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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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New Work in Progress: Goddess

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


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

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

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New Work in Progress: Trails

At the end of the summer, Broadway Rose Theatre Company is opening Trails, written by Christy Hall, Jeff Thomson and Jordan Mann. We chatted with Dan Murphy, the Managing Director at Broadway Rose, to learn more about the theatre’s history producing new works and how this show is expanding upon that history.
After a dozen years of silence, an unexpected meeting between childhood friends Mike and Seth leads the pair to fulfill a promise made in their youth: to hike the Appalachian Trail together. As they traverse the 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, powerful memories surface, leading the men to confront their past, themselves, and the haunting secret that kept them apart for so long.
What is Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s history of producing new works and how does this production of Trails fit into your theatre’s mission?
From our very first season 26 years ago we have been producing new work. Sharon Maroney, artistic director, wrote an original musical based on a children’s book entitled The 3 Little Pigs & Freud, the telling of the story of the three pigs as told from the wolf’s perspective to his therapist. Over the years we have produced original children’s musicals as well as several jukebox musicals now licensed through Select Entertainment. Some NAMT Festival selections include I Love You Because, Band Geeks!Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone, and in 2011 we produced the world premiere of Ripper with book, music, and lyrics by Duane Nelsen (Festival 2009).

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New Work in Progress: Deathless

Goodspeed Musicals is in rehearsal for their upcoming world premiere of Deathless, written by Zack Zadek. We chatted with Donna Lynn Hilton, the Line Producer at Goodspeed, to learn more about the musical’s history, current production and hopes for the future.
The Serling family is taking its annual road trip to Niagara Falls, but this time they’re saying goodbye to Mom. Along the way, memories of past trips, old wounds and family secrets are navigated in a not-too-distant future where no one dies of disease. For daughter Hayley, the journey means facing the big questions of life and death.
How did Goodspeed’s relationship with Zack Zadek first begin, and what about Deathless inspired you to produce the show? 
We first became of aware of Zack and his work in the fall of 2015 when Zack was nominated to participate in the 2016 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed.  The Mercer Colony, created at Goodspeed five years ago with support from the Johnny Mercer Foundation nurtures the work of writers, composers and lyricists of all backgrounds and in all stages of their careers, by providing a safe haven for creative work and collaboration.  Zack applied and was quickly invited to attend the Colony in February of 2016 with his project Deathless.  Each day during their colony residence, writers are given the opportunity to gather for a communal breakfast and again each evening, to share their work and to exchange thoughts and ideas.  Otherwise, they are free to spend each day in the manner that best suits their individual projects and writing styles.  Along the way, we strive to provide each project with individual support that best suits their needs.  On the final day of his residency, Zack requested that several other writers join him in a very casual read through of his completed script of Deathless.  At the last minute, I was invited to sit in on the reading.  My presence that day wasn’t a given. The Colony is very much by, and for, the writers participating and if Zack didn’t want to expose his work, we wouldn’t ask him to.  But in this case, Zack was comfortable and invited me to stop by.  So on a snowy Saturday morning in February, I wrapped up and trundled into town…and I am very glad that I did so.  The reading—while completely cold, with five other writers reading scene and Zack performing the songs—was transformative.  I left that reading and called Michael Gennaro…”You gotta read this piece.”  He did and had a similar reaction to my own…we were off.  

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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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New Work in Progress: Onegin

The Musical Stage Company, formerly known as Acting Up Stage Company, is preparing to open a production of the new Canadian musical Onegin, written by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille. We reached out to find out more about the production and The Musical Stage Company as a whole.
A thrilling, contemporary adaptation of Pushkin’s timeless poem and Tchaikovsky’s renowned opera, Onegin features a high-energy musical score to tell a sweeping tale of unrequited love, infatuation and intrigue.  When the young and innocent Tatyana falls in love with the self-obsessed aristocrat Onegin, he firmly rejects her, arousing passionate love letters, noble duels and second chances.
What is The Musical Stage Company’s history with new works, and how does this new production of Onegin fit into your overall commitment to new works development?
On top of our regular season of programming which features contemporary musicals from around the world, we have commissioned nearly a dozen new Canadian musicals in the last five years, and produced six new Canadian musicals at home and abroad. Additionally, we have pioneered programs to support Canadian writers including training programs, commissioning programs and our new Crescendo Series which brings one writer into residence with our organization for three years alongside a commitment to produce one of their new musicals each year of their residency.
Giving Onegin its second production and bringing it to Toronto audiences for the first time helps advance our goal of sharing new Canadian works with local audiences. Our belief that we can subsequently champion Onegin across Canada and beyond through our production (we have already confirmed a tour to Canada’s National Arts Centre in Ottawa in September) reinforces our priority to shepherd new Canadian musicals around the world.

