We are thrilled to announce 11 awards granted from the Frank Young Fund for New Musicals (formerly known as the National Fund for New Musicals), and six awards granted from the Innovation & Exploration Fund. Now in its 11th year, this year the Frank Young Fund for New Musicals (FYFNM) is providing grants totaling $70,000 to organizations across the country. The Innovation & Exploration Fund (I&EF) is providing grants totaling $12,000 to organizations nationwide.
NAMT Executive Director Betsy King Militello stated: “We are honored and excited to support our member theatres both as they work to develop innovative and provocative new musicals, and as they explore ideas to create new best practices in the field. With these grants, we have now awarded 162 grants totaling $563,000 to NAMT members across the country. These projects will join a growing list of important new musicals and initiatives supported by NAMT’s granting programs.”

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NEA Awards Grants to NAMT and Our Members

The National Endowment for the Arts has recently announced that it will award over $27 million in grants to fund artistic projects and research, with $3.28 million going to companies working in the field of Theater & Musical Theatre. Many NAMT members have been selected to receive grants in this cycle, including $55,000 to NAMT itself, in support of our Festival of New Musicals and Fall Conference. Congratulations to those members receiving grants in this round of NEA funding, including:
Ars Nova
Atlantic Theater Company
Diversionary Theatre
Horizon Theatre Company
The Lark
NAMT
The Old Globe
Philadelphia Theatre Company
Playwrights Horizons
The Public Theater
Roundabout Theatre Company
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Theater Latté Da
Theatre Under The Stars
Village Theatre
ZACH Theatre
Congratulations to all, and thank you to the NEA for supporting arts organizations throughout the country! For a full list of the recipients, visit the NEA’s website. 

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This week we continued our New Musicals Month by highlighting Village Theatre, Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, The Musical Stage Company, the writing teams of The Wicker Husband and Monstersongs, and many more. In case you missed it, here’s our week in review!

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Festival Show Update: The Passage

This month, we caught up with David Darrow, the writer of 2017 Festival show The Passage, to check in with him before the show is featured at Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals this summer.
 

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We are thrilled to announce 18 awards granted from the National Fund for New Musicals, and five awards granted from the Innovation & Exploration Grant program. Now in its tenth year, this year the Fund is providing grants totaling $58,000 to organizations across the country. The Innovation & Exploration (I&E) Grant program, now in its second cycle, is providing grants totaling $7,000 to organizations nationwide.
NAMT Executive Director Betsy King Militello stated: “We are honored and excited to support our member theatres both as they work to develop innovative and provocative new musicals, and as they explore ideas to create new best practices in the field. With these grants, we have now awarded 135 grants totaling $481,000 to NAMT members across the country. These projects will join a growing list of important new musicals and initiatives supported by NAMT’s granting programs.”

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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!

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NEA Awards Grants to NAMT and Our Members

The National Endowment for the Arts has recently announced that it will award over $25 million in grants to fund artistic projects and research, with just over $3 million going to companies working in the field of Theater & Musical Theatre. Many NAMT members have been selected to receive grants in this cycle, including $60,000 to NAMT itself, in support of our Festival of New Musicals and Fall Conference. Congratulations to those members receiving grants in this round of NEA funding, including:
Ars Nova
Atlantic Theater Company
Dallas Theater Center
Diversionary Theatre
Goodspeed Musicals
Horizon Theatre Company
The Lark
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
MCC Theater
NAMT
The Old Globe
Playwrights Horizons
Prospect Theater Company
The Public Theater
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Village Theatre
ZACH Theatre
Congratulations to all, and thank you to the NEA for supporting arts organizations throughout the country! For a full list of the recipients, visit the NEA’s website. 

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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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Members in the News

NAMT in the News

NEA Awards Grants to NAMT and Our Members

The National Endowment for the Arts has recently announced that it will award over $30 million in grants to fund artistic projects and research, with $3,505,000 going to companies working in the field of Theater & Musical Theatre. Many NAMT members have been selected to receive grants in this cycle, including $55,000 to NAMT itself, in support of our Festival of New Musicals and Fall Conference. Congratulations to those members receiving grants in this round of NEA funding, including:
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Ars Nova
Atlantic Theater Company
The Lark
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
The Old Globe
Playwrights Horizons
Portland Center Stage
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Village Theatre
ZACH Theatre
Congratulations to all, and thank you to the NEA for supporting arts organizations throughout the country! For a full list of the recipients, visit the NEA’s website. Watch the NEA’s video above to learn more about their impact on the arts in America.

