat down in a New York rehearsal studio to read it through beginning to end, it was still starkly unique, but our collaboration had transformed it into something bigger, something more accessible, and – dare I say it? – something commercial.  Now what?

Bleeding Love was a finalist for the Richard Rodgers Award and now, the first public performance of any kind will be at NAMT’s Festival of New Musicals.  This is an extraordinary opportunity to present a show with a first-rate cast and director before an industry audience.  Because of this, Bleeding Love has the best possible chance of finding the right developmental path, whatever that may be.  NAMT’s guidance will allow us to find the right home and the right audience for our show.  And personally, it’s a thrill and an honor to be in the company of an amazing roster of writers whose work I have loved and admired.  Or at least read about on

The crazy list that started this journey did not include writing musicals, but it should have.  For me, NAMT’s recognition and support is a dream come true.  Now what?

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