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Musical Writerzine #11

Winter 2010

Carol de GiereFrom Carol de Giere: This issue features a workshop discount for Musical Writerzine readers and workshop news. (Readers are eligible for a TRU members price for "Raising Money for the Theater" workshop if you mention that you read about it in Growing Stages at the musicalwriters.com site).

I start this issue with a few event announcements. Then, as you will see in the Growing Stages column below, William Squier writes about the upcoming workshops and seminarsĀ at NYC's Theater Resources Unlimited, including "Raising Money for the Theater: How, Who and When to Ask." Also, he profiles a summer theater that mounts new musicals, the Musical Theatre Company in Highland Park, IL. Keep reading!

[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.]

Musical Theatre WORKSHOPS

Does Broadway Care?

Here's a good reason to create a successful musical: You can donate money when it's needed.

News on January 15, 2010: In response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday, The Broadway League will donate $100,000 to the Haitian relief efforts on behalf of the Broadway community. This is in addition to New York City and Broadway industry-wide initiatives to help raise funds for the Haitian relief efforts, including significant amounts to be contributed by organizations including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Shubert Organization, Disney, and others; adding up to $400,000 to date and growing.

ASCAP NEW MUSICALS WORKSHOPS

For info on the New York version of ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops, with Stephen Schwartz as director, see ASCAP workshops

For Los Angeles dates in February, see our previous issue for dates Musical Writerzine 10

"TRU ART OF THE PITCH: The Writer-Producer Speed Date" - Sunday 2/21/10 -

Submissions accepted on an ongoing basis. TRU's Speed Date offers a chance for writers to meet and pitch projects to real producers. They accept applications on an ongoing basis. You'll find more information in the Growing Stages column below.

Emerging Artists Theatre

Although the submissions deadline is past for this April's productions, you can consider this for another year:

Emerging Artists Theatre presents the 6th annual Illuminating Artists: New Work Series, April 2010 at the TADA! Theatre, NYC. The New Work Series is a three-week developmental festival that provides artists of different disciplines the opportunity to present one night of a "work in progress" with audience feedback. Scheduled to run April 2010, the four series now accepting submissions are:

ONE WOMAN STANDING (OWS): A series of one-woman shows in all stages of development.

ONE MAN TALKING (OMT): A series of one-man shows in all stages of development.

WELL NOTED SHORTS (WNS): A series of short musicals 15 minutes or less in all stages of development.

NOTES FROM A PAGE (NFP): A series of full length ensemble musicals in all stages of development. Open to NYC, NJ and CT composers/lyricists.

Please check www.emergingartiststheatre.org for updates about next year's event.

GROWING STAGES by William Squier

For this Musical Writerzine #11 column, William Squier writes about the upcoming workshops and seminarsĀ at NYC's Theater Resources Unlimited, including "Raising Money for the Theater: How, Who and When to Ask." Also, he profiles a summer theater that mounts new musicals, the Musical Theatre Company in Highland Park, IL.

THE BUSINESS SIDE OF SHOW BIZ: THEATER RESOURCES UNLIIMITED

When bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, legend has it Sutton replied "That's where the money is." If only it were that easy to answer the perpetual question of where you find money to produce a new musical?

"There really is no answer to that," admits Bob Ost, the Founder and Executive Director of Theater Resources Unlimited.

Nevertheless, Ost and a panel of experts will gather on Saturday, January 23, for a one-day, all-day "boot camp" titled Raising Money for Theater: How, Who and When to Ask. Their intent is to provide fledgling theatrical producers and writers interested in self-producing with a set of practical strategies for attracting and Bob Ost TRU directorsecuring investors. The event is only one of a slew of monthly workshops and seminars hosted by TRU, a not-for-profit service organization that exists to better acquaint producers, theater companies and artists with the business side of show biz.

[Photo to the right: Bob Ost hosts TRU Love Benefit at Caroline's on Broadway, 2009.]

TRU was founded by Ost and fellow writers Cheryl Davis and Gary Hughes in 1992. "I had no intention of starting an organization of this sort," Ost insists. "My plays were finalists in national competitions. I won two of them for my musical FINALE! and it was a finalist at the O'Neill. And I thought, 'Gee. Why am I not getting produced? Maybe the piece of the puzzle that's missing is that I just don't know producers."