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New Work in Progress: Fredericia Teater

Søren Møller, the creative producer at Fredericia Teater in Denmark, has been bringing NAMT Festival shows to Europe for innovative productions. This month, we reached out to him to learn more about the theatre’s history, and his process working with new musicals.
Fredericia has a long history of producing new musicals; how does this relate to the theatre’s mission, and what have been some of your favorite shows to produce?
Our mission is to produce new musicals only. All works are either developed here, co-developed or have never played Denmark before.

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This month we chatted with Lori Bales, an Associate Professor at Millikin University and the director of the school’s New Musical Workshop. Millikin is currently in rehearsal for their 10th Annual New Musical Workshop, featuring works by Sam Carner and Derek Gregor, as well as songs by Festival alumni Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond (Fest ’11, Dani Girl; Fest ’14, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes).
This year Millikin University is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of producing new works—can you tell us about the history of your program?
We’d like to send out a big thank you to Scott Guy, Elise Dewsberry, and John Sparks for their support in our start-up year. In 2007 we piloted our program in collaboration with New Musicals Inc. (formerly ANMT) followed by a collaboration with Theatre Building Chicago in 2008. My initial inspiration for this program was in a breakout group at the 2004 NAMT Conference, moderated by John Sparks. In 2009 we began working with solo writing teams Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond, and Jeff Thompson and Jordan Mann. We’ve had the privilege of collaborating with many other truly gifted writers: Adam Gwon and Sarah Hammond, Andrew Lippa, Marissa Michaelson, Amy Engelhardt and Marc Acito, Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, and Millikin alums Derek Hassler and his partner Landon Braverman, and Joshua Streeter and his partner Ryan Laney. We are currently workshopping two shows with Sam Carner and Derek Gregor. In celebration of our ten-year anniversary, Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond will join us for a retrospective cabaret celebrating their canon of work. In addition to developmental workshops/residencies we also provide fully realized developmental productions on our mainstage season. To date we’ve produced Golden Gate by Kooman and Dimond and String by Gwon and Hammond.

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New Work in Progress: Scrooge in Love!

This month, we chatted with Daniel Thomas, the Executive Director at 42nd Street Moon, and Dyan McBride, the show’s director, about their upcoming production of Scrooge in Love!, written by Larry Grossman (Fest ’95, Paper Moon), Kellen Blair and Duane Poole (Fest ’14, Beautiful Poison). 42nd Street Moon produced the world premiere of the musical last year.
What happened after A Christmas Carol? The day after that fateful Christmas we join Ebenezer Scrooge as he journeys to find his long-lost love Belle. Along the way he’s helped by some old friends and new ghosts! Scrooge in Love! had its smash hit World Premiere at 42nd Street Moon in 2015, and the theatre is pleased to bring back this joyous holiday tale that’s perfect for the entire family.
What is 42nd Street Moon’s mission, and how does new works development fit into that mission?
42nd Street Moon celebrates and preserves the art and spirit of the American Musical Theatre. We contribute to its evolution and continuing vitality by presenting intimately produced performances of classic and rarely performed musical works. Through our productions, educational programs, and community outreach, we are committed to increasing the awareness and appreciation of the rich heritage and cultural perspective of the musical theatre and its vast influence on the world stage.
As we approach our 25th Anniversary, we are aware that the vitality of musical theatre is as dependent on shepherding the next generation of classic musicals as it is on preserving the rich heritage of shows that have come before. This is the third premiere or semi-premiere we have been involved with, and each experience has reinforced this belief.

