Members in the News

NAMT in the News

NEA Will Award Over $82 Million in Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts has recently announced that it will award over $82 million in grants to fund artistic projects and research, with $2,735,000 going to companies working in the field of “Theater & Musical Theatre.” Many NAMT members have been selected to receive grants in the NEA’s 50th anniversary year, including NAMT itself, in support of our Festival of New Musicals and Fall Conference. Congratulations to those members receiving grants in this second announcement of NEA funding, including:
Barrington Stage Company
CAP 21
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Goodspeed Musicals
The Old Globe
Pace University
Paper Mill Playhouse
The Public Theater
Theater Latté Da
Walnut Street Theatre
Weston Playhouse
To view a full list of the grant recipients, visit the NEA’s website. Congratulations, all!

Read More



Festival Show Update: Southern Comfort

This month, we checked in with Festival Alumni Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins about their 2012 Festival Show, Southern Comfort, heading to The Public Theater this February for an Off-Broadway run. Southern Comfort is also a past recipient of NAMT’s National Fund for New Musicals grant, having received a Production grant at Barrington Stage Co., a Project Development grant at CAP21 and a Writers Residency Grant at Playwrights Horizons.
Based on the Sundance Award-winning documentary, this heartwarming musical about a group of transgender friends living in rural Georgia is, at its core, a love story between their patriarch, Robert Eads, and newcomer Lola Cola. Through a unique folk and bluegrass-inspired score, the musical chronicles a year in the lives of this unique American family as they courageously defy the odds by simply remaining on the land to which they were born, reminding us that home is where we find comfort in our skin.

What work have you been doing on the show since your production at Barrington Stage Co. (BSC) a couple of years ago?
We learned so much from the excellent and generous audiences and team at BSC.  Based on the reception and feedback, we have been (and continue to) make adjustments to scenes and music throughout the piece.  Many of the changes are subtle and, observed individually, might only be obvious to those very familiar with the previous incarnations of the script, but we feel that the aggregate will significantly strengthen and clarify the story.  This includes replacing at least one of the existing musical numbers in the show with a new song, as well as new orchestrations throughout.  Also, we are not ignoring the fact that since we originally created and presented the piece, there has been an incredibly encouraging growth in awareness around the subject matter.  So, while the narrative will not change (as it is adapted from the documentary and the events still occur in 1998), we know we are speaking to a more informed audience, which we are taking into consideration as we continue to work through the script.We are all very excited that Southern Comfort will be seen Off Broadway this winter at The Public Theater.  How will this production differ from your previous presentations? 
One of the significant changes with regard to the current production will be in the casting.  With this production, we have been able to make a wider outreach in order to include transgender actors and we are so excited and grateful for that opportunity!  Beyond casting, we are working with our brilliant director, Tom Caruso, and the amazing design team he has assembled in order to deepen and expand the visual and technical aspects of the production.  We’ve been fortunate to work with a team that is always so respectful and thoughtful in their approach and, as a result, the presentations have always seemed to grow organically out of, and into, the presentation space.  The fact that this space will now be the iconic and uniquely intimate Anspacher Theater is all the more thrilling and we can’t wait to see the many beautiful ways that Tom and the designers make it a home for Southern Comfort!Are there any parts of the show you are excited to explore in this new production? 
We are so excited about each of the above-referenced points; the casting, the rewrites, the orchestrations and the design.  In addition to each of those things, we simply look forward to expanding our collaboration to include the incredible team at The Public.  The deep wealth of knowledge and support (not to mention the incredible history!) within those walls is irresistibly inspiring.  We truly look forward to continuing to share our thoughts and ideas with this new community of collaborators as we know the result is going to bring even more potency and life to the piece.  So, in short, we are just really excited to explore absolutely everything in the context of this overwhelmingly inspiring environment and community!
What moments in the show are you excited about sharing with a New York City audience? 
We’re excited to share every moment of the show with today’s NYC audience as the whole atmosphere around the subject has changed significantly since our last production.  In previous productions, we occasionally witnessed reactions to the subject matter that were not always positive and did not allow those audience members to connect fully to the story.  We’re grateful for the current opportunity to see many more moments speak to a wider audience and resonate like they never have before.
Why should everyone head to The Public this winter to see Southern Comfort
Our musical about Robert Eads and his chosen family is universal.  Although the subject matter may seem specific to its community, it ultimately is about family and home.  The Public has embraced our show in the most beautiful and relevant way possible and we’re confident that audiences will find themselves and their own family in the story.

For more information about Southern Comfort, visit The Public Theater’s website.

Read More


Festival Shows in the News


Festival Show Update: SOUTHERN COMFORT

An interview with Dan Collins & Julianne Wick Davis, writers of 2012 Festival Show Southern Comfort, about creating such a bold show, how far it’s already come and preparing for its upcoming presentation at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA. The show is a past recipient of a Writers Residency Grant (Playwrights Horizons) and a Project Development Grant (CAP21) from our National Fund for New Musicals.