So, Ost made it his job to reach out to independent producers and the heads of theater companies. "Much to my dismay, I learned that they were having their own problems," he recalls. That's when Ost decided to gather the people he'd met at his apartment, in the hope that they could find ways of helping one another. "Thirty showed up," says Ost. "And I had an epiphany. I realized that people who were producing had a need to talk and find out that they're not alone. I wanted to create a supportive community where people would help one another."

The next step was to bring artists into the conversation. "The biggest problem that many artists have is a victim mentality," Ost feels. "They think they are being taken advantage of. But, it's usually that they just don't understand the business. I think it's essential. By understanding how producers think and function, the barrier is taken away between the artist and the producer."

Tru Panel Musicals ProducersOver the years, TRU has developed a variety of programs that have expanded those early get-togethers into a year-round series of workshops, educational panels, audition events, a producer mentorship program and the annual TRU Voices New Plays Series and New Musicals Series. Musical theater writers, in particular, have benefited from exposure in TRU Voices. The series has helped to launch a number of notable new tuners, perhaps the most familiar of which is THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL. They've also fostered festival favorites like ABOUT FACE (Seen at NYMF, 2008), OPA! (Recently at Queens Theater in the Park), SAINT HEAVEN (The Village Theater, 2008) and MEESTER AMERIKA (Garage Theater Group, 2009).

[Photo above: A TRU panel discussion: Tom Polum, producer (The Toxic Avenger); Ken Waissman, producer (original production of Grease); Randy Adams of Junkyard Dog Productions (Memphis, Vanities); and Bob Ost.

Photo below: 2008 TRU Voices finalist musical "Once Upon a Wind" by Tom Diggs and Jay D'Amico, directed by Jeremy Dobrish, produced by Sheila McDevitt; with (left to right) Marcus Stevens, Molly Ephraim, Kevin Pariseau, Laura Fois, Alex Brightman, Ken Triwush]

new musical writer at TRU

Bob Ost began his involvement in the musical theater while growing up in Philadelphia. "I wrote my first play when I was 14," he says. "It was produced at my high school and taught in the English classes. So, I was a minor celebrity." At the same time Ost was teaching himself about music by plunking away on a neighbor's piano. Eventually he began to experiment with his own compositions.

The two worlds came together when Ost attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued to write and compose, despite being discouraged by the faculty from attempting the latter. Then, a girlfriend who was attending Columbia University at the time brought one of his early plays to the attention of Bob Moss, the founder of Playwrights Horizons in NYC. Moss produced the play in the theater's first season at the Clarke Center for the Performing Arts in 1971.

Once he arrived in NYC, Ost was invited to join the Edward Albee Foundation (an artists' colony in Montauk). He also fell into the occasional brunch with composer John Kander, whom Ost says would lecture him about theater music. "He said that I was making things overly complicated, and urged me to simplify." Ost recalls. "I listened to a lot of Prokofiev and Stravinsky and dissonance was just a part of my musical sensibility."

Elaine Stritch and Bob Ost at TRU event - fundraising for new musicals activities[Photo: Elaine Stritch with Bob Ost at the 2007 TRU Love Benefit at Sardi's]

Ost's initial foray into self-producing was a revue of his music titled LOVE AND LAUGHTER at Jan Wallman's cabaret on 44th Street. "All I needed was $3,000.00," he reports. "I figured out that the way to raise the money was to ask for it. And I returned about $2,000.00 to my investors. They weren't expecting their money back!"

Ost kept that experience very much in mind when he started TRU. "I thought, if I can self-produce, anybody can," he says. "I take a very practical approach to creating my programs. I try to get to things that are tangible and usable."

For example, the Raising Money for Theater workshop breaks down into sessions on (a.) the legal aspect of raising money ("What you need to know to keep from breaking any laws."), (b.) networking skills that will help you present yourself and your project effectively ("How to engage people with your ideas."), (c.) putting together a business plan and (d.) a keynote address by Kristin Caskey, Vice President of Fox Theatricals.

