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ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Musical Theatre programs

ASCAP Foundation Annual Musical Theatre Workshops

Stephen Schwartz and Craig Carnelia[Photo of Stephen Schwartz and Craig Carnelia at an ASCAP musical theatre workshop]

Stephen Schwartz serves as artistic director for the annual Disney/ASCAP Foundation workshops in Musical Theatre held in Los Angeles in January and February and the ASCAP Foundation workshops in New York City every spring.

In advance of the workshops, composers and book writers submit works in progress for review. A few are selected for short presentations at the workshops. Professional songwriters and others in the field provide feedback on the shows being presented that evening while onlookers absorb the insights offered.

ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops

Please check details on www.musicalschwartz.com/ascap.htm

ASCAP "I Create Music" EXPO annual

The Only National Conference 100% Dedicated to Songwriting and Composing
Held annually in Los Angeles, CA
http://www.ASCAP.com/EXPO

ASCAP now has it's own musical theatre page: www.ascap.com/musictheatre/ [opens new browser window]

ASCAP and Schwartz: Nurturing Tomorrow's Musical Theatre Talent Today

By Shawn McCarthy

Originally published for The Schwartz Scene (external web site)

According to Webster's the verb nurturing means: "To help grow or develop; cultivate." Since its inception in 1977 the New York-based American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) Musical Theatre Workshops have strived to accomplish a nurturing environment for talented, up and coming composers, lyrists and book writers.

Although nurturing new talent has consistently been part of the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops, in many ways its purpose and mandate has evolved over the years and in particular since Stephen Schwartz assumed the helm as the Artistic Director in 1993.

Michael Kerker, Director of ASCAP's Musical Theatre division explains, "In 1977 Charles Strouse (composer of ANNIE, BYE BYE BIRDIE, RAGS among others) became the Artistic Director of the workshops whose purpose at that time was really to help develop projects that were well on their way and essentially almost ready for prospective producers to consider.There would be 12 – 15 projects presented by different writing teams for a group of panelist which, included theatre critics as well as well-known musical writers, who would provide feedback to each team.As well an audience of on-lookers who were allowed to vocalize their feedback as well."

This format remained intact until Charles Strouse stepped down and Stephen Schwartz assumed the leadership in 1993.Kerker continues, "When I approached Stephen he was somewhat reluctant at first partially because of some unpleasant experiences participating in similar workshops run by another organization and partially because he found the format of our workshops at that time unappealing."Stephen however did finally agree to come on board with the understanding that there'd be changes made to structure of the workshops.These changes included: a smaller number of projects being presented (4 –6) that were at a fairly early stage in their development, theatre critics were no longer among the panelists and direct audience feedback was eliminated. "Audience feedback had too often become individuals contradicting the panelists which is really not very helpful to the writing teams," continues Kerker.

These changes were only the beginning of Stephen's impact on the workshops.
"He is a tremendous teacher who possesses such charisma and commitment.He spends time with each writing team privately before the workshops and explains the guidelines, and encourages them to listen carefully to the feedback from the panelists, maybe even tape record what's being said so they can listen to it again later.He also helps them understand that panelists aren't always right and to not take everyone's feedback to heart."

In the workshops themselves Stephen acts as co-host (along with Michael Kerker) and moderator in addition to being on the panel itself.Generally the panel consists of 3 industry people – musical theatre writers, producers, artistic directors etc. – and Stephen who typically speaks last in order of sequence.

"He provides both very insightful, specific feedback on the work as well as general feedback on some of the key rules of writing for the musical theatre," says Kerker.

An example of Stephen's insightfulness occurred recently at a Disney/ASCAP Workshop held in February in California (Stephen runs both the New York, and since it's inception in Oct 1996, the West Coast workshops cosponsored by Disney.)On this particular night, after the 55 minute presentation of the first act and a short intermission, Stephen pointed out to the talented writing team of "McGinty's Wake" (Brian Patrick Mulligan and Frank Palmieri) that one of the integral requirements in musical theatre writing is the need for the protagonist or main character(s) to desperately want something I.E. they are on a quest. As well, there needs to be another character or group of characters that's standing in the way or are somehow trying to prevent this from happening (the device also known as conflict).This salient plot device was somehow missing or not entirely clear and Stephen was highlighting it as an area for the team to further develop.

"Stephen is very much aware that he's not only speaking to the writing team but also to the audience in attendance many of whom are writers, producers and industry people themselves," continues Kerker.

Stephen's commitment to fostering gifted writers doesn't end there however. In 2000 he was named artistic director for "In the Works", a new ASCAP Foundation/Kennedy Center joint musical theater development program. It's through this program that shows are further developed as they are readied for, hopefully, a full production.

Such was the case with a show written by Emmy-awarding winning Paris Barclay whose show "Letters From 'Nam" was first presented at the ASCAP/Disney Workshops and then subsequently developed at the Kennedy Center through the "In the Works" program.This resulted in the show receiving a full production, which premiered at the North Shore Music Theatre in 2001 opening to both critical and public acclaim.

As Stephen continues to infuse the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop's with his wisdom, energy and insight, no doubt they will continue to be of tremendous benefit and education to writers and on-lookers a like.

Kerker perhaps sums it up best, "Whether you're one of the writer's or an audience member, you always take away a bit of Stephen when you've been to one of the workshops."


To send suggestions, comments, or questions write to carol@musicalschwartz.com


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