Based on the Sundance Award-winning documentary, this heartwarming musical about a group of transgender friends living in rural Georgia is, at its core, a love story between their patriarch, Robert Eads, and newcomer Lola Cola. Through a unique folk and bluegrass-inspired score, the musical chronicles a year in the lives of this unique American family as they courageously defy the odds by simply remaining on the land to which they were born, reminding us that home is where we find comfort in our skin.

What were the first steps you took when you were asked to turn a documentary into a musical and how did you find the story’s voice? 
We were approached by Tom Caruso and Bob DuSold, who hold the stage rights to the documentary, to consider adapting it into a musical. After watching the documentary, Julianne and I had a few discussions about what music would mean to these characters, and in this environment, and if/how it could enhance their story. We began by discussing a number of intriguing points in the documentary that might be able to sing, and ultimately wrote the solo “I’m Goin’,” which Robert sings near the end of the second act. While the documentary’s subject matter, and our discussions, revealed many challenges to be faced in adapting the story to the musical stage, writing “I’m Goin’” revealed just the opposite: it was one of those rare moments in which each part of the process (spotting the song, writing the lyric, setting the lyric) unraveled with great and exciting ease. Energized by that rewarding experience, we moved forward. Inspired by the seasonal framing of the documentary, we explored the score by creating a song for each of the seasons – to be sung by an onstage folk band. It was these seasons, coupled with “I’m Goin’” and the conceit of our onstage band that served as the foundation for the rest of our process. But it wasn’t all beautifully simple, of course. Adapting a documentary meant we had to take some license in the storytelling for dramatic purposes, which is a tricky undertaking as it was important to us to be able to keep the integrity of the true story and characters (most of whom are still living), while also ensuring that we were creating a dramatic narrative that would engage theater audiences – because to fail at the latter would mean that the story, for all of its good intentions, would never reach much further than the page.

Southern Comfort has evolved a bit from your first reading at Playwrights Horizon a few years ago to your presentation at the Festival. How has it changed over the years?
Most of the developments and changes in Southern Comfort have revolved around either the integration of the onstage band or our exploration of the narrative outside of the specific action of the documentary. We’ve conceived the band in a myriad of ways; a group of vocalists who are separate from the instrumentalists; a male and a female soloist who act as the ‘lead singers’ of the band; etc., but we found, particularly through our experience at CAP21 (discussed below), that the concept of having the instrumentalists present as both singers and actors really resonated with audiences. As for the narrative, Kate Davis (the producer/director/editor of the original documentary) has been incredibly generous, supportive and gracious throughout our entire process; one such occasion is when she shared with us the original transcripts of documentary, which contain many scenes and interviews that were not part of the film’s final edit. These transcripts, coupled with her encouraging attitude toward our process, have been (and continue to be) invaluable as we explore the world, characters and their stories as they have come to exist on the musical stage. 

You had a great workshop production at CAP21 in 2012. What did you learn from getting the show up on its feet?

The workshop production at CAP21, which was so beautifully supported by Eliza and Frank Ventura, was the first time we had seen the show move. We had never been able to see if our idea about the band being on stage, moving in and out of the action and playing all the characters outside of the chosen family, would work! We were asking a lot of these actors/musicians since they had to memorize the score and be free to move with instrument in hand at any time. The idea to have the band function this way was there from the very beginning for us, and it was an idea which people kept questioning and telling us would be nearly impossible. The CAP21 workshop production was the first time we saw that it indeed worked and it was exactly what we had hoped for.

The show is heading to Barrington Stage Co. this summer. What further work do you want to do on the show for its next step? 
Our main objective is to continue to streamline and strengthen the narrative. We’ve learned so much throughout all of our development opportunities, and we look forward to the opportunity to implement those in Pittsfield this summer. There have been cuts, rewrites, edits and restructuring, all of which we feel have strengthened the piece, while retaining those aspects that have consistently resonated with our audiences throughout our presentation history.

What do you hope comes next for Robert and his chosen family? 
Our hope is relatively simple: that we continue to find wonderfully supportive theaters and institutions, such as Playwrights Horizons, CAP21, NAMT and Barrington Stage, who are willing to tell Robert’s story and widen its reach. Just as the medium of film/documentary was able to bring light to this important subject, the medium of theater (particularly, musical theater) has the ability to bring that light to a new audience, further expanding the reach of the affirming life and message of Robert and his chosen family. Our hope is to broaden that audience as much as possible.

Why should people head up to beautiful Pittsfield, MA this summer to catch Southern Comfort?  
Aside from the (already mentioned) beautiful setting, our cast is a dream. Not only are they a privilege and a pleasure to work with, but their commitment and passion to this story is astounding, and it is evidenced in each performance. Our band is equally amazing – they are onstage throughout the entire show, playing the score, singing and performing ensemble speaking roles! When we conceived the idea on paper, all we could do was hope that it would work, but this amazing group is able to make it more than just work; our hopes are exceeded night after night after night!

For more information about Southern Comfort, please visit

Read More