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New Work in Progress: Hephaestus

Next, we spoke to Meghan Randolph, the Founder and Executive Director of Music Theatre of Madison, about their upcoming production of Hephaestus by Nathan Fosbinder. MTM will be producing the world premiere of the show this summer, which has received a Frank Young Fund for New Musicals Production Grant.
Hephaestus tells the story of the physically deformed, oft-forgotten Greek God of fire. Cast down to Earth by his mother, the jealous and powerful Hera, he reaches into his soul and identifies his strength as an artisan to win back his spot on Mount Olympus. Soaring contemporary music, beautiful costumes, and the Greek traditions of comedy and tragedy mesh together in this premiere that truly belongs to Madison.

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Festival Show Update: Fall Springs

This month, we chatted with Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and Niko Tsakalakos, the writers of 2017 Festival show Fall Springs. This summer, the show will receive its world premiere at NAMT member Barrington Stage Company, which received a production grant from our Frank Young Fund for New Musicals.
The town of Fall Springs is cash-strapped but sits directly on top of America’s largest reserve of cosmetic essential oils. The town has big dreams but at what cost? With new fracking techniques being recklessly implemented, the ground beneath Fall Springs is crumbling.

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New Work in Progress: Because of Winn Dixie

Next, we spoke to Donna Lynn Hilton, Producer, and Anika Chapin, Artistic Associate, at Goodspeed Musicals, about their upcoming production of Because of Winn Dixie by Duncan Sheik (Fest ’15, Noir) and Nell Benjamin (Fest ’03, Sarah, Plain & Tall), based on the original book by Kate DiCamillo. NAMT members attending the New Works Roundtable this summer will have to chance to see the production.
In a Southern town filled with lost souls, a new leash on life is just around the corner when a preacher and his daughter take in a mutt named Winn Dixie. The beloved, award-winning novel about a quirky community learning to get along now sings for the first time in this uplifting new musical.

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Festival Show Update: Darling Grenadine

This month, we chatted with Daniel Zaitchik, the writer of 2017 Festival show Darling Grenadine. This summer, there will be a production of Darling Grenadine at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, IL, and a New York production at Roundabout Theatre’s Underground is scheduled for this winter. Below, we talk to Daniel about the upcoming productions and the work that’s happened on the show since we spoke to him last.
Harry is a charming songwriter whose fanciful view of the world rivals the Technicolor of any MGM classic. But as Harry floats through the kind of Manhattan life that dreams are made of, he suddenly finds himself confronted with the idea that a dream may be exactly what it is. And reality isn’t nearly as beautiful.

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Festival Show Update: We Live in Cairo

We also chatted with Patrick and Daniel Lazour, the writers of 2016 Festival show We Live in Cairo. The musical is about to have its world premiere at the A.R.T. in Boston; the production opens on May 14.
Inspired by the young Egyptians who took to the streets in 2011 to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak, this world premiere musical follows six revolutionary students armed with laptops and cameras, guitars and spray cans as they come of age in contemporary Cairo. Winner of the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater, We Live in Cairo moves from the jubilation of Tahrir Square through the tumultuous years that followed. As escalating division and violence lead to a military crackdown, the revolutionaries of Tahrir must confront the question of how—or even whether—to keep their dreams of change alive.
 

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Last month, we chatted with Dave Steakley, the producing artistic director at NAMT member ZACH Theatre. ZACH is about to open a production of 2017 Festival show The Ballad of Klook and Vinette, formerly known as Klook’s Last Stand, written by Ché Walker, Anoushka Lucas and Omar Leyfook. Dave told us a little about what to expect from the upcoming production, and why everyone should make their way to Texas and check it out.
Tender, funny and incredibly moving, this contemporary new love story will grab you from the inside out. Klook and Vinette are two lost souls trying to find themselves in one another. Against all odds and with the past at their heels, together they make a tentative stab at happiness. This is a seductive musical about inevitability and the thrill of falling in love. 

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New Work in Progress: Life After

Next, we chatted with Barry Edelstein, the Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director at NAMT member The Old Globe in San Diego, CA about the company’s upcoming US premiere of Life After by Britta Johnson. Life After was previously co-produced by NAMT members The Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals. The Old Globe production is produced by special arragement with Yonge Street Theatricals.
Grieving the recent loss of her famous father, 16-year-old Alice begins to question the events surrounding his death and sets out to uncover what really happened on the night that changed her family forever. Britta Johnson’s Life After is a bittersweet, witty and life-affirming new musical that explores the mess and beauty of loss and love. Through the vivid imagination of a young woman looking for the facts, we find a more complicated truth instead. 
 

