www.musicalwriters.com• For songwriters, bookwriters, theatre/film buffs

Musical Writerzine #1

Fall 2006

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere

Welcome to the first issue issue of this ezine that William Squier and I have created. You'll find publication and festival news here. For his Growing Stages column in this issue, William Squier interviewed Brett A. Bernardini, Founding Artistic Director and CEO of the Spirit of Broadway Theater. Mr. Bernardini established a tradition of mounting new musicals.

[Carol de Giere is the website publisher for MusicalWriters.com and author of Defying Gravity, a career biography of Stephen Schwartz filled with musical development stories. William Squier has written numerous musicals and articles for a wide variety of publications.]

Publication News

THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED IN 2011: Get the new edition Dramatists Sourcebook, 26th Edition

This description was for the 2006 edition:

This best-selling guide offers opportunities for stage writers is completely revised, with more than 900 opportunities for playwrights, translators, composers, lyricists and librettists, as well as opportunities for screen, radio and television writers. In an easy-to-use format, the Sourcebook details script-submission procedures for more than 350 theatres seeking new plays; more than 150 prizes and sections on submission guidelines, fellowships and grants, organizations, script preparation, agents, colonies and residencies, workshops, publishing opportunities and a submission calendar. Thoroughly indexed, with an invaluable calendar of submission deadlines, this is an indispensable reference work for any playwright.

Also, don't miss the resources list on this site, complete with book reviews and more. Books, DVDs, etc.

Seminars and Festivals

The New York Musical Theatre festival is in full swing, and valuable workshops are coming up in New York City. If you can't come this year, think about coming some other fall to this amazing annual festival.

DREAM DIALOGUE:
Master Writers DAVID ZIPPEL & RUPERT HOLMES Share Their Secrets!
Wednesday, September 27, 6pm, ASCAP, 5th Floor
One Lincoln Plaza (Broadway between 63rd and 64th Streets) - FREE!

Ever wonder how the best artists write their songs? What demons they wrestle with, and how they overcome their creative blocks? Or why they make it look so easy? Michael Kerker, Director of Musical Theatre /ASCAP talks with Tony-winning lyricist David Zippel (City of Angels, Woman in White, The Goodbye Girl,) and Tony-winning composer/lyricist Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Say Goodnight, Gracie) about their individual writing processes from personal inspirations to overcoming demons and creative blocks. This unique opportunity to be a fly-on-the-wall is not to be missed!

THE BUSINESS OF SHOW

Thurs Sept 28th, 6 pm. Theatre at St. Clements, 423 W. 46th street. FREE. Think that writing your musical is a challenge? How do you craft a career that allows you to flex your creative muscles again and again? And earn recognition and a living from your work? Join our distinguished panel of composers, agents, and producers to learn how the top artists got there.

All NYMF seminars are FREE with seating based on space availability. For more info see

http://www.nymf.org

NYMF Educational Programming is made possible through the generous support of the ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Trust.

GROWING STAGES

NOTE 2016 - This article is outdated. The Spirit of Broadway Theater is now Chestnut Street Playhouse and is under new management. Please see other issues of Musical Writerzine to find theaters where you can submit a musical (see left hand column to find other issues).

 

In this column, William Squier offers a glimpse behind the scenes at up and coming theaters and other venues that specialize in developing and producing new musicals.

"THAT'S THE SPIRIT!"

Spirit of Broadway's artistic director Brett Bernardini"Everyone told me I was nuts," states Brett A. Bernardini, Founding Artistic Director and CEO of the Spirit of Broadway Theater. "But, I was interested in reviving in a very dead downtown area, so I said that I was going to open a theater. And here we are, almost ten years later." For anyone in New England who is passionate about new works of musical theater, it has been a decade well spent.

Spirit of Broadway is a 74-seat black box theatre in the quaint riverside town of Norwich, Connecticut. The theater is housed in the historic Chestnut Street Firehouse and many of the building’s original features – like the bays once used by horse-drawn fire wagons and the fire pole – are still very much in evidence.

Bernardini was inspired to found SBT while teaching in a local theater program with an enrollment of better than six hundred kids. "Our summer theater was doing four shows in two months," he notes. "And the program was stretched to capacity." Emboldened by the enthusiasm of his students, and their equally gung-ho parents, Bernardini took the first steps toward bringing year-round, live theater to Norwich's then less-than-promising downtown area. "The buildings were here, but no businesses," he says, adding with a laugh, "But, being slightly 'off-center' myself, it was easy to say 'Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!'"

At first, SBT’s programming was a mixture of both plays and musicals. "Lee Blessing’s play ‘Two Rooms’ was the first piece that we did that was an enormous challenge," Bernardini recalls. "Lee came out for what was essentially our first Gala Opening Night. He was very enthusiastic. And we had many conversations over the next couple of days about what it is to be a writer and have someone interpret your work." The experience convinced Bernardini that he should focus his efforts on turning SBT into a haven for new writers.

