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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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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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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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):


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

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

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


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)


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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