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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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This month we chatted with Giovanna Sardelli, the Director of New Works at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Next month TheatreWorks goes into rehearsals for The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga, written by Min Khang and based on Manga Yonin Shosei by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama, translated as The Four Immigrants by Frederik L. Schodt. This production is being supported by a Production Grant from the National Fund for New Musicals, and the show has previously been supported by a Writers Residency Grant.
From a tumultuous earthquake to an exhilarating world’s fair, this new musical chronicles the adventures of four endearing Japanese immigrants in a world of possibility and prejudice: turn-of-the-twentieth-century San Francisco. Driven by an infectious vaudeville and ragtime score, the quartet pursues their American Dream despite limited options in the land of opportunity.
TheatreWorks has been developing The Four Immigrants for some time now—tell us a little bit about how the piece first made its way to TheatreWorks.
Leslie Martinson, our Associate Artistic Director and the director of the upcoming production, has a gift for seeing the potential in artists, like Min Kahng, whom she has known for years, and also for seeing the potential in stories. So when Min shared his idea for The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga, Leslie was instantly intrigued by the story and by the unique way Min wanted to tell the story. She brought the show to TheatreWorks as part of our Writers’ Retreat where we were all introduced to the musical and excited by what it could become.

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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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NFNM Show Update: Teen Sniper

Dallas Theater Center recently received a Writers Residency grant for a musical written by Rajiv Joseph and Bill Sherman, currently titled Teen Sniper. Lee Trull, Director of New Play Development at DTC, spoke with us about the Residency process.

Tell us a bit about the Untitled Teen Sniper Project and how Dallas Theater Center got involved with the piece.
Rajiv Joseph and Bill Sherman (plus the wonderful Kirsten Childs) wrote a musical for us a few years back titled Fly. It was an updated story of Peter Pan directed by Jeffrey Seller. We were amazed by the work of all three writers (we just produced the world premier of Bella by Kirsten which will be seen soon at Playwrights Horizons). We also have a close relationship with Meredith McDonough of Actors Theatre of Louisville. She worked on Fly By Night with us and directed Book Club Play a few years later. She’s become a dear friend of mine and a member of the DTC family. Meredith reach out to us with the idea of co-commissioning Bill and Rajiv to write a new musical. We jumped at the chance!
How does this process fit into DTC’s overall commitment to new works development?
DTC is committed to inspiring our diverse community by creating experiences that stimulate new ways of thinking and living. Teen Sniper (which is a working title — I think it’s already changed twice!) takes a funny and humane look at a not-to-distant dystopian world dominated by racial and economic tension and a callous disregard for human life. It asks fundamental questions about gun violence, empathy and America’s place in the world. The music is extraordinary, the characters are vibrant and its themes are modern. It’s exactly the kind of risky new work that DTC has a track record of developing.

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NFNM Show Update: The Band's Visit

The Band’s Visit, written by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses (Fest ’12, Nobody Loves You), will receive its world premiere at Atlantic Theater this Fall, supported in part by a Production Grant from the National Fund for New Musicals. We reached out to Annie MacRae, the Atlantic’s Associate Artistic Director, and Itamar to learn more about the show’s history and this upcoming production. 
What is Atlantic’s history with new musical development? How does this tie into the theatre’s overall mission?
Annie MacRae: It is Atlantic’s mission to produce great plays simply and truthfully by utilizing an artistic ensemble. Over our 30-year history, commitment to this mission has led to some exciting new plays from Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Between Riverside and Crazy to Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew. At the same time, we’ve been working to build upon past world premieres like Patty Griffin’s 10 Million Miles and the iconic Spring Awakening to become a home for musical theater in NYC. In the past three years, we’ve developed and produced great projects like Martha Clarke’s reimagining of The Threepenny Opera and premieres of Found by Eli Bolin, Hunter Bell, and Lee Overtree and These Paper Bullets! by Billie Joe Armstrong and Rolin Jones. We’ve also produced several one and two-week workshops of musicals to help develop thrilling projects from the ground up.

What was the first inspiration for The Band’s Visit?
Itamar Moses: The project originated with our producer Orin Wolf, who acquired the stage rights to the film from Eran Kolerin, the filmmaker. He asked me to take a look at the film — which I’d heard of but never seen — and of course I loved it, because it’s great, and I immediately saw why Orin thought it might make a good stage musical. So then David Yazbek, who also saw the potential, and I were hired to do the adaptation.