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Festival Show Update: How to Break

How to Break was presented at the 2014 Festival. We reached out to Rebecca Hart, Aaron Jafferis and Yako 440 to find out what work they’ve been doing on the show since the Festival. How to Break will be presented in Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals in August.

What was the response to How to Break like after the 2014 Festival?
Many folks said How to Break moved and excited them personally, but was perhaps not right for their audiences. As the musical theatre landscape changes, we’re hopeful the villagers waving to us from that landscape will be getting closer and closer.

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Festival Show Update: LIZZIE

Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt recently began licensing their 2010 Festival show LIZZIE. Now that they’ve begun licensing the show, we wanted to check in with LIZZIE one last time to find out what this new step means for the show.
LIZZIE has had quite the journey since it appeared in the 2010 Festival! Can you tell us a little bit about the developmental path that brought the show to its current form?
SC: In the 2 years following NAMT, we did a developmental production at Village Theatre in Washington, a concert at Ars Nova in New York, and a co-production of Baldwin Wallace University and Playhouse Square in Cleveland, directed by Vicky Bussert who we met when she directed our NAMT presentation. All those productions were very different, and working with such different directors and actors was great for allowing us to see how the show worked and to zero in on things that needed to be sharpened. We did a lot of rewriting in those years, added a few new songs and reworked whole sections. And we changed the name of the show from Lizzie Borden to just LIZZIE.
Then we made the album! We always described LIZZIE as a concept album come to life, but it was just a way of talking about the show. There was no actual album. But in 2013, Alan completely orchestrated the show and produced the recording, which we approached more like a rock record than a cast album. At that point, the show really felt “finished” to us. (The album is on Broadway Records and is available as a CD, digital download, and vinyl.)
Since then we’ve had productions at TUTS in Houston, Portland Center Stage, Fredericia Teater in Denmark, and Ray of Light Theatre in San Francisco.

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Festival Show Update: My Heart Is the Drum

This month, we chat with Festival Alumni Phillip Palmer, Stacey Luftig and Jennie Redling about their 2013 Festival Show, My Heart Is the Drum, which opens at the Village Theatre in Issaquah tonight. The show previously received a Writers Residency Grant at Kent State University School of Theatre and Dance.
My Heart Is the Drum has had quite a journey since the 2013 Festival! How did the show make its way to the Village Theatre for this production?
It has been quite a journey! And along the way, My Heart Is the Drum has become sort of a poster child for NAMT-member development. At the NAMT after-party, we met Robb Hunt, Village Theatre’s Executive Producer, who told us he loved the show. A few months later, we had a formative week-long writers retreat at Goodspeed Musicals. That summer, Drum was part of the Festival of New Musicals at Village Theatre. That was followed in the fall of 2014 by a workshop at Kent State University, and, that winter, a developmental production there—which Robb Hunt attended, and where we signed our contract with Village Theatre. Two workshops at Village happened after that, and here we are—with opening night of our World Premiere at Village Theatre [tonight]!
The last time we checked in with My Heart Is the Drum, the show was preparing for a production at NAMT member Kent State University. What has kind of response has the show had since then?
We’re thrilled to report several honors since then to complement the BMI Harrington Award for Creative Excellence that Jennie Redling had earned a few years back for the libretto. In 2015, Phillip Palmer and Stacey Luftig won the Fred Ebb Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre Songwriting, and in 2016 Stacey won the Kleban Prize as Most Promising Lyricist—both awards based on songs from My Heart Is the Drum. The show was also a Finalist for the 2016 Richard Rodgers Award. And Village Theatre was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Grant to help expand understanding of issues raised in My Heart Is the Drum.