"She's an amazing speaker - so smart and articulate," Ost enthuses. "She gives lots of juicy information about how to know that you're on track with your project and when to pull the plug." Other scheduled faculty members include producers Jane Dubin (THE NORMAN CONQUESTS), Tom Smedes (NAKED BOYS SINGING, [title of show]), Cheryl Wiesenfeld (THE EXONERATED, ELAINE STRITCH: AT LIBERTY) and Randall Wreghitt (LITTLE WOMEN, GREY GARDENS).

Raising Money for Theater: How, Who and When to Ask

Raising Money for the Theater: How, Who and When to Ask will take place from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm at the Players Theater, 115 MacDougal Street, New York, NY. Admission is $175.00. However, if you mention that you learned about the workshop in Growing Stages on MusicalWriters.com, you'll be eligible for the TRU member discount of $25. See contact info below.

TRU Writer-Producer Speed Date

Also coming up on Sunday, February 21, is the latest session of the TRU Writer-Producer Speed Date. At the event, 22 writers, pre-selected from submissions, are matched with 11 producers in what amounts to a two hour pitch-a-thon. "You pitch each producer for 2 minute; I blow a whistle; and then the producer responds with questions for 2 minutes; I blow a whistle; and then you move to the next producer," Ost explains. "We do an hour of coaching before you go into the pitch room." Producers that have participated in recent Speed Dates are Stewart Lane (THE 39 STEPS, LEGALLY BLONDE), Jean Cheever & Tom Polum (THE TOXIC AVENGER, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS).

The TRU Writer-Producer Speed Date will take place from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm at the Players Theater. Admission is $75.00. [See contact info below]

Contacting TRU

Musical theater writers interested in registering for these events should contact Theater Resources Unlimited at TRUnltd@aol.com or 212-714-7628. They can also be reached at:

Theater Resources Unlimited
309 West 104th Street
#1D
NYC, NY 10025

For more details, visit www.truonline.org.

Tips for Producing Your Own New Musical

If you are considering self-producing your work, Bob Ost suggests that you think about the following:

1. Be clear about your goal in self-producing. Make sure that it is realistic. "What are you trying to achieve?" Ost says to ask yourself. "Do you want to get yourself a credit? Do you have the idea that you're going to move it into a commercial run? Do you want to showcase yourself and be seen by other people? Depending upon your goal, you may make different choices."

2. Make sure that you have a realistic budget in place. "I hear it all the time," Ost explains. "People come to me and say, 'Oh, my god, this cost me so much more than I thought it would!' Talk to people and find out what things really cost."

3. Understand your product. "Align yourself with people who are honest with you about who your audience is and about what the strengths and weaknesses are of the piece," Ost emphasizes. "Then, you can market it to the right place."

GROWING STAGES PART II

SURROUND YOURSELF: THE MUSIC THEATRE COMPANY

Music Theatre Company Chicago artistic Director Jessica Redish"Surround yourself with artists that inspire you," says Jessica Redish, Founding Artistic Director of The Music Theatre Company in Highland Park, IL. That's the advice that she gave to herself when Redish decided to form a new summer theater whose mission is to the develop and produce of new works of musical theater. She thought to herself "move home, gather my troops, both in Chicago and from New York, and put them together in one company."

"Home," in Redish's case, is an affluent, small city located just above Chicago on the North Shore of Lake Michigan. "Art really matters to people in Highland Park," she explains. So, it made sense to Redish to set up shop where she says, "I felt really inspired as a teenager." The city is perhaps best known in theater circles for the Ravina Festival, the summer home the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, whose Sondheim series was the first place that audiences got to see Patti Lupone's take on playing Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD and Rose in GYPSY.

Redish actually began her artistic life in Chicago. "I caught the bug at age seven," she admits with a raucous laugh. "I always made up dances in my room to Whitney Houston and Madonna. Then, I discovered LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and that was it! The thought that I could tell a story through movement with bodies on stage and music.., there still is nothing more exciting to me."