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New Work in Progress: Broadway Bounty Hunter

This month, we chatted with Branden Huldeen, the Artistic Associate & Director of New Play Development at Barrington Stage Company, about their upcoming production of Broadway Bounty Hunter, by Joe Iconis (Fest ’11-Bloodsong of Love), Lance Rubin and Jason “SweetTooth” Williams. This production has received a Production Grant from NAMT’s National Fund for New Musicals.

How did Broadway Bounty Hunter first make its way to Barrington Stage Co.?
Julie Boyd (our Artistic Director) and Megan Nussle (Literary Associate) saw a reading produced by Rhinebeck Writers Retreat last year and fell in love with the show.  Joe has a long relationship with BSC and they knew that this show would be a great addition to our season.

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Festival Alumni in the News

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NAMT News

Congrats To Our Members and Alumni Nominated for NYC Theatre Awards

The incredibly busy New York awards season is underway, and the hard work of many NAMT members and alumni has been recognized in this full season of musical theatre. Congratulations to all!
The 70th Annual Tony Award nominations were announced last week. Hamilton (developed at and produced by member The Public Theater) received a record-breaking 16 nominations. Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed (produced in part by member Center Theatre Group) received ten nominations, including Best New Musical. School of Rock, written by Festival Alum Glenn Slater (Fest ’08, Beatsville) received four nominations, include Best New Musical. Duncan Sheik’s (Fest ’15, Noir) American Psycho the Musical (produced in part by Center Theatre Group) earned two nominations, and the revival of his Spring Awakening received three nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical.

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This month, we chat with Kirsten Childs about her new show Bella: An American Tall Tale, which will receive its world premiere next season in a co-production with Dallas Theater Center and Playwrights Horizons. The production has just received a NFNM Production Grant. Childs is a Festival Alumna from her shows The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (Fest ’98) and Funked Up Fairy Tales (Fest ’12).
How did the idea for Bella: An American Tall Tale first come to you?
I was walking home to my apartment one day, and a couple was walking in the same direction ahead of me.  Much to the appreciation of all the men (and I mean ALL the men) passing by, the woman had an extravagantly zaftig African fertility goddess figure.  I actually slowed down to watch each and every man stop, turn and look at the woman as they passed her by.  Their spellbound behavior underscored for me the fact that women are being sold a fraudulent bill of goods as to what men find attractive in a woman.  Right then and there, I decided to make a larger-than-life tall tale about a heroine modeled after this modern day Venus.  And what better place to set a larger-than-life tall tale than the American Old West?

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New Work in Progress: Invisible

This month, we checked in with Elise Dewsberry from New Musicals Inc. about their upcoming concert reading of Invisible, written by David Hollingsworth and David Orris. The reading is being produced in consortium with NAMT member 3-D Theatricals, and has just received a Project Development grant from the National Fund for New Musicals.
Invisible is a John-Hughes-esque musical theatre adaptation of the HG Wells classic The Invisible Man with a totally original pop/rock score that takes great joy in paying homage to popular music and popular cultural tropes of the era. The show ultimately endeavors to physically and figuratively bring the audience into their own hallowed high school hallways via the heightened and dangerous halls of Springborough High School. Invisible lives in the fairly self-concerned and narcissistic year of 1988, because at its core, it is a show about what it means to cut away all of the cultural and social melodrama and truly see another human being.
NMI is working together with 3-D Theatricals to develop this project. How did that relationship first come about, and how did the two organizations come together to work on this specific project?
Funny you should ask!  Although T.J. Dawson and I both work near Los Angeles, we actually met at the NAMT Conference in the fall of 2014.  We got to chatting, and T.J. mentioned that he was interested in having 3-D Theatricals get involved in the development of new musicals.  Since that’s exactly what we’re about at New Musicals Inc., I suggested that he let me know if he had any new works he would like to submit for a reading as part of our STAGES Festival.  Since T.J. is hoping to produce new work on his mainstage at some point in the future, it made perfect sense that we should bring him some readings so that his audience could start to feel like they were a part of the development process, and start to take ownership of some of the new shows.  Once we got back to LA, we had several more meetings, and we wound up actually expanding our STAGES Festival (summer of 2015) and bringing performances of all five new musicals (including Invisible) down to Orange County for T.J.’s audience.  Since then, we’ve created a Concert Reading Series to bring even more new shows down to his audience.  It’s a win-win situation—our writers get a chance to hear their new works in development, and T.J.s audience gets a chance to know more about the development process.

