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. This month’s member spotlight is Fred Rohan-Vargas.
Fred Rohan-Vargas is an experienced playwright and composer and recently was accepted in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.
What are you working on right now?
Fred Rohan-Vargas: I am currently working on a family musical called “The Big-Eyed Gorilla.” I was fortunate to be selected as a finalist in the MusicalWriters Academy Reading Series Pitch Night (watch the replay here). It was a great experience and one that I’m happy to say encouraged me to move forward.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from your writing journey that you’d like to share?
F.R-V.: I’ve been writing seriously for the theatre since 1981 when I studied dramatic writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I’ve learned the importance of perseverance and that the confidence I’ve acquired through trials and errors made me a better writer and communicator.
Writing a musical isn’t easy. What’s your “why” in being a musical writer?
F.R-V.: Fortunately, I’m a songwriter as well as a playwright. Putting these two genres together, that I’m deeply passionate about, works for me as a musical writer.
Why did you join MusicalWriters Academy?
F.R-V.: Academy provided a home where I felt welcomed and allowed me to get whatever help I needed as a musical writer. There is no other organization I’m aware of that offers such a comprehensive program with resources so easily accessible.
How did you get bit by the theater bug?
F.R-V.: I think my story is like every artist in this business. I used to listen to family albums with musical scores and would sing and dance to them. I remember the album that resonated the most with me was South Pacific. Its message was clear to me that racism was still prevalent. Being a Latino of mixed blood, I saw how perception can be twisted to change reality to a false narrative that caters to what many people in America wanted to believe. That’s when I realized theatre wasn’t only about entertainment but social issues as well. Thank you, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, and Joshua Logan.
What do you love about MusicalWriters.com?
F.R-V.: Community. It’s a comfort to know I can interact, develop relationships and get support from fellow members.
What are you looking forward to in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop?
F.R-V.: First of all, I’d like to thank Musicalwriters.com for announcing the workshop on its website. I applied and, months later, got accepted. The workshop I’m in is for librettists, and what I’m looking forward to is honing my skills and learning how to effectively write a good book that effortlessly incorporates music such as West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Come from Away.
Do you have any advice to share about the submission process?
F.R-V.: If you’re referring to BMI, my only suggestion is to follow their rules and not give more or less than asked. The competition is great, and you don’t want to be eliminated before you get the chance to show your talent(s).
What is your favorite musical writing tool?
F.R-V.: I find Final Draft a convenient way to write my scripts since it’s designed specifically for scriptwriting.
Fred Rohan-Vargas is the author of several plays that have been produced throughout the country and abroad. He holds an MFA in dramatic writing from New York University at Tisch School of the Arts. Before receiving a fellowship for graduate school, Fred began his theatre career by starting a dance theatre company with 50 young dancers who performed in various venues such as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Pittsburgh’s Performing Arts Center, and Cami Hall.
For several years Fred has worked as a resident playwright for theaters such as the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, Harbor Theatre, Stageplays Theatre Company, Third Step Theatre, Artist in Search of…Theatre, and the New Federal Theatre. Receiving a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts Theatre Commissions, Fred completed his play Crystal, which was later produced in New York by the Latino Experimental Fantastic Theatre and in 2005 published by JAC Publishing and Promotions in Massachusetts. A finalist in a national one-act festival, Fred’s play, Anything But Black, was included in the theatre’s anthology, “The Best Plays from The Strawberry One Act Festival” (published in 2005). His play Tide Beyond the Rift was nominated for three awards in the Midtown International Theatre Festival in 2014.
In music, Fred’s songs have given him Honorable Mention Awards by The Billboard World Songwriters’ Contest, John Lennon Songwriting Contest, Great American Song Contest, Unisong International Songwriting Contest, and the Suggested Artist Songwriting Award. He has three songs in three compilation CDs by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Pick with Austin Foundation in Texas, and Paramount Song.com. Today, his music plays throughout Southeast Asia. Fred has served on the theatre/dance grant’s panel for the Queens Council on the Arts, the panel of judges for the Daytime Emmy Awards (sponsored by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences), the Board of Directors of the New York Children’s Theatre and still active on the Advisory Board of Ripple Effect Artist Inc. He has been a co-producer of the Off-Broadway musical Money Talks. at the Ken Davenport Theatre (2018) and a partner and investor of the Broadway show The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (2019). He is a member of Theatre Resource Unlimited (TRU), Dramatists Guild of America, Off-Broadway Alliance, and Commercial Theatre Institute (CTI).