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Festival Show Update: MY HEART IS THE DRUM

This month, we check in on 2013 Festival show My Heart is The Drum and its authors Stacey Luftig, Phillip Palmer and Jennie Redling on their recent reading at NAMT Member The Village Theatre in Issaquah, WA and their upcoming production at NAMT Member Kent State University.
 

My Heart Is the Drum is a big musical set in West Africa with a driving, African-influenced score. It is about Efua Kuti, a 16-year-old girl who aches to leave behind her stifling, poverty-struck village to become a teacher, and Edward Adu, a traditional farmhand who is in love with her. Inspired by the spirit of her grandmother, Efua runs away to the city of Accra to attend the university, but on arrival gets abducted into prostitution. Edward sets out to find her. Efua has always been able to draw on her cunning to solve her problems, but will she escape these most desperate circumstances? And if Edward finds her, will he still love her now that she has been “disgraced?” At its core, the musical is about finding the inner strength to achieve your goals and create social change.​
What was feedback like for your show after you presented in our Festival?
Mainly, people told us they wanted to know what will happen to Efua, our heroine, in Act II. We took that as a good sign.
You had the opportunity to bring the show to Goodspeed’s Johnny Mercer Writers Colony this winter.  What did you work on during that time in snowy Connecticut? 
First, we went through the script and pinpointed the scenes, lyrics and music that we had always labelled “good enough for now” and that we’d fix “later.” Our time at Goodspeed was our “later.”
We also focused on two pivotal moments for Efua, one in Act I, one in Act II. We all feel very passionately about her, and it took several passes—including one serious crash and burn—before we found the monologue in Act I, and the completely unexpected song in Act II, that we all felt to be “effortlessly” right.
This month at Village Theatre, you had your first ever reading of the full show.  What was it like to finally hear the whole show aloud in front of a public audience? 
Thrilling and gratifying.  After so many years since its start at the BMI workshop, we could see that we had a full, working show and one that moved people. The audience also responded strongly to the script’s humor. For the songs, they not only clapped, but cheered for most of them and scene moments also drew applause.

When a member of the audience approached us afterwards to point out how moved she was by one of those key moments for Efua we’d labored over—the spot where a song had crashed and burned at Goodspeed, and which we’d gone on to reconceive completely—well, that was a proud moment.
What did you learn from that reading and what changes are you looking to make now?
As the reading at Village Theatre was only a week ago (and we’re still basking in the afterglow), we’re just now figuring out what changes need to be made. We’re also looking forward to receiving and reading the comment sheets from their audience members for additional feedback.  But we do know we’d like to trim and sharpen Act II, to create even more tension and a greater acceleration toward the end of the show.
Next season, you are heading to Kent State University, near Cleveland, for a full production!  What are you excited about working on when you finally get the show on its feet? 
Everything! But “on its feet” are key words. Dance is completely integrated with music in West African cultures and we can’t wait to adjust the show, as needed, as we finally discover how dance helps bring the show to life.
Also, it is an extremely visual show, with images that are unfamiliar to most of our audience. Daily village life and work, urban street hawkers, the clash of African traditions and poverty with modernity and rich businessmen—we think that these visuals will add many layers to the story.
Why should people plan to come to Kent State to catch My Heart Is the Drum?
We believe that My Heart Is the Drum is something rare today: an original story that is transporting and dramatic, told with warmth, humor and hope. It has a driving, African-influenced score that is deeply theatrical. And while the themes are universal, many of the timely details are particular to the hardships of those in West Africa, particularly of girls who struggle for an education, and who make great sacrifices as they strive for a better life.
For details about the Kent State production, please visit www.kent.edu/theatre_new/my-heart-drum.
For more about the show, please visit www.myheartisthedrum.com or like My Heart Is The Drum on Facebook. 

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FESTIVAL SHOW UPDATE: Lizzie

An interview with the writers of Fest 2011 show Lizzie (formerly known as Lizzie Borden), Steven Cheslik-deMeyer (SCD), Alan Stevens Hewitt (ASH) and Tim Maner (TM) about the upcoming concert, three productions around the world and a studio cast album!