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We are thrilled to announce eleven awards granted from the 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 eighth year, the Fund will provide grants totaling $43,000 to twelve 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 88 grants totaling $358,500. 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: The Boy Who Danced On Air

This month, we chat with Festival Alumni Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser about their 2013 Festival Show, The Boy Who Danced on Air, which is heading to Diversionary Theatre in San Diego this May. This production of The Boy Who Danced on Air is supported by a NAMT National Fund for New Musicals Production Grant, and the show previously received a Writers Residency Grant at New York Theatre Barn.
What was the post-Festival response like to The Boy Who Danced On Air?
Charlie Sohne: I think the big response that we got coming out of the Festival was, “I want to see it with dance!” The world of the show features quite a bit of dance and, beyond that, dance is a fundamental element of how we tell this story — so it was really important to start developing what the choreographic language of the piece was going to be like. We were fortunate enough that right out of the Festival New York Theater Barn (which has long been a really wonderful advocate for the piece) put together a dance workshop for us. It was really exciting to see the work leap off the page and become something more heightened than just a script with music.
Tim Rosser: Since the dance element is so central to the show and was certainly going to require a special touch, we went on a bit of a quest to find the right choreographer. Charlie saw an ad for this piece that Nejla Yatkin was working on called “Oasis: Everything You Wanted To Know About The Middle East But Were Afraid To Dance.” I remember being taken by not just by the beauty of the dance, but by the fact that Nejla often uses clear linear narratives in her dance pieces, which isn’t always the case in modern dance but is, I think, a great advantage in musical theatre. We sent her the script immediately afterwards.

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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.

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We are thrilled to announce nine awards granted from the 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 seventh year, the Fund will provide grants totaling $46,000 to ten 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 77 grants totaling $315,500. 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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The National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) announced nine awards granted from their National Fund for New Musicals, with recipients including the Public Theater, Goodspeed Musicals and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The fund will provide grants totaling $35,500 to nine organizations across the country.

The National Fund for New Musicals is a major funding program to support NAMT member not-for-profit theatres in their collaborations with writers to create, develop and produce new musicals.

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New Works in Progress: SMALL TOWN STORY

An interview with Joe Barros, Artistic Director of New York Theatre Barn in New York, NY about NYTB’s work with Sammy Buck and Brandon James Gwinn’s Small Town Story (formerly Speargrove Presents), a 2011-2012 Writers Residency Grant recipient.

At the urging of his father Larry, adorkable Scott Ames auditions for the Speargrove High School musical to get closer to drama club queen bee Caroline. But when Larry discovers the show is Rent he pulls Scott out. With the arrival of New York transplant Alex, her outspoken mom Lois and rising community fear about the show, the stage is set for a controversy unlike any small town has ever seen. As the escalation drives wedges between parents and children, Speargrove, Texas will discover that the show can’t open until their minds do. Inspired by actual events, Small Town Story explores the indelible power of theatre and the inherent dangers of silence.
Small Town Story has a unique genesis. How did NYTB originally go about commissioning this show?
In January 2010, New York Theatre Barn assembled 17 writers, led by sole book writer Sammy Buck, to conceive a new musical. Real-life events in Rowlett, Texas pertaining to a controversial production of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent provided an irresistible springboard for the writing as NYTB set out to create a show by a community of writers about community. NYTB’s involvement with Small Town Story actually led to a change in the artistic and institutional mission of the company. We became so attracted to telling untold stories about real people, and often based on real events, that we made it our primary focus.


Why did you narrow the team down to just two writers?
After launching NYTB in 2007, we were given the unique opportunity by Daryl Roth Theatricals to produce a monthly show in their D-Lounge, and our core developmental platform for emerging writers and new work was born. Through this monthly program (now in its 6th year), I was immediately exposed to over 50 writers in the first three years alone. With such incredible creative resources at our fingertips, I knew we had to devise a piece together. While Small Town Story (then Speargrove Presents) started out as a piece written by committee, I ultimately made the decision to choose Sammy Buck and Brandon James Gwinn as its sole writers in order to give the piece clarity and authenticity, primarily in the score.
After working on the piece for about a year, the team went from 17 to 2 to improve the show’s cohesion. Buck and young composer Gwinn were serendipitously paired on a song to
transcendent results—and they were chosen to write the show. Their collaboration is unique in that this is the first show that they have written together; Sammy writes the book, Brandon writes the music, and they write lyrics together or separately.
Buck was raised in North Texas, and the “Speargrove” townsfolk he has created are imbued with the personalities he remembers from his childhood–a sensibility of North Texan suburban life is rooted in his flesh, bones and spirit. Gwinn (composer/co-lyricist) was raised in rural Tennessee. Country and pop music is his lifeblood–fresh, authentic and accessible. Moreover, Brandon understands intimately the students’ perspective, in perfect counterpoint to Sammy’s maturity. I am a huge supporter of these two writers and am mesmerized by the world they have created in Speargrove, TX.