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New Work in Progress: From Page to Stage

This month, we chatted with Katy Lipson, the Company Director/Producer at Aria Entertainment, about their upcoming new musical showcase, From Page to Stage. Featuring readings and showcases of new and developing musicals, this year’s group of musicals includes a show written by Festival alumni Hyeyoung Kim and Michael Cooper (Fest ’06, Sunfish) and one by Elliot Davis, who will be featured in this year’s Festival with Soho Cinders.
 
What is Aria Entertainment’s mission, and how does From Page to Stage fit into that larger picture?
Aria Entertainment is passionate about commissioning, developing and producing new musical theatre. Over the past four years as we have built the company, we have produced over 35 productions many of which have been world premieres or UK premieres of new international musicals. In 2013, I created the From Page to Stage season of new musicals as a platform for creators of new musicals. This was my opportunity to find new writers and give them development opportunities, as well as to introduce audiences to the process.

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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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This month, we chatted with Giovanna Sardelli, the Director of New Works at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, about their upcoming New Works Festival, held annually in Palo Alto. Read more about their festival, which this year coincides with NAMT’s Roundtable on Education & Outreach, being held at TWSV. 
Can you tell us a little about the history of TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival and what your goals are for the program?
The Festival began 15 years ago as a way to introduce our audiences to works in development and to get them excited about the process of making theatre. It is our goal to provide the artists we invite to TheatreWorks with a safe environment in which to explore and create – one that supports their vision. As our audiences are an invaluable part of the process, it is our goal to provide them an opportunity to engage with art and artists in a way they might not otherwise be able to do.
How does TWSV select shows for the festival?
Primarily we take submissions from agents. We also reach out to literary managers and artistic directors for suggestions since we all have works we love that we aren’t able to support – in fact I have several right now if anyone wants suggestions! Also we rely upon writers with whom we have a relationship to suggest other artists and shows. They are wonderful advocates for each other.

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This month, we checked in with Brett Smock, the Producing Artistic Director at Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, a brand new NAMT member. Located in Auburn, NY, FLMTF has an exciting summer of new works lined up, including From Here to Eternity, a new musical with music by Stuart Brayson, lyrics by Tim Rice (Fest ’94, Tycoon) and book by Bill Oakes, and a festival featuring seven new musicals. Keep reading to learn more about this member’s exciting new works program! 
Can you tell us about Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival’s relationship with new works development throughout the years?
The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival was launched in 2012 to create a haven for musical theatre as an art form and to cultivate economic and artistic revitalization in the Finger Lakes region.  Operating on three stages, in two cities, the Festival produces new musicals, reimagined classics and fosters writers and creative teams of musicals in their earliest stages of development.
What are some of the new works FLMTF is developing this year?
2016 stands to be a very special year for the Festival.  Of our eight-show season, four of those shows are new musicals.  We will produce the North American premiere of Tim Rice’s From Here to Eternity [written with Stuart Brayson and Bill Oakes], followed by the regional premiere of Treasure Island [by Brett Smock, Carla Vitale and Corinne Aquilina] and a new production of Tenderly, The Rosemary Clooney Musical.  On our stage in Rochester, we will produce Austen’s Pride: A New Musical of Pride and Prejudice [by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs].  I am thrilled to be able to create development opportunities for these new works and to have the works crafted by such stellar creative teams.

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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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New Work in Progress: Rain

This month, we checked in with Barry Edelstein from The Old Globe about their upcoming premiere of Rain, written by Michael John LaChuisa and Sybille Pearson. Rain is based on W. Somerset Maugham’s short story of the same title.


The year is 1924, the setting a boarding hotel on the island of Western Samoa, where a missionary, a doctor, and their wives are scandalized by Sadie Thompson’s arrival, particularly when they learn what she does for a living. But the missionary has secrets of his own, and when he tries to save her soul, more heats up than the South Pacific sun. This gorgeous and powerful new work reveals the explosive nature of repressed desire. 

How did Rain find its way to The Old Globe, and how does the production fit into The Old Globe’s mission?
I’ve known and admired Michael John LaChiusa for a long time. His music moves me and speaks to me in a distinct and personal way. I loved Giant when I saw it at The Public, and it introduced me to the work he and Sybille are doing together. We’re all represented by the same agent, Charles Kopelman, and it was he who asked me to read and listen to Rain. I loved it and grabbed it. The Globe has a long history of developing world premiere musical theatre (Rain is our 30th such premiere) and this piece, with its literary provenance in Maugham’s great story, seemed to combine the classic with the new in a way that resonates to me as an Old Globe show.