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Festival Show Update: Benny & Joon

This month, we chatted with with Mindi Dickstein, Nolan Gasser and Kristen Guenther, the writers of 2016 Festival show Benny & Joon. The show is about to open a production at NAMT member Paper Mill Playhouse, the show’s second production following the world premiere at The Old Globe. We chatted about what has changed since the world premiere and the process of getting to a second production.
 
Based on the 1993 film starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson, this new musical is a smart, funny, tender-hearted celebration of love: between children and parents; romantic partners; friends; and, most of all, siblings. The pair at the heart of the show are Joon, a young woman dealing with mental illness, and Benny, the big brother who’s determined to take care of her. When a charmingly eccentric stranger comes into their lives, he throws their carefully calibrated world off-kilter—maybe for the better. Large in emotional scope and artistic ambition, Benny & Joon embraces a difficult subject with warmth, honesty, and wit.
 

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New Work in Progress: Marie, Dancing Still

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

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Alumni Show Update: Fall of '94

This month, we chatted with with Ellen Fitzhugh (Paper Moon, Fest ’95), Joseph Thalken (Was, Fest ’03; Harold and Maude, Fest ’03) and Ashley Robinson, the writers of Fall of ’94. The show is about to receive a reading at Red Mountain Theatre Company’s Human Rights New Works Festival. We chatted about the musical’s development and what they’re looking forward to learning through their participation in the Human Rights New Works Festival.
Fall of ’94 is a very personal coming-of-age story of five 12-year-old children in rural Union, South Carolina. Set during the unfolding of the Susan Smith tragedy, the eyes of the world were on this small mill town. While the kids focus on perfecting their annual Halloween spook house, the excitement of a media frenzy consumes everyone around them and brings the town’s dark secrets to the surface. Just down the hill from where they are building their spook house, the answers to the Nation’s questions lay in John D. Long Lake. Fall of ’94 asks what effect events of violence and an atmosphere of racial tension have on children and young people.

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New Work in Progress: Men With Money

This month, we chatted with Ann-Carol Pence and Anthony Rodriguez, co-founders and respectively the Associate Producer and Producing Artistic Director at NAMT member Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, GA about the company’s world premiere of Men With Money, written by Bill Nelson and Joseph Trefler. Men With Money is set to open on March 7. 
Louis, Max, and Sonny are charming, young and eligible bachelors looking to marry their way from rags to riches. This romantic romp is full of dreams, schemes and lavish musical numbers set in the golden age mecca of Manhattan in the 1950’s, with a twist. It’s an alternative gleaming, fabulous and mighty Big Apple. And two of our leading men are looking for husbands, oh my!

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New Work in Progress: Alice By Heart

Next, we chatted with Jessica Chase, the Artistic Producer at NAMT member MCC Theater in New York, NY about the company’s world premiere of Alice by Heart, written by Steven Sater, Jessie Nelson and Duncan Sheik. Sheik is a Festival Alumnus for Noir (Fest ’15). Alice by Heart is set to open on January 30. 
 

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Festival Show Update: Mythic

This month, we caught up with Marcus Stevens and Oran Eldor, the writers of 2017 Festival show Mythic, formerly known as Persephone. We chatted about the musical’s recent London production, and the cast album that will be coming out in the new year. Mythic was just named one of the UK’s best shows of 2018 by The Stage.

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New Work in Progress: The Hello Girls

Next, we chatted with Cara Reichel, the Producing Artistic Director at NAMT member Prospect Theater Company in New York, NY about the company’s world premiere of The Hello Girls, written by Reichel and Peter Mills. Both Reichel and Mills are Festival Alumni for Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge (Fest ’11) and Mills is also an alumnus for Onanov Broadway (fka Iron Curtain, Fest ’09). The Hello Girls is running now through December 22nd. 

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Festival Show Update: Prom Queen

This month, we caught up with Kent Staines, Akiva Romer-Segal and Colleen Dauncey, the writers of 2017 Festival show Prom Queen, to check in with them and see where the show has been since its Festival presentation, and where it’s going next. 

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New Work in Progress: Renascence

Next, we chatted with Lori Fineman and Jack Cummings III, respectively the Executive Director and the Artistic Director at NAMT member Transport Group Theatre Company in New York, NY about the company’s upcoming world premiere of Renascence. We also spoke with the piece’s writers, Dick Scanlan (Fest ’96, Thoroughly Modern Millie) and Carmel Dean about their experience working on the piece with Transport Group. The musical’s world premiere, funded in part by a grant from the National Fund for New Musicals, will open in October, just in time for NAMT members arriving for the Fall Events to see the show while they’re in town!