The show has had a reading and workshop in New York over the past couple years. What has changed in the show as it has been developed? 
The first version that Sammy and Brandon wrote together was completed in November of 2011, and we did a table reading in December 2011. Only three songs remained from the original version of the show—two were written solely by Brandon and one was written together. Following that reading, a demo was recorded and there were major rewrites that took place, including the creation of numerous new songs and an overhaul of the book (rearranging, cutting, adding new material). In May 2012, NYTB produced a workshop at The Cell (NAMT 2012 Writers’ Residency Grant). The workshop marked the first time that the piece was on its feet and the process elucidated for the writers precisely what themes upon to focus: (1) communication between parents and children, and (2) theatre as a catalyst for change. Since the workshop, the writers and the NYTB team have collaborated with NYTB’s community of actors on numerous private writers’ work sessions to explore new material aloud, as well as fine tune existing material that is constantly evolving. Significant revisions to hone the themes and storytelling have taken place over the past year, and the show also has a new title: Small Town Story. I am very proud of the new draft and am eager to see it on its feet.

What are the next steps for the show?
The show will have a reading in at The Village Theatre in Washington this summer. We are very excited about this opportunity and to hear the new draft! Additional opportunities have come our way but are not yet confirmed—including a developmental production in San Francisco where actual teenagers would assume the roles of the students of Speargrove High School. New York Theatre Barn looks forward to producing the show in New York sometime soon.


Why is Small Town Story an important story to tell today? 
We continue to see controversial productions populate headlines in the news that deal with the very issues that are explored in this powerful new musical—fear, communication and change. Following the recent headlines of Loveland, Ohio’s high school production of Legally Blonde and the firing of its director, I believe that the time is now to tell this untold story. New York Theatre Barn and the authors hope that Small Town Story engenders the types of open conversations that scare the characters in our show. We see that our show celebrates the mother lode of power in musical theatre. 

For more information about Small Town Story, please visit www.SmallTownStory.com.

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We are honored to announce this year’s recipients of our National Fund for New Musicals grants. Now in its fifth year, the National Fund has distributed 56 grants totaling $234,000 to non-profit member theatres around America.
A special thanks to our funders including Stacey Mindich Productions, The Alhadeff Family Charitable Foundation and The ASCAP Foundation. This fund would not be possible without their contributions. If you are interested in supporting theatres developing new musicals around the country, please consider making a contribution to our National Fund for New Musicals.

National Fund grants of $10,000 to support full productions have been awarded to:
Barrington Stage Company
(Pittsfield, MA) for Southern Comfort by Dan Collins and Julianne Wick Davis. This project previously received a Project Development Grant in support of its time at CAP21, a Writers Residency Grant for its time at Playwrights Horizons and was presented in NAMT’s 2012 Festival of New Musicals.
Transport Group (New York, NY) for The Memory Show by Sara Cooper and Zachary Redler, with support from Stacey Mindich Productions. The Memory Show was presented in NAMT’s 2009 Festival of New Musicals. 

National Fund grants between $2,500 and $5,000 to support a workshop or reading have been awarded to:

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Chicago, IL) for Summerland by Laura Eason, Jenny Giering & Sean Barry. Giering is an alumna from NAMT’s 2005 Festival for Princess Caraboo.
Dallas Theater Center (Dallas, TX) for The Fortress of Solitude by Itamar Moses and Michael Friedman, with support from the ASCAP foundation. Itamar Moses is an alumnus from NAMT’s 2012 Festival for Nobody Loves You, which also received a Project Development Grant in 2011-2012 in support of its time at The Old Globe.
Human Race Theatre Company  (Dayton, OH) for The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes by Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond with support from The Alhadeff Family Charitable Foundation. Kooman and Dimond are alumni from NAMT’s 2011 Festival for Dani Girl.
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, OK) for Triangle by Thomas Mizer and Curtis Moore with support from Stacey Mindich Productions. Triangle was presented in NAMT’s 2012 Festival of New Musicals.