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New Work in Progress: Puddin' and the Grumble

This month, we checked in with Alisa Belflower from the Lied Center for the Performing Arts about their upcoming premiere of Puddin’ and the Grumble, written by Becky Boesen and David Von Kampen.
Puddin’ has big dreams and a big problem. She has to move in with her grandmother, a quirky former lounge singer who isn’t expecting a roommate. Puddin’ misses her mom, struggles with math, and is starting to feel as empty as her own tummy, when she realizes a Grumble is living inside her! Join Puddin’ and her trusty purple llama Wuzzlebutt on their heartbreaking and hilarious journey. Told through the eyes of a plucky fifth-grader, Puddin’ and the Grumble is an uplifting new family musical that takes an unconventional approach in addressing childhood hunger. 
How did Puddin’ and the Grumble find its way to the Lied Center?
[Lyricist and Librettist] Becky Boesen and [the Lied Center’s Education & Community Engagement Director] Petra Wahlqvist were incensed by a news story about a school in Utah, where school lunches had been taken away from elementary school students with delinquent lunch accounts. They immediately agreed their next big project at the Lied Center would revolve around the hunger epidemic, and its effect on families and children. A Lied Center commission for a new musical addressing childhood hunger opened the door.

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New Work in Progress: C.

This month, we checked in with Peter Rothstein from Theater Latté Da about their upcoming Spring premier of C., a past NFNM Writers Residency Grant Recipient, written by Bradley Greenwald and Robert Elhai.

How did
C. find its way to Theater Latté Da?
I have long been interested in adapting Cyrano de Bergerac into a piece of innovative music-theater. Bradley Greenwald, who is one of the Twin Cities’ finest singer/actors, was working with me on the world premier of Steerage Song, a musical about the American immigrant experience. He expressed interest in doing more work as a writer. I had experienced Bradley’s impressive work adapting operas for Theatre de la Jeune Lune. He has the natural ability to take classical work and make it contemporary, immediate and bold.

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New Work in Progress: The Sweet Potato Queens

This month, we chat with Bruce Lumpkin and Marley Wisnoski from Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, Texas about their upcoming premiere of the new musical The Sweet Potato Queens, written by Sharon Vaughn, Rupert Holmes and Festival Alumna Melissa Manchester (I Sent a Letter to My Love, Fest ’01).
How did The Sweet Potato Queens find its way to TUTS and your Underground season? 
Melissa Manchester was doing a concert at The Hobby Center in Houston, and she requested a meeting with us to discuss the project. We then met with Rupert Holmes in New York and discussed his input in the project. After reading and listening to the piece, we believed a staged reading was the next step for this project. In March 2015, we invited Holmes (Book), Manchester (Music) and Sharon Vaughn (Lyrics) to Houston where we worked on the show with local actors and produced TUTS Underground’s first 29-hour reading. After a successful reading, we felt that the material could be developed further into a full production. The writers visited us again in November 2015 to work on the piece and do a table read. We believe that the show is now ready for a full-scale TUTS Underground production in March 2016.

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New Work in Progress: The Wildness

This month, we checked in with Emily Shooltz from Ars Nova about their upcoming premier of Indie-pop band Sky-Pony’s musical The Wildness. Festival Alumnus Kyle Jarrow (Hostage Song, Fest ’09; Noir, Fest ’14) is Sky-Pony’s principal songwriter.
How did Sky-Pony finds its way to Ars Nova? 
We’ve known and loved playwright Kyle Jarrow since he was a founding member of our emerging playwrights group, Play Group, back in 2007. Over the years, we supported the development of several of his theater pieces and showcased his bands in concert, so teaming up with Kyle, Lauren Worsham and Play Company to develop and produce The Wildness is the happy culmination of a long relationship.