Over the years, SBT has produced as few as two shows (in 1999) and as many as nine (in 2002) in a single season. A typical season consists of six musicals: one well-known title, two lesser-known works and three premieres of new works. The theater’s past productions include such rarely seen New York musical fare as ‘After the Fair,’ ‘A Fine and Private Place,’ ‘Rags,’ ‘The Spitfire Grill,’ ‘Opal,’ ‘Songs for A New World,’ ‘Violet’ and ‘Wings.’ But, even the more familiar works are given an unconventional spin at SBT -- such as setting 'Man of La Mancha' in a Guantanamo-like hold pen lorded over by a large, leering photograph of our sitting president.

The theatre's taste in new musicals is fairly eclectic, though it tends to favor pieces that push the boundaries a bit (shows currently under consideration for next season include ‘The Tutor,’ ‘Glimmerglass’ and ‘Zombie Prom.’). "I’m the one who has to 'live' the project," says Bernardini, who also directs most of the shows. "So, I choose new musicals that say something to me and are very well written. The music, book and lyrics have all got to stand on their own. And they’ve got to make something even stronger by marrying the three of them."

Writers as experienced as Alan Menkin and David Spencer (‘Weird Romance’) or Joal Paley and Marvin Laird (‘Ruthless’) have taken advantage SBT’s productions to put revisions into their already widely produced shows. But, it is the musical theatre writers with far less familiar names that benefit the most from their experience at SBT. When asked how far into the run writers can continue to put revisions into their shows, Bernardini’s casual response is "The last performance."

SBT operates under a Special Appearance Agreement with Actors' Equity on a show-by-show basis. Instead of opting to become a full-fledged union house, Bernardini casts the majority of his productions with local non-union actors. SBT’s volunteer performers are a seasoned bunch that seldom shies away from the challenges of mounting up to four premieres per year.

Plans are in the works to build a second performance space of equal size on an upper floor of the theatre’s Chestnut Street location. And, eventually, Bernardini would like to move the entire operation to a much larger facility on the banks of the neighboring Thames River. But, for now, the theater’s eleven-month season plays out on SBT’s surprisingly versatile three-quarter thrust stage. The more frugal the theatre’s physical production elements are greatly enhanced by special orchestrations and inventive lighting whipped up by members of SBT’s in-house creative team.

Musical theatre writers interested in having their work considered for future production at the Spirit of Broadway Theater should submit one copy of the libretto (lyrics included!) and as complete a demo recording as possible (cd preferred). It also wouldn’t hurt to tuck in one or two samples from the piano / vocal score and some background about the development of the piece to date. A submissions package should be sent via "snail mail" to:

Brett A. Bernardini
Artistic Director
The Spirit of Broadway Theater
24 Chestnut Street
Norwich, CT 06360

For more details about the theatre, or about the upcoming Tenth Anniversary Season visit their website: www.spiritofbroadway.org.

-– William Squier

William Squier's Growing Stages column profiles small to medium sized venues that develop and produce new musicals.

Meeting the Pros

For opportunities to meet Stephen Schwartz check my site http://www.musicalschwartz.com/news.htm

For dozens of links regarding Stephen Schwartz's career, including links to video clips of his talks at the Kennedy Center, check http://www.musicalschwartz.com/schwartz.htm

For news and articles about the writing team of Ahrens and Flaherty, see my friend Ronni's site http://www.ahrensandflaherty.com/

Get to know Dean Pitchford through an interview and bio. Hidden away in the composer list on Musicalwriters.com is Dean Pitchford's name and a link to a lot of information on his work for Footloose and Fame. Dean Pitchford

Get into a Festival - Or not?

To mount your work in the context of a festival seems like a high ideal, when there's plenty of publicity and the festival as a whole. As Charles Isherwood of The New York Times says in his article, "Take a Provocative Concept, Add a Grabby Title and Some Catchy Songs, Put on a Show" (Sept. 25, 2006), "On its own, your shoestring-budget show in a wee theater on 37th Street would have all the cultural clout of a Duane Reade opening. But band together with a few others and call yourself a festival, and notice will be taken."

At this year's popular New York Musical Theatre Festival, many of the 34 musicals played to full or nearly full houses. All of them were featured in a splashy four-color brochure handed out at each show. The organizers helped recruit high level talent so that performers added dazzle. It was easy to invite New York producers to see the show. Writers could dream that someone with purse strings for an Off-Broadway or Broadway transfer would attend, as they had in previous years.

But there is a risk for public appearances of your new musical: the potential of negative reviews. Although not every show received reviews, those who catch the notice of critics may find their work blasted. In the New York Times, Isherwood shared his smart-sounding negative comments about the seven shows he observed at the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival. And in a festival in Chicago this past summer, The Chicago Sun Times reviewer also panned what she observed.

"Unfortunately or fortunately in our business, if we fail it is always very public," remarks Michael Rubinoff, a commercial producer and writer in Toronto. He recommends setting up private readings whenever you don't want to risk negative remarks from critical eyes.

NOTE: You might also like to visit our Festivals page.

YOUR COMMENTS?

We'll be adding a discussion forum to the site at some point. In the meantime, please submit your comments to carol@musicalschwartz.com

Music Technology and More

MusicalWriters.com is collecting info for composers. Please note the first article by Zack Quarles Home Recording for the Beginning Musical Theatre Composer: An Introduction

Also in the Stephen Schwartz tips, there's a section about music production for a show: Schwartz on Music

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