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An interview with Kent Nicholson, Director of Musical Theatre and Literary Associate at Playwrights Horizons, about their upcoming production of Far From Heaven, with a book by Richard Greenberg, Music by Scott Frankel and Lyrics by Fest alumnus Michael Korie (Blanco– ’89). The show is a recipient of one of NAMT’s National Fund for New Musicals Production Grants.

Cathy Whitaker seems to be the picture-perfect wife and mother in 1957 suburban Connecticut. But roiling beneath the surface, secret longings and forbidden desires cause her world to unravel, with incendiary consequences. With a lush score that is both jazz-inflected and hauntingly lyrical, Far From Heaven is a powerful story of romance, betrayal and intolerance, as a woman grapples with her identity in a society on the verge of upheaval.
Image: Kelli O’Hara in Far From Heaven at Williamstown Theatre Festival



Far From Heaven is a Playwrights Horizons’ commission. What came first: the project or the writers?
The writers came first. It was their idea. Scott Frankel and Michael Korie had talked with Richard Greenberg about working on something together during the run of Grey Gardenson Broadway. In their subsequent discussions, Far From Heaven came up as a project they all admired that they thought could have a new life as a musical. They came to us with the idea and we thought it was a good one.

Why choose to musicalize Far From Heaven and why were Scott, Michael and Richard the right team for the job?
The film is an exploration of the nostalgia we have for “simpler” times. Those times have a dark side, a side that forces people to live in denial of their own prejudices and desires. The film places its main characters on the edge of the ’50s bleeding into the social consciousness of the ’60s. Shot in a melodramatic style, as an homage to Douglas Sirk, it contains all the elements of a great musical: inner emotional lives, strong plotting, a simple character arc. The lushness of the film’s visuals have translated into a lushness in Scott Frankel’s score. In transforming the story from one medium to another, we feel that we have the ability to continue to explore the themes, that the film begins to explore and dig a little deeper into the characters’ emotional lives.

This is your theatre’s second time at bat with Korie and Frankel. What draws Playwrights Horizons to their work and why are they a good match with your audience and mission?
Our focus at Playwrights is always on the writers, and our mission includes composers and lyricists as writers. We focus on writer driven work, which tends to mean that the projects we produce are the ideas and province of the writers’ obsessions with the world. Scott and Michael have brought us many of their projects. Obviously, some of any producing decision is an aesthetic one, meaning we simply like their work. But beyond that we find that artist-driven work tends to move the form forward and explore the boundaries of what the form can be. Grey Gardenscreated a narrative out of documentary source material, and Far From Heaven is almost operatic in its approach to the material. They’re still musicals, but they play with the form in artistically challenging ways.

The show was recently at Williamstown Theatre Festival before coming to Playwrights Horizons. How has the show changed and grown over this process?
The piece went through some significant tweaking during the reading and production process. While the plot is generally a given and hasn’t changed much, how many scenes we keep from the movie, how we elide them together and where we choose to place our focus has shifted a lot, as has the amount of underscoring and music. Some characters have been made significantly smaller than they are in the film. And we learned a great deal from the Williamstown audiences. The opportunity to see the piece in a fully realized production prior to coming into NY, while we still have a chance to make significant changes, not just in the text, but also design and approach, is invaluable.

What will change as the show heads to the Playwrights Horizons stage?
You’ll have to come and see!

Why should people come see Far From Heaven on West 42nd Street?
Our space is unique in that is equipped pretty well for musicals and yet it is small and intimate. This is a grand show in many ways and the opportunity to see something of this size in a house as intimate as ours is rare. It’ll be a special experience.

For more info about Far From Heaven, please visit www.playwrightshorizons.org. 

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An interview with Rick Boynton, Creative Producer at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST), about their upcoming production of Othello: The Remix by the Q Brothers. The show was a past recipient of a NAMT National Fund for New Musicals Writers Residency Grant.
This fresh urban take on Shakespeare’s tragedy is spun out and lyrically rewritten over original beats by The Q Brothers, America’s leading re-interpreters of Shakespeare through hip-hop (Funk It Up About Nothin’, The Bomb-itty of Errors). Whether you’re looking for a rockin’ night of rhythm and rhyme or a new way to think about Shakespeare, Othello: The Remix delivers an intense, high-energy spin like no other.


