Festival Show Update: String

This month, we caught up with Adam Gwon and Sarah Hammond, the writers of 2014 Festival show String to chat about the work they’ve done on the show in the past few years, and to learn more about the show’s upcoming world premiere with NAMT member Village Theatre. Gwon is also a Festival alum for his 2011 show Bernice Bobs Her Hair and his 2008 show Ordinary Days.
String has had quite the journey since it appeared in the 2014 Festival! What was the response to String like after the Festival?
For the first couple days after the Festival, people would stop us in the street to tell us how much they liked the show. That was a thrill. It was the first time we really showed it off in New York to a big swath of industry folks so it was encouraging to see it get the laughs, and then learn how much it hooked people. In typical NAMT fashion, it also led to other professional opportunities for us—we were invited to places like McCarter Theatre and Feinstein’s/54 Below, and, of course, the Village Theatre in Seattle, which is how we wound up answering your questions while in tech for our world premiere!

Read More

Festival Alumni in the News

Festival Shows in the News


See Some of the Most Anticipated New Musicals in New Feinstein's/54 Below Series

Playbill reports that Feinsteins/54 Below has officially announced a new concert series featuring presentations from new musicals. The concert series includes past Festival shows Big Red Sun, Funked Up Fairy Tales and String, plus new works from Festival Alumni Joe Iconis and Kyle Jarrow!

New Musicals at 54 is presented by the venue’s programming director, Jennifer Ashley Tepper. The series kicks off Jan. 19, 2016, and is scheduled to run through April 12. Further programming will be announced at a later date.
“[These] new and diverse musicals by a selection of today’s most talented writers have had out-of-town productions, some have had workshops,” state press notes. “Now’s your chance to be first to see them in NYC!”

Read more at or buy tickets for the concerts from 54 Below.

Read More



FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Writing my First Musical

We kick off Festival week with Sarah Hammond’s delightful reflections on what

inspired her to transition from playwright to bookwriter of this year’s Festival show, String!

I came to New York as a playwright, but I’m like most theater kids from the farflung suburbs of America: I grew up on musicals. At 9, I was choreographing dances for “If Momma Was Married” to be performed on roller skates at the bottom of our cul de sac. I grew up singing Aladdin in the carpool, playing munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, and from 5th through 8th grade, cast myself as Little Red for school talent shows, in which I sang in a dress my grandma made. What a geek!  I had an aquablue tie-dye JC Superstar tee-shirt, in the bible-thumping South, and I remember insisting earnestly, “it’s not a church shirt, it’s a theater shirt, it is a show, a musical, and it is by Andrew Lloyd Weber.” Geek.
Then in college, I discovered Falsettos and Hello Again, and while I wrote plays in South Carolina and then Iowa, I secretly loved these great ruthless musicals created by faraway people. In shows like these, singing’s like breathing. Like there’s no other way to exist except in music. It’s tumultuous and it’s funny and it’s the best thing there is. But I loved all that in secret. I never knew any musical theatre writers till I got to New York in 2006, and when I got here, one of the first people I met was Adam Gwon, which turned out to be a pretty lucky break. Adam loves playwrights, and I love musicals, so… crazily, we decided to
go down the rabbit hole together. We took a dreamy one-act I’d written for fun, and we turned it into String. Early in the collaboration, at a retreat, Adam said to me, “You know, it’s easy to find song moments for these characters. It really sings.” Good news.  Happily, it turns out that my dreamy odd characters were supposed to be singing all along.

But the playwright-to-librettist transition was not seamless. Figuring out bookwriting took a while. Every week, I’d be at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center studying my butt off—watching old videos in the archives, journal and stopwatch in hand, clocking the scenes, dissecting my favorite shows. Like frogs. What is the book? What makes a good book? Simply, it’s invention and arrangement. It’s plotting artfully, building story, imagining characters, slinging jokes so we can all breathe between songs, setting up plateaus for different types of music, conceiving a world that requires music in the first place—and the scenes, yes, the scenes that you see in the final product, of course it’s that. But for my money, the bookwriter’s most important work is invisible. It happens in conversations with the songwriter. Lots of time in a room with each other. It happens over years and through workshops. You put in the time, you imagine things together, till nobody remembers who thought what first. Best moment along the way: after we finished our first draft, a producer told us that the show felt like “one voice,” and that might be my favorite compliment ever.
Writing a first musical is like this: we talk, we write, we rewrite, we edit each other, we talk, we despair, we cut, someone gets inspired, we talk, we write, we rewrite, rinse repeat. “Talk forever,” John Weidman says. That’s how you get to one voice. We’re just playing pretend. Part of me’s always gonna be that kid in roller skates at the bottom of the cul de sac, but now the songs are new. Let me write ten more. I’m hooked! I love this difficult work we do. 

Read More



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

Read More