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Festival Show Update: When We're Gone

This month, we caught up with Scotty Arnold and Alana Jacoby, the writers of 2016 Festival show When We’re Gone (fka Mortality Play)to check in with them before the show’s world premiere at NAMT member Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma this fall. The production is funded in part by a grant from the National Fund for New Musicals. You can also check out a video fo Scotty and Alana talking about what they love about NAMT on YouTube!

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New Work in Progress: Grumpy Old Men

Next, we chatted with Brad Kenney, the Executive Artistic Director, and Cheryl Farley, the Director of Marketing, Communications and Patron Services, at NAMT member Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, ME, about the theatre’s New Works Program and their upcoming production of Grumpy Old Men by Dan Remmes, Neil Berg and Nick Meglin. 
 

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We chatted with Brett Smock, the Producing Artistic Director at NAMT member Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in Auburn, NY, about the theatre’s upcoming world premiere production of Anne of Green Gables by Matte O’Brien and Matt Vinson. Anne of Green Gables was featured in NAMT’s Other Shows You Should Know jukebox last year.

 
How did Anne of Green Gables first find its way to Finger Lakes?
Anne of Green Gables, A New Folk Rock Musical was accepted to participate in our new works program, “The PiTCH.” Each year, we provide residency to five different creative teams and their emerging works. We offer them housing, transportation, marketing support, a dedicated venue, dramaturgical support and the beautiful backdrop of the Finger Lakes. They are able to immerse and work on their new musical and at the end of each week, the team is able to present or “pitch” their new material to audiences for three presentations. Basically, we create space and opportunity for musical theatre writers. To date, we have given 59 new new musicals development opportunity through “The PiTCH.” Last year, Anne was a big hit at “The PiTCH.” Matte O’Brien (Book/Lyrics) and Matt Vinson (Music) presented excerpts from the show to sold-out houses and during their week of residency it became clear that the show had incredible appeal across all demographics. We began discussions about the show’s needs, its development path and how we might help facilitate for the show and the team. That discussion led to us producing the premiere production this year as part of our 60th Anniversary season.

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Festival Show Update: Lempicka

This month, we caught up with Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer, the writers of 2016 Festival show Lempicka, to check in with them before the show receives its world premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer. The show is presented by special arrangement with NAMT member Seaview Productions.
 
What was the initial reaction to Lempicka after the 2016 Festival?
There was a lot of enthusiasm around the piece. NAMT’s Festival was our chance to get back on the map. Our show had been floundering for a while and our NAMT presentation helped to jump start our world premiere production. 

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New Work in Progress: Penn State Musical Theatre

This month, we chatted with John Simpkins, the Director of NAMT member Penn State Musical Theatre in University Park, PA about the school’s new commissioning program. The school just presented its first full production of a show developed through the program, and will be holding a concert reading of their most recent commissioned show next month.
Penn State Musical Theatre started a commissioning program for new musicals a few years ago. Can you tell us a little about Penn State’s history with new work and what inspired this program?
Penn State Musical Theatre has always been open to new work—and has done readings and workshops along the way inspired mostly by professional relationships and a desire to meaningfully connect the students to writers and process wherever possible. When I got to Penn State in 2015, one of the things I began was our New Musicals Initiative, whose key component is the commissioning program. The inspiration for this unique commissioning idea was driven by finding the intersection of multiple objectives. For the writer, we hope to give each team a safe and creative place to think write, collaborate, and experiment with talented young artists who hunger for opportunity and will apply the fullness of their artistic souls to everything they do. For the training process, there is no better way to teach character development and the ability to engage with new works than to have a new musical forming around and with the students every year. And for the collaborative engine of 21st century musical theatre, we are very proud to commission shows to add to the repertoire and even continue on as co-producers in the professional journey of some of the projects.

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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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Festival Show Update: The Mad Ones

This month we caught up with Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, the writers of 2016 Festival show The Mad Ones (formerly known as The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown). This November The Mad Ones will receive an off-Broadway run with new NAMT member The Prospect Theater Company, preceded by a concert with NAMT member Philadelphia Theatre Company. We talked with Kait and Brian about what’s been happening with the show since the Festival and how they’re preparing for this next exciting step.

What was the post Festival response to The Mad Ones like?
We had a powerful response to the piece. It’s a show that people in the industry have heard songs from for a long time so I think there was a lot of interest in seeing what the show was about. It was exciting for us to have the songs seen in context and have the piece feel like more than the sum of its parts. We were able to make connections with lots of theaters that might be interested in doing the show down the line as well as develop a few new relationships with champions of the piece.

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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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