How did CST meet the Q Brothers? 
We first met several years back when CST produced their show Bombitty of Errors, a hip-hop musical based on The Comedy of Errors. They approached us a few years later to see if we would be interested in developing a show based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  We agreed, developed the musical (Funk It Up About Nothin’) and premiered it here in our studio theatre.

Why did you commission them to adapt another Shakespeare play?
The idea for Othello: The Remix really found its way to us.  The Globe in London was organizing a festival of Shakespeare’s work, each performed by different countries around the world, for the cultural Olympiad prior to last summer’s Olympic Games.  They had seen Funkwhen we performed in London, had liked our work, and wanted us to represent the US by creating a hip hop piece based on Othello.  It was an exciting opportunity and, quite honestly, a bit of a daunting yet exciting challenge.  I always find those the most interesting, so we accepted.
What was it like to take a show created in Chicago to international audiences?

We had played Chicago, London, Edinburgh, Australia with Funk and were hoping Othello would have similar opportunities.  After our premiere at the Globe was so well-received, we went to Germany and then spent the summer in Scotland.  It is truly thrilling to watch a show transcend language barriers and/or cultural differences.  As theatre creators, we all strive to move an audience in some way and when it happens, even when they don’t speak the same language, it is incredibly rewarding.
 
What do you hope your audience experience seeing this show in action back in Chicago? 
This is the first time we have developed a show and not premiered it in our own space first.  We are thrilled to share this work with our hometown audience and hope they will enjoy it as much as our international audiences have.

Why should everyone head to Navy Pier to see Othello: The Remix
It has an incredibly fresh approach to the art form through a hip-hop lens.  It is a show that is filled with big laughs yet packs a tragic punch.  I am very proud of our work and hope all will come out to see it (besides, we let you drink in the theatre!).

For more information about Othello: The Remix, please visit www.chicagoshakes.com.

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FROM THE ROAD: A Coast to Coast Summer

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting the chance to visit our members around the country.  There is no better way to take the pulse of the industry and help discover new ways for us to serve our members than to meet them on their home turf, see their shows and meet their staffs.  Summer is the busiest travel time for the NAMT staff because it is when the number of shows skyrocket in our member theatres.  My summer was filled with 10 productions (7 of them premieres),  2 workshops and 6 readings from New York to California, from Vermont to Tennessee.  We a few Festival shows and National Fund for New Musicals (NFNM) grant recipients along the way.

Here is the quick rundown (NAMT member theatres and Festival shows are bolded blue):

MAY

Los Angeles, CA- World premiere of Los Otros at Center Theatre Group 
San Diego, CA- World premiere of Nobody Loves You (NAMT Fest ’12, past NFNM Project Development Grant) and Scottsboro Boys at The Old Globe, world premiere of Hands on a Hardbody at La Jolla Playhouseand the chance to sit in on a rehearsal for Harmony, Kansas (NFNM Production Grant, past Writers Residency Grant) at Diversionary Theatre.
New York, NY- World premiere of February House (past NFNM Project Development Grant) at The Public Theater, reading of Suprema (NFNM Writers Residency Grant) at Ars Nova and Speargrove Presents (NFNM Writers Residency Grant) at New York Theatre Barn

JUNE
Connecticut- Readings of When We Met and String at The O’Neill Theatre Center, production of Mame at Goodspeed Musicals

JULY
New York, NY- Production of Triassic Parq (by Festival alumnus Marshall Pailet) produced by Amas Musical Theatre and New Musical Development Foundation at SoHo Rep  
East Haddam, CT- Final dress of Carousel at Goodspeed Musicals
Poughkeepsie, NY- Workshop of Murder Ballad (by Fest alumna Julia Jordan) at Vassar Powerhouse

AUGUST

Rhinebeck, NY- Reception for Beatsville (NAMT Fest ’08) at Rhinebeck Writers Retreat
Palo Alto, CA- TheatreWorks Festival of New Works with readings of Being Earnest and Triangle (NAMT Fest ’12) and a developmental production of The Trouble With Doug (NAMT Fest ’10)

SEPTEMBER

New York, NY- Reading of notes to MariAnne (NAMT Fest ’11) at New York Theatre Workshop
Weston, VT- World premiere of Pregnancy Pact (NAMT Fest ’11) at Weston Playhouse Theatre Co.  
Crossville, TN- Regional premiere of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge (NAMT Fest ’11) at Cumberland County Playhouse
New York, NY- Broadway Bound concert at Merkin Hall featuring songs from Watt?!? and The Dogs of Pripyat, both from the 2011 Festival 

And I am pretty sure I am missing a few.