In 1892 on a sweltering August day in a small New England town, “somebody” brutally murdered a well-to-do elderly man and his second wife with an axe. Lizzie Borden, their youngest daughter, was the primary suspect, arrested and tried. Without any witnesses to the hideous crime, she was acquitted, and the murders remain unsolved to this day. Though Lizzie was ultimately declared innocent according to the law, her infamy lives on.

Lizzie has had quite a bit of development since it left the Festival.  Other than the new name, what has changed with the show since it was at the Festival?
ASH: If you think of the show as a gatefold vinyl double album (a la Tommy, or Jesus Christ Superstar), pretty much the entire Side 1 has been rewritten, with the addition of two solos for Lizzie and one for Alice to allow the audience to understand where they are starting from and to get onboard with them. Also, one of the central musical/lyrical themes (which is reprised, transformed, at the end) is now introduced in a completely different way from how it had been previously. Whereas it had been an internal dialogue for Alice, it is now a lullabye (“Maybe Someday”) sung by Alice to Lizzie. It brings the harrowing “Side 1” to a gentle close.
SCD: We wanted to strengthen the introduction of Lizzie’s friend Alice who becomes so pivotal in the story, so we wrote a solo for her early in the first act. We also rewrote Lizzie’s song “Gotta Get Out Of Here” to be more explicit and hard-hitting. Those are the big changes, but we also made lots of little tweaks here and there. 

You had the opportunity to have the show developed at Baldwin Wallace University and at the Village Theatre.  What did you learn about the show as it changed theatres, actresses and regions? 
SCD: The BWU production was the first time the show was produced where we weren’t closely involved. It was great to find out that we really can hand it to a group of talented folks and feel confident that our idea of what the show is remains intact. It helps that the BW students directed by Vicky Bussert are phenomenally talented! We made discoveries about the first act and the Alice character that led to the changes mentioned above. Village gave us the opportunity for a trial run of lots of new elements: Alice’s new song and the new orchestrations, a more rock and roll-style set and lighting. The folks at Village gave us great support in the process.
TM: We’ve learned new things every time, from new design teams, from different levels of production, from the unique variations all of the amazing women who have taken on the roles have shown us. We’ve gotten to really look at the show from different perspectives that have strengthened it at every turn.

What has surprised you about people’s response to the show outside of New York City?
ASH: I don’t know if there have really been any “surprises” for me about how Lizzie has been received. It certainly has been thrilling though, and immensely gratifying to experience it connecting so strongly with people.

The show played last month at TUTS in Houston, having a concert version in Philly this fall with 11th Hour Theatre Co. and then jumping over to Denmark for a production in the spring.  What is it like to have your show spreading around the country?
SCD:It’s tremendous! This show has been cooking for a long, long time. It’s always felt really special to us, like it had the potential to connect with a wide audience. Now that that is starting to happen, it’s incredibly gratifying. As an artist that’s what you always hope will happen.
ASH:Around the country AND THE WORLD!  (Cue demonic laughter….) Are you kidding? It’s AMAZING. I’m particularly interested to see how this subject from classic American mythology goes down with folks who have a different cultural perspective.
TM: It’s kinda unreal, but amazing. All those years ago when Lizzie began it was really pure fantasy to think anything like this could happen, and now it’s happening. It’s a rare thing in life to actually have a fantasy come true, and I’m very thankful.

A studio cast album is being released this fall.  Tell us a bit about recording the album and working with that cast. 
SCD: The conceit of Lizziehas always been that it is a rock concept album come to life on the stage, despite the fact that until now the album only existed in our minds. Now it’s real. It’s great to have this thing that we can hand people and say, “This is the show. Everything you need to know about Lizzie is here on this record.” And the guys who play on it and the women who sing it blow me away every time I listen.
ASH: Well, we were very fortunate that we were able to get all the planets to align. Much credit to our producer Brisa Trinchero for green-lighting it and actually making it happen and to Broadway Records for their commitment to the project. I don’t even know where to start talking about the album cast… Carrie Manolakos, Storm Large, Carrie Cimma, Ryah Nixon. Incredible, one-of-a-kind talents, all.  Really, so privileged to have been able to work with them, and they each turned in phenomenal performances that reward repeated listens. I am very proud of what we accomplished. I can’t wait for people to hear it. And hear these women.
TM: The women are just amazing. Incredible singers/performers, and great people to work with. Same for the band/musicians. It was an incredible team effort from artists, to producers, to graphic designer, to our amazing engineer and more.

