Academy member Marie Incontrera is a recent recipient of an Academy Reading Series staged reading of her show Absolute Zero. MusicalWriters Academy is made up of bookwriters, composers, and lyricists of all ages and all over the world. We love supporting our members, and we want to help share what they’re doing, what they’re learning, and where they’re headed.
1. What’s a lesson you’ve learned from your writing journey that you’d like to share?
Marie Incontrera: Finding the right audience can make all the difference for your show, even in the earliest stages. I’ve been in feedback rooms where no one “got” what we were trying to do with our work, and I’ve been in feedback rooms where every single piece of feedback was valuable and actionable. It helps to know that before asking for feedback for a work in progress, the first thing to do is understand whether those listening understand what the piece is and where it’s going.
2. Writing a musical isn’t easy. What’s your “why” in being a musical writer?
MI: For me writing is an act of love. I run my own business by day, and I get to work on my musical when I’m not doing that. Being a musical writer feels like a reward. It definitely isn’t always easy, but I try to always keep it fun and exciting for myself. I also try to work with collaborators who have a similar mindset about writing. I think it’s part of the reason Dorie and I write so well together – we’re both busy entrepreneurs and value the time we can spend working on our musical. It isn’t always easy – there are times when we send 4-5 voice memos back and forth nailing down a single phrase or melody – but we get a lot done.
3. Why did you join MusicalWriters Academy?
MI: I joined because I knew Holly through a few early-pandemic Zoom conversations! I have so much respect for her and for what she’s built.
4. How did you get bit by the theater bug?
MI: As a high school freshman, I was a street urchin in Little Shop of Horrors! I never had a lead role in the high school musical, instead going on to be in the pit band and on stage crew throughout high school. For me, it was about being behind the scenes in some way, and I was bit by the theater bug completely and totally. I went on to focus on classical and jazz composition in college, because that was what was available to me at school, but I focused on writing opera as much as I could. Writing opera was a part of my career as a working musician for 10 years. While I always loved musical theater, it was something I didn’t think was for me to do until my friend (and eventually writing partner) Dorie started working on her application for the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. It took some prodding on her part, but she finally convinced me to apply (it’s a long story involving a very long walk on a very hot day), and the rest is history!
5. What do you love about MusicalWriters.com?
MI: It’s hard to pick just one thing! I love that MusicalWriters.com affords so many opportunities to so many wonderful writers. I use the site most often for the submissions calendar. I often use the submissions calendar as a forcing mechanism to keep me working. If there’s a deadline coming up, I know I’ll write for the deadline. I also use the site often for the helpful tips. When I was creating my integrated score, I used the advice on the site for doing so.
6. What are you working on right now?
MI: Dorie and I just finished preparing Absolute Zero, which was a winner at the last Pitch Night, for its reading with MusicalWriters.com on August 7th. It’ll be the first time we’ll see the show done in its entirety! We’re also in the early stages with a second musical, 23 and You and You and Me, which is a paternity comedy. We wrote the first 10 minutes last fall as part of the Prospect Theater Company’s Rule of 3 Lab, and we’re excited to expand it into a full musical..
7. Any recommendations for other writers preparing for Pitch Night?
MI: Don’t forget to have fun!!! I was so nervous beforehand – Dorie wasn’t able to join me, so I pitched on my own, and I was worried about saying everything I needed to and having it all come across correctly. About halfway through my pitch, I took a deep breath and realized how much fun it was to talk about my work. The question/answer section of the pitch felt easier because I was more relaxed and felt more confident as a result.
8. What do you hope to learn from the Academy Reading Series process?
MI: I’m excited to get feedback on Absolute Zero and uncover what the next steps are for the show.
9. What is your favorite musical writing tech tool?
MI: I have been using Sibelius since I was in grad school a million years ago. Would I say it’s my favorite… probably not… I would rather do anything else than enter what I’ve written into the software! But it gets the job done.
10. Anything else you’d like to add?
MI: I would like to highlight that a great collaboration partnership is worth finding. It’s important to understand that it is a long-term relationship and to treat it as such. A great collaboration on a musical can last anywhere from 8-10 years to forever, and it’s important to come to your collaborations with mutual respect and openness.
“A great collaboration on a musical can last anywhere from 8-10 years to forever, and it’s important to come to your collaborations with mutual respect and openness.”
Marie Incontrera is a musical theatre and opera composer; music director and conductor; and screenwriter living in Manhattan, New York. Her award-winning chamber opera, Albert: Bound or Unbound, written with librettist Royce Vavrek, premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music New Wave Festival and was hailed by the New York Times for its “deftly woven jazz and gospel elements.” Her operatic works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, and across the United States.
Marie has served as a music director and pianist for three works with Mabou Mines, in collaboration with late director Lee Breuer. She has also music directed several other opera, musical theater, and hybrid works, including Fred Ho’s Sweet Science Suite, Marat Sade with the TWEED Theatre Company featuring Edgar Oliver, Hatuey at Sundance Labs, and 8 Songs for a Drag Queen at Carnegie Hall.
Marie’s screen works include Two Anxious Bisexuals, and A Very Queer Holiday, a holiday special. Both were written with Dianne Gebauer and Megan A Zebrowski. Two Anxious Bisexuals was the Best Short Script winner at the 2022 Film Invasion LA Festival, San Francisco Arthouse Film Festival, Vienna Indie Shorts Film Festival, and the LGBTQ Unbordered Film Festival. A Very Queer Holiday has been a winner at Toronto Film Festival, San Francisco Arthouse Film Festival, and the LGBTQ Unbordered Film Festival.
Marie is a graduate of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Intensive, taught by Patrick Cook and Frederick Freyer. Her first collaboration with Dorie Clark, Absolute Zero, was a part of the Apples and Oranges THEatre ACCELERATOR development intensive in Spring 2021. Dorie and Marie were commissioned by the Prospect Theater Lab for the first ten-minutes of their second show, 23 and You and You and Me, which premiered in November 2021 at Symphony Space. Her Virtual Reality musical, Parallel University, written with David Quang Pham and Malina Detcheva-Rossa, was developed with the Across A Crowded Room program at Lincoln Center Library. She received her Masters Degree in Music Composition from Brooklyn College, where she studied with Tania Leon.
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