I got a lot more out of these trips than a wallet full of receipts and slight confusion as to my time zone.  I was fortified in my belief that our members and alumni are creating, producing and exploring the best musical theatre in the country.  They are continually engaging, challenging and building audiences through their great work.  They are not resting on their laurels but pushing forward.

It is very hard to find a show today that does not have the NAMT stamp somewhere on it…and that makes me very proud to be just a small part of any show that adds to the crazy tapestry of musicals across the country.  The great work continues all over the country, and I’m the lucky one who gets to take in at least a fraction of it.

Branden Huldeen
New Works Director

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Congratulations to the 7 member theatres selected to receive grants from 
our National Fund for New Musicals this year. In the last 4 years, the Fund has given out 45 grants totaling $197,000. 

Production Grants of $10,000 have been awarded to:
Diversionary Theatre(CA) for Harmony, Kansasby Bill Nelson & Anna K. Jacobs
Playwrights Horizons (NY) for Far From Heavenby Scott Frankel, Richard Greenberg & Michael Korie (’89–Blanco)
TheatreWorks (CA) for Wheelhouseby Gene Lewin, Brendan Milburn (’04–Striking 12, ’11–Watt?!?) & Valerie Vigoda (’04–Strking 12).
Project Development Grants between $2,000-$3,000 have been awarded to:
American Musical Theatre Project at Northwestern University (IL) for The Verona Project by Amanda Dehnert.
Center Theatre Group (CA) for a new musical about urban superheroes by Matt Sax.
Dallas Theatre Center (TX) for Stagger Lee by Justin Ellington, Will Power & Daryl Waters.
Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre at University of Oklahoma for Something Wicked This Way Comes by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (both, ’07–The Story of My Life).
A special thanks to all of our National Fund for New Musicals donors including Stacey Mindich Productions, The Alhadeff Family Charitable Foundation, The ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund and everyone who contributed in honor of our former Executive Director Kathy Evans.
If you are interested in contributing to the National Fund, please contact Executive Director Betsy King Militello. Donations of all sizes help grow the Fund and provide more grants to new musicals across the country.

Congratulations to all of the members and artists involved in these exciting projects! 

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The National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) announces 15 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 fourth year, the Fund will provide grants totaling $48,000 to 14 organizations across the country.
NAMT Executive Director Betsy King Militello stated, “We are honored to support our member theatres as they develop these exciting, innovative and provocative new musicals.  In the past four years, we have given out 45 grants totaling $205,000, all made possible by our generous funders including Stacey Mindich Productions, The Alhadeff Family Charitable Foundation and The ASCAP Foundation. 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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New Work in Progress: FEBRUARY HOUSE