What are your hopes for the Borden sisters in the next few years? 
TM: I hope the House Of Borden continues to expand to include more theaters, more audiences and more amazing artists through new productions, concerts and the release of the album.  I want to attend many more opening nights.
ASH: I would love as many people as possible to have the opportunity to connect with Lizzie. I love the idea that, with the record available online, a kid in Japan, or Alaska, or Brazil, or Iceland, or Lithuania, could potentially find his or her way into the piece.  And I would love to see people continue to come together in dark rooms all over the world and experience great artists bringing it to life right in front of their eyes and ears.
SCD:More productions! We’re at the end of the option period with the producers we’ve been working with the last couple years, so we’re giving a lot of thought to next steps. We would all love a big New York production, since New York is home, but that’s the tough nut to crack. Everything is kind of in flux right now. Stay tuned!

For more information on Lizzie, please visit www.lizziethemusical.com

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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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An interview with Steve Tomkins, Artistic Director of The Village Theatre in Issaquah, WA, about their upcoming production of Trails by Kristy Hall, Jordan Mann and Jeff Thomson.

After twelve years of silence, two childhood friends, Seth and Mike, find themselves face to face.  Unexpectedly, Mike reminds Seth of an old promise to hike the Appalachian Trail together from beginning to end.  Desperate to escape his stifling hometown and the recent death of his mother, Seth agrees to fulfill that promise.  As the challenges of the trail become increasingly difficult, long-kept secrets begin to surface, and their friendship is put to the ultimate test.
How long has the Village been producing new musicals and what is the goal of the Village Originals program? 
Village Theatre has been committed to the development of new musicals since its inception in 1979, and has produced and developed over 90 new musicals. Many of these have gone on to stages around the world, including the Tony Award-winning Next To Normal and Million Dollar Quartet.
 How did Trails find its way out west to Issaquah?
Authors Christy Hall, Jordan Mann and Jeff Thomson were friends with an actor who had been in several shows on the Village Theatre stage.  He recommended Trails to our Village Originals program.  Upon receiving the script, both Robb Hunt and I were enchanted by this innovative new musical, and we started Trails in our new works program, culminating in the 2011 reading at our Festival of New Musicals.

Why was Trails the right show to take from the reading at your Festival last year to your main stage this year?
Our audience’s response to Trails was immediate and overwhelming.  We both felt that significant progress has been made in the development of the script to give it the production values needed for our Mainstage.  This resulted in two more readings and endless discussions readying the script for our 2013 production.

Why is Trails a great show for your theatre and your audience?  
Although Trails is set in the Appalachian Mountains on the East Coast, this remarkable new musical still captures the vitality and energy of the Pacific Northwest.  Because of the unparalleled beauty of the Puget Sound, it is home to many hikers, trailblazers and adventurers. During the last few years, walking the Pacific Crest Trail (the West Coast version of the Appalachian Trail) has become a rite of passage for many young people. Trails encompasses the spirit and essence of our community.

Why should people fill up their hiking backpack and head west to Washington to see Trails this spring? 
They have the opportunity to experience the first major production of an outstanding new musical, written by three talented new writers.  Christy Hall, Jordan Mann and Jeff Thomson are at the beginning of what I feel will be a remarkable career.

For more info about Trails, please visit www.villagetheatre.org.

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Festival Show Update: LIZZIE BORDEN

An interview with Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt about what is new with their 2010 Festival Show, Lizzie (other than its title!).

What was the audience’s response to Lizzie after the Festival?
Audience responses have been incredibly gratifying.  At the Festival, the tremendous show of support from the NAMT community was overwhelming—there were so many great moments. One of our favorites: an older man came up to Alan saying “You know what you’ve done here, don’t you? This is Tommy meets Sweeney Todd!” Well, besides the fact that we love both of those and it’s very flattering to be compared to them, we’ve always seen Lizzieas somehow situated exactly between those two worlds, so for this guy to get that was a great sign for us that we’d succeeded.