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This month, we chat with Walter Stearns from Mercury Theater Chicago in Chicago, IL about their upcoming premiere of the new musical The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, written by John Reeger, Julie Shannon and Festival Alumnus Michael Mahler (How Can You Run…, Fest ’09).
Based mostly on historic fact, with a little fantasy thrown in, The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes begins with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle deciding to kill off his most famous character. When it is revealed that the beloved character of Sherlock Holmes has been killed off, everyone from Churchill to the Queen of England is up in arms. Doyle decides he needs to get out of town and travels to the countryside, but he cannot escape. Sherlock comes to him and haunts him. Next thing you know, the writer and his creation are off solving crimes together.
How did the show find its way to Mercury Theater Chicago? 
For the past five seasons, we have had the pleasure of producing the beloved holiday tradition, The Christmas Schooner.  The writers ofSchooner came to us with other works which have been in development.  This Sherlock Holmes piece has been in development for over 20 years.
In 2012, we lost the very talented lyricist/composer, Julie Shannon to cancer.  Her writing partner and husband were very passionate about getting this show into production and they created a special reading just for me.  I was profoundly moved by the piece and we started a dialogue about the continued development.
What excited you about this show? 
Talent.  These are great creators working at the top of their game.  The music is catchy, lyrics are smart and the book is filled with humor and heart.
You have an expectation of what a Sherlock Holmes piece might be like, but I was completely surprised at how emotional this story became.  It explores great social issues (the false imprisonment of dark skinned people) as well as the crippling sadness when you lose someone you love.  There won’t be a dry eye in the house.
What is Mercury Theater Chicago’s history with developing and presenting new work? 
This is a first for us at the Mercury Theater Chicago.  It is a big risk, but we are banking on the talents of these writers and the draw of Sherlock Holmes.
What sort of development have you done on this show to prepare for its world premiere? 
It has received so many readings over the 20 years of development.  There are roles written for certain Chicago actors who are now a little too mature for the work.  At Mercury Theater Chicago we assembled a dream cast and set them up for two developmental workshops spread out over one year.
Why is the show a good match for your theatre and audience? 
It is a chamber musical for smart people.  It will feel very intimate and scaled just right for our theater.  Our audience is accustomed to listening for smart lyrics and a sentimental story.
Why should people come by the Windy City this winter to solve the case? 
This is some of the very best talent Chicago has to offer.  The writing team is beloved, and we are giving them their best chance to succeed.  We assembled a top-notch cast under the direction of one of our great local treasures, Rachel Rockwell.  If you have ever wondered, what is the big deal about theater in Chicago, look no further than The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, at Mercury Theater Chicago.
Visit Mercury Theater Chicago’s website for more information about their upcoming production of The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes.

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New Work in Progress: Bridges

This month, we chat with Daren Carollo and Lauren Hewitt from Berkeley Playhouse in Berkeley, CA about their upcoming premiere of the new musical Bridges, written by Festival Alumni Douglas J. Cohen and Cheryl L. Davis.
In 1965, a young woman boldly joins a march to fight for her civil rights. Decades later, another young woman faces her own battle for equality. As their stories collide across time and distance, each must come to terms with who she is in the context of a changing and complicated world. Full of soulful melodies, Bridges is an empowering story that explores our country’s past and present – how far we’ve come, how far we have to go and the bridges we must cross to get there.
What was the impetus behind Berkeley Playhouse choosing to commission a new musical?  
While there are a number of really wonderful works being created for children’s musical theatre, with the exception of some exceptional Disney titles, and a handful of “Matildas,” there are very few works being created for the family musical theatre canon: shows specifically written for multiple generations to enjoy together with stories accessible enough for youth, but engaging enough for adults. There are fewer still that have very specific themes around social justice. However, Berkeley Playhouse has built an eight year reputation on these types of works. We felt it was only right to begin contributing to the canon that has meant so much to us.