An interview with Maria Goyanes, Associate Producer at The Public Theater, about February House by Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley as they prepare to bring the show to New York this May. The show was the recipient of one of our National Fund forNew Musicals Project Development Grants.
About February House: Carson McCullers. Benjamin Britten. W.H. Auden. Gypsy Rose Lee. Visionary and flamboyant editor George Davis transforms a dilapidated Brooklyn boardinghouse into a bohemian commune for these leading lights of 1940s New York. The residents of 7 Middagh Street create a tumultuous and remarkable makeshift family searching for love, inspiration and refuge from the looming war in Europe. Inspired by true events, this powerful and funny newmusical marks the first commission of The Public’s Musical Theater Initiative.
Why did The Public Theater decide to commission Gabe and Seth to write February House?
Oskar Eustis, the Artistic Director of The Public Theater, has known Gabe since his college years at Brown University. They had stayed in touch while Gabe made his way through the music world circuit, putting out a pop album, composing classical pieces and occasionally music directing for the theater. Ted Sperling, when starting The Public’s Music Theater Initiative, asked Gabe if he was ready to try his hand at writing a musical. He became The Public’s Music Theater Fellow and then pitched the idea of February House, from Sherrill Tippin’s book of the same name. When it came to finding a bookwriter, Gabe turned to his old college friend Seth Bockley, who had been making a name for himself as an emerging playwright and director in Chicago.
The Public Theater has been working on the show for a few years in many different readings. How has the show changed since the first reading in 2009?
The show has changed so much—and all for the better! Gabe and Seth always knew that they were making a different kind of musical, a chamber piece of sorts, with 9 leads and no chorus. So much of the development of this piece has been about honing in on the three principals—George Davis, W.H. Auden and Carson McCullers—and their needs for this house, hopes for their art, and the looming war in Europe. Because there is no single protagonist, the piece has been a delicate balance of these three storylines intersecting, influencing and playing off of each other.
This summer the writers had a chance to have a workshop at New York Stage and Film, in collaboration with The Public and supported by our National Fund for New Musicals. How was this process vital to prepare for the productions?
As the piece is set in an old Victorian home in Brooklyn, NY, the house is definitely a main character in the piece. How it comes together, how the characters inhabit the space together —these are key discoveries to be made for the show to be successful. New York Stage and Film was the first time we had the show up on its feet, and we could start to problem solve those ideas. It was invaluable.
The show opened last month at Long Wharf Theatre, in a co-production with The Public, before it heads to NYC in May. What is the importance of this co-production to the show’s development trajectory and why was Long Wharf chosen as your partner?
Gordon Edelstein [Long Wharf’s Artistic Director] is a great friend and colleague of Oskar Eustis. We shared the piece with him and he has provided incredible dramaturgical support and nurturing for Gabe and Seth. New York is a scary place for a first-time musical—musicals are such complex pieces to get right (and this one more so than others). It felt important to try to elongate the rehearsal process for it with a first stab at a production out-of-town, to learn from the audience and the experience, and then bring it to NYC.
Why should we all head to The Public Theater this May to catch February House?
Gabe is one of the most exciting young composers of the decade. His music is beautiful and haunting and true—this is your chance to see the first musical from an artist who is sure to have an impact on the American theatre for a long time to come.
For more information about February House, please visit www.publictheater.org.

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Tony Award-winning Memphis producers Kenny and Marleen Alhadeff have made a four-year pledge to support the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s Fund for New Musicals.
The Alhadeffs, who are also NAMT members, are partners in Junkyard Dog Productions. The pledge coincides with the 1,000th performance of Memphis on Broadway March 14. The grant matches a five-year leadership pledge from Stacey Mindich.
NAMT’s Fund for New Musicals helps not-for-profit member theatres support the development of new works from writer residencies through workshops and on to full production. The 2012 grantees will be announced in April.

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Like the postman, I will brave all weather for the sake of musical theatre and NAMT, but thankfully Irene held off long enough so I could swing by the Weston Playhouse Theatre Co., in Weston, VT and see the opening night of the world premiere of Saint Ex, by Sean Barry and Jenny Giering (Festival Alumna from Princess Caraboo). The Weston Playhouse received a $15,000 grant from our National Fund for New Musicals for this production, so I was honored to represent NAMT on opening night. It was a beautiful production of a sweeping and touching musical about the life of the man who wrote The Little Prince, directed by Kent Nicholson. Resident Producing Director Steve Stettler and his team did a wonderful job of nurturing this show and bringing it to life. The night was capped off with the late-night cabaret performance downstairs from some of the cast and staff entertaining the elated crowd.

After a quick stop by the Vermont Country Store for cheese and maple syrup, it was off to see the matinee of The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown at Goodspeed Musicals. I was
supposed to see the evening performance but with Irene in Virginia, I thought it would be best to catch an earlier show so I could get home and avoid the hurricane. Sam Brown is by Brian Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan and is about a young woman on the morning of her first day of college who can’t decide between school and finally doing what she wants. It was a great production and the small audience, of those willing to brave a storm for art, loved it!

Sadly, the actualities of the storm started to set in after that show. It was supposed to be Sam Brown’s third-to-last show, but because of Irene…it became their last show during the performance. They had a great run but it was sad to hear that they and the audience would be deprived of the final two performances.

After Irene passed, the effects of the storm really hit home when I heard that the Weston was flooded, halting their production of Saint-Ex until the theatre was cleaned up and what was able to be saved was salvaged. As the photos on their Facebook page started to come in, it became clear that while flood was horrible, the Weston staff, volunteers and actors were resilient and wouldn’t let a little water and mud get in their way. By the end of the week, the show was back up (modified to embrace some necessary changes); an amazing feat! And I know that, storm or not, Saint Ex will fly again at many theatres around the country!

Branden Huldeen
New Works Director

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