What has changed in the show since the Festival?
We’ve made a handful of tweaks and a couple of bigger changes. There are 2 whole new songs. One is a solo for Lizzie, “This Is Not Love,” near the beginning of the show that we hope gives the audience a clearer idea of where she’s starting from emotionally, psychologically. We also replaced the ending with a less ambiguous statement of Lizzie’s apotheosis into legend, “Into Your Wildest Dreams.” And we have officially dropped “Borden” from the title—the show is now called simply Lizzie.  

You recently had a change of commercial producers.  How did that come about and what was the decision process like for you to decide to change things up?

We’ve been lucky enough to have very passionate and committed people believe in and support Lizziethroughout her development. We are psyched to now be working with Brisa Trinchero, Van Dean and Kenny Howard, whose producing credits among them include Peter and the Starcatcher, Evita, The Gershwins’ Porgy and BessHow to Succeed…Bonnie & Clyde and others. We met Brisa and Van through NAMT, of course, and Kenny through Van. Lizzieis not a conventional musical and this team really gets it.   

Baldwin Wallace University and PlayhouseSquare recently did a production of Lizzie in Cleveland.  What did you guys learn from hearing the show on college voices?
Vicky Bussert has some ferociously talented charges in her care and she gets knock-out performances from them! What was especially fun for us was that she double-cast the show, so we got to see back-to-back performances by different casts but with the same direction, staging, choreo, design, etc. It’s nice to see, despite how tightly constructed and through-composed the show is, how much wiggle-room there still is for the actors. It was also great to experience the show with college audiences, who had no reservations about cheering, applauding and otherwise reacting to it like the intense rock concert/theatre hybrid it is.

Village Theatre is preparing for a developmental production this August, following a reading at their Festival last year.  What do you hope to learn from this process?
Often the most important stuff you learn is stuff you didn’t anticipate, so it’s hard to say. We’ll experience working with a bunch of new people. The band, with the exception of our MD Matt Webb, will be local musicians. There will be three new cast members, two of whom we haven’t met yet (also local performers) and the great Carrie Manolakos as Lizzie. We have a new director, Kent Nicholson, and we’re already enjoying working closely with him on preliminaries. We’re also really excited that the amazing Carrie Cimma, who was in our 2009 production and the presentation at NAMT, is returning as Bridget. We’ll be paying close attention to a lot of logistical things, such as sound design—as a bona fide rock-opera, the show places specific demands on sound.

For more information, please visit www.villagetheatre.org 

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Seattle Views

I’ve taken two trips to Seattle in the past year – one last June and one just last week – to prep for the upcoming Spring Conference. It’s a beautiful city, and I’m a fan of taking pictures, so to whet your appetite for your trip to Dramatic Marketing next month, here are some photos of what you’ll have to look forward to.

View from the W Seattle hotel, site of the Spring Conference:

Those of us in the office who have been to Blue C Sushi are so obsessed with it we’ve gotten everyone else obsessed with it too. Small plates of freshly made sushi (and other Japanese goodies) whiz by you on a conveyor belt. You take what you want, and when you’re ready for the check the waiter counts your color-coded plates. This is a few blocks from the hotel and The 5th Avenue Theatre.

A lovely spot for a conference coffee break or side meeting:

…and a lovely place to retire to at the end of a long day discussing marketing:

Very modern new light rail and bus station a block away from the hotel. Just $2.75 to get from the airport!

View from The Village Theatre’s First Stage building:

Sunset from The 5th Avenue Theatre: 

Monorail! Left over from the World’s Fair, this will take you from downtown (a couple of blocks from the hotel) to the Space Needle.

Views from the Space Needle:

Pike Place Market, a short walk from the hotel:

Sunset view from in front of Village Theatre’s mainstage last June:

Any Twin Peaks fans out there? Snoqualmie Falls, site of the Great Northern Lodge on the show, is a short drive from Village. (These were taken on a trip a few years ago.)