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New Work in Progress: Indian Joe

This month, we chat with Donna Lynn Hilton from Goodspeed Musicals in Chester, CT about their upcoming premiere of the new musical Indian Joe.
Inspired by true events, this brand-new musical tells the unlikely story of a homeless Native American and a Texas beauty queen who never should have been friends. He’s looking for a fight. She’s looking for a cause. As they stumble toward friendship, both ultimately overcome fear and prejudice to discover that there’s more to family than what you see. From the streets of Waco, Texas to the streets of New York City, it’s a uniquely American story with a progressive Americana beat. You’ll never forget Indian Joe.
How did Indian Joe and Elizabeth A. Davis find their way to Goodspeed?  
Elizabeth and Indian Joe were introduced to Goodspeed by Carolyn Rossi Copeland just as we were preparing to launch the inaugural Johnny Mercer Writers Colony. We had worked with Carolyn on the successful developmental production of Amazing Grace at our Norma Terris Theatre, so when she suggested that we might respond to Indian Joe, we bit. We invited Elizabeth to work on Indian Joe at the Mercer Colony in 2013.

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NAMT News

New Work In Progress: Creep

This month, we chat with Terry Martin from WaterTower Theatre (WTT) in Addison, TX about their upcoming premiere of the new musical, Creep.
Creep is an original musical with book, music and lyrics by local writer/actor Donald Fowler. It is a musical mystery/thriller set during the time of the mythic Jack the Ripper murders. While completely fictional, the story line weaves in some of the factual things known about the famous murders. The narrative follows a mother, her beautiful young daughter and the mysterious man who suddenly comes into their lives. When savage and puzzling murders begin to take place in and around the Whitehall section of London, anyone and everyone seems capable of murder. With a cast of 18 and an orchestra of 10, the show will be one of the largest WTT had produced in its history.

How did Creep find its way to WaterTower?
The writer Donald Fowler, has been well known to WTT audiences as an actor on our stages almost since our beginning. In 2010, the first draft of the show was presented as a reading at our annual Out of the Loop Fringe Festival. I directed that reading, and it was well-received and generated quite a bit of buzz locally. Based on feedback from that reading, the writer continued to work on Creepand Uptown Players (another local company) did a full staged workshop in 2013. I saw that workshop and began talks with Mr. Fowler about a full realized production at WTT. In order to take it to the next level, in November 2014, I hired Kate Galvin to direct the production and to work with Fowler on refining and reshaping some key elements. Kate has great experience with new musical development and her insight and guidance has been invaluable over the last few months as we move toward the opening of Creep.

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 In June, we chatted with Kevin Moore, Producing Artistic Director of The Human Race Theatre Co. in Dayton, Ohio about their upcoming Festival of New Works (August 7 & 8) and how it has changed over the years.

The Human Race Theatre Company’s commitment to the creation of new plays and musicals takes center stage this summer with its Festival of New Works. We’ve selected 5 works in development—3 plays and 2 musicals—to present as staged and table readings for this exciting summer event. The productions perform in our 60-seat Caryl D. Philips Creativity Center and at The Loft Theatre over the course of the two-day festival, the culmination of a two-week-long workshop process in which writers have the chance to further develop their scripts with the help of professional directors and actors, then see them performed on stage. 

The Human Race Theatre Co. has been developing new musicals for years.  How did the Festival of New Works come about and how does it fit in to your mission? 
We started in 2000 with three workshops scattered throughout our season- plugging them in wherever we had time.  And we did that for 7 years.  But it became increasingly difficult overlapping with our regular productions.  So we shifted to a summer Festival because we traditionally did not produce in the summer and we now would have no competition for our housing, rehearsal space, actors and stage.  And it allowed us to stay engaged with our audience during the summer months.  Our mission always included nurturing writers and developing new works, which now includes plays as well as musicals.  This summer’s Festival combines both plays and musicals for the first time.
What does the Festival provide for the writers in residence as they work on their show? 
This summer’s Festival expands our format and allows us to work at various levels.  For example, there will be a full workshop of the new musical Mann…and Wife by Douglas J. Cohen and Dan Elish.  Our contract allows for 40 hours of rehearsal over two weeks and a public staged reading.  This really gives the writers a chance to hear their work while they continue to make changes.  We have two new formats this summer:
1) A public table reading of a new play – 11 hours of rehearsal.
2) A format I call a “Snapshot.”  This is a 20-30 minute presentation that introduces our audience to new works and includes scenes, songs and discussions with the writers.  Each work also has an 11-hour rehearsal contract.  This summer, two plays and one musical will be presented as one event for our audience.
Do you present shows at any stage on their trajectory or do you have a preference for when you present them? 

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