Redish followed her passion to Northwestern University, from which she graduated in 2002 with degrees in Speech and Musical Theater. "After that, I stuck around Chicago and got my Equity card," she says. The University asked her back to direct, choreograph and teach the music theatre curriculum. By the next year, Redish had also founded TMTC and mounted a production of Kander & Ebb's AND THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND at the Next Theatre in Evanston, IL in 2004.

Eventually, Redish landed in New York where she threw herself into directing and choreographing new works at the New York Musical Theater Festival, Raw Impressions and the New York International Fringe Festival. The culmination of her efforts was to be hired by director David Cromer as the movement director for the critically lauded Off-Broadway musical ADDING MACHINE (Joshua Schmidt & Jason Loewith).

"ADDING MACHINE made me realize that was the kind of musical that I wanted to work on," Redish recalls. "My ah-hah moment happened during tech at 3:00 am at the Minetta Lane. I said to myself, I've got to do this all the time! I've got make these kinds of shows."

themusictheatrecompany.org site [ Themusictheatrecompany.org website]

Music Theatre Company's first original production on home soil was a collection of 15-minute musicals written, rehearsed and performed within 2 days in 2008. Titled 48-HOUR MUSICAL: WHAT U WILL, each piece was inspired by a line from Shakespeare randomly chosen by Redish. "It was a litmus test, to see what it was like to work together and how Highland Park audiences would respond," she explains. "It was huge! We had an overflow crowd and they said, 'We want more!'"

By September, Redish had set up shop and began planning The Music Theatre Company's first summer season. It consisted of mounting three new musicals and another edition of 48-HOUR MUSICALS, this time inspired by FAMOUS LAST WORDS. Each of the new shows was produced on a slightly different level. Bobby Cronin's B.R.A.T.T. CAMP was staged as a three performance workshop; THE 9/11 REPORT: A BIPARTISAN MUSICAL FANTASIA (Michael Mahler, Oron Stenesh & Redish) was an in-house project that was fully produced for a two-week run; and a musical adaptation of Charles L. Mee's play SUMMERTIME (Redish & Alan Schmuckler) received a concert reading. "It was crazy. It was fulfilling. The collaboration felt magical," Redish says, summing up the experience.

Cronin's B.R.A.T.T. CAMP, which has since been retitled THE BEATEN PATH, particularly benefited by the TMTC presentation. The musical centers on five troubled teens that find themselves shipped off to a disciplinary camp. "I heard Bobby Cronin's soul in the music - it tapped into what it means to be a teenager in pain," Redish says. The book, however, she describes as having been slapstick and funny. Then, a patron who had attended one of the performances approached Redish and the writer to say, "I work for these camps." "So, Bobby went," Redish reports. "And now the show is so different."

The 2010 summer season promises to follow a similar pattern. "It's a lab," Redish explains. "So, things exist at varying levels. We're on a budget and trying to be smart. But, we'd like to get to the point where all of our shows are fully designed." One priority, however, is that all of the performers are paid for their involvement.

On tap are a main stage production that has yet to be decided, a reading of a new musical written in-house about the Roosevelt Island tram that got stuck over New York's East River in 2006 and a production of another new show, conceived and directed by company member Liz Kimball, being written by pair of local high school students who have been paired with a professional songwriting team. And the subject to this season's 48-HOUR MUSICALS: FACEBOOK STATUS.

"The musical is the most exciting American art form," Redish feels. "There are pockets of this country that are open to new shows and curious about them. I think it's the future of development." In light of that, Redish hopes to eventually begin producing outside submissions. Musical theater writers that are interested in being considered for future summer seasons should email the complete libretto (lyrics included) and song samples as music files to:

info@themusictheatrecompany.org

c/o Jessica Redish, Founding Artistic Director
The Music Theatre Company
www.themusictheatrecompany.org

Resources for fundraising, etc.

You'll find useful guides at Amazon.com, like

The Commercial Theater Institute Guide to Producing Plays and Musicals - This one is specific to theatre. 

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money: The Art, the Science, the Secrets  - This goes over the details of writing and publishing fundraising materials, as might be appropriate for any theatre group.

If you haven't yet been to our Books section on Musical Writers, please go to MusicalWriters.com recommended books

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