In the green room of The 5th Avenue Theatre: 

“Musical theater and those who create it are critical to the enrichment of our soul. Your work is about entertainment and enlightenment of the human spirit. We take this wondrous journey with you. Through our laughter and tears are all who we were, who we are and who we could become. Bravo to you who light our way!” -Kenny & Marleen Alhadeff

These are just a few of the sights Seattle has to offer. I hope you’ll join us and explore them all for yourself! Conference registration for NAMT members is open until March 8. Details at namt.org/conference.

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The Spring Conference...already!

The Fall Conference is barely over, and I’m already at work on the Spring Conference! I actually have been since June, when I traveled to two cities selected by the members as possible locations (on both trips I did double duty, attending a conference in one and visiting members in another). A lot goes into finding the right location for the conferences, both in New York and elsewhere. Hotels are great because they’re all-in-one: Attendees can stay there, and facilities, catering and audio-visual services are all packaged together. Many factors are considered, taking into account the diversity of our membership. It’s important to find a place where everyone will be comfortable and well taken care of, and is also affordable to all of the members. We also strive to keep NAMT’s own costs down, so that we can pass those savings on to you in the lowest possible registration fees. And with all the time we spend in the conference room, it can’t just be any old space. You’d be surprised how few hotels have event spaces with windows! It’s important for me to make these trips to see the venues in person, try the food, and spend the night in the hotel when possible (it’s worth noting that this doesn’t cost NAMT anything, since the hotels are after our business and treat me pretty well!)
For the city, we survey the members periodically to see where you’re interested in going. It’s better for me if we have a member in town. Some host at their venues, but even if not, having local knowledge is extremely helpful.
The 2012 Spring Conference will be held on March 22-24 in Seattle, WA. We have an amazing rate at the beautiful W Hotel, which I think you’ll all like very much, and we’ll also spend time at the 5th Avenue Theatre and Village Theatre. Save the date and watch for details in the coming weeks!

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Portland was just a warm-up for the next few days in Seattle and Issaquah for the Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals. But before Issaquah, there was an exciting pit stop to spend a night in the W hotel in Seattle,our home for the Spring 2012 Conference. Adam has chosen very well and the hotel was amazing. I can’t wait for the conference (and that hotel!). Look at the photo of the lobby to the right…beautiful and comfortable!
This was my 2nd time at the Village Festival, the first being for the 2009 New Works Summit, and they never disappoint. Under the leadership of Steve Tomkins and Robb Hunt, the Village is one of the leaders in new musical development. This year, their Festival felt very “NAMT” all around. They presented staged readings of:
The Giver and Lizzie Borden from our 2010 Festival, Hello! My Baby by two Festival Alumnae (Georgia Stitt and Cheri Steinkellner), Sundays at Tiffany’s with book and lyrics by Festival Alumna Susan DiLallo, and Trails. They also presented a breathtakingly beautiful production ofCloaked by Danny Larsen and Michelle Elliott, who also wrote The Yellow Wood from our 2008 Festival. The whole Festival was fantastic and it was amazing to see so many of our alumni all in one beautiful place! Also at the Festival were Greg Schaffert from 321 Theatrical Management, Laura Little from Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, and David Ira Goldstein from Arizona Theatre Company, who did a great job directing The Giver.
It was a perfect NAMT trip filled with new musicals and our amazing alumni and members. This is why we should all travel around to see each other’s work…you expand your horizons, get to see a different part of the country, and be inspired!

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New Works Director on the Road

I just got back from two weekends of catching great Festival shows. First I was in Seattle to catch Vanities a new musical (Fest ’06) at The 5th Avenue and Iron Curtain (Fest ’09) at The Village Theatre. Then this past weekend I swung down to see Liberty Smith (Fest ’00) at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. All three productions were fantastic, inspiring and very worthy of future productions.

The Festival is just the first step in the process of getting great new musicals out into the field. The next steps rely on theatres seeing each other’s work, sharing work and spreading great musicals around the country. I know the economy is still rough but when you set your next budget, try to find money to include some travel for your key staff to see other work around the NAMT membership and maybe even find a little more to help host a NAMT member at your theatre during your next great project. No one wants a new musical to only have one production, and that can change with you taking one quick trip to a fellow NAMT member to see their great work!

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