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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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Festival Show Update: Benny & Joon

This month we caught up with the team from 2016 Festival show Benny & Joon: lyricist Mindi Dickstein, composer Nolan Gasser and librettist Kirsten Guenther. This September Benny & Joon will have its world premiere at NAMT member The Old Globe. We talked with the team 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 Benny & Joon like? 
The post Festival response to Benny & Joon was wonderful. We could not have been happier or more grateful for the exposure our participation in NAMT’s 28th Festival gave us. There was interest from theaters around the country, which was beyond our wildest expectations. Eric Keen-Louie, Associate Producer at The Old Globe, saw our presentation and loved it, which was a key factor in their offer of a full production to open their 2017-2018 season. We have spent the last few months furiously rewriting in preparation for this very exciting opportunity.

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This month we caught up with Brett Ryback, the writer of Joe Schmoe Saves the World, which was featured in our 2016 Festival. This summer Brett will be workshopping Joe Schmoe… at Indiana University Bloomington. We reached out to find out where the show is now, and what he hopes is next for the show.

What did you discover about the show after presenting it last October, and what work have you done on the piece since then?
What an innocent time it was back in October! I knew the show dealt with important issues, but truth be told there was a part of me—the part that thought Hillary Clinton would be our president—that thought a show about women pushing back against being silenced, and the urgent need for artists to speak out in a political world might feel unnecessary. And then November happened. So the largest discovery has been how timely this piece turned out to be.
From a more technical standpoint, the work I’ve done since then has been to further condense the script. I’ve continued to find places where fat can be trimmed, additional parallels can be made between the two story lines, and scenes can be condensed in order to heighten the dramatic drive of the show.

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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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