MusicalWriters Academy is made up of bookwriters, composers, and lyricists from 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.
Our first Member Spotlight is playwright and lyricist Donna Gay Anderson, hailing from southern Louisiana.
What are you working on right now?
Donna Gay Anderson: Two major pieces. The first one, currently in draft 5, is an adaptation of the life and work of former Playboy centerfold Susie Scott Krabacher. She is an American known for her humanitarian work in Haiti and the piece is called Unfolded. (YouTube Channel: Unfolded a musical in development). The second piece, also an adaptation, is inspired by a WWII Navy Air Corp Pilot who’s squadron was lost in the Bermuda Triangle. It is barely out of the gate with Draft 1. I also just started a monologue piece that is not a musical and have been having success with my short stories. Every type of writing feeds the other types so I like to mix things up a bit. I love them all but admit that musical theatre is the Superbowl of all writing. If I can do that well, I really feel like I accomplished something.
Writing a musical isn’t easy. What’s your “why” in being a musical writer?
DGA: Many reasons. I love to hear characters sing their hearts out when spoken words are not enough. When a character sings instead of simply talking, it signals to the audience that what they are about to hear is important. Music is a powerful tool that triggers sense memory for audiences. Lean in to it. Setting words and story to music gives a strong story an added dimension. To me, a musical score is a love letter to the words.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from your writing journey?
DGA: Choose your collaborators as carefully as you would choose a life partner. Don’t say yes to a proposal because you are desperate. Find someone who is creatively compatible. You needn’t be exactly alike, but you need to be kindred spirits. Make sure that you have enough common ground to understand cultural references in the same manner. If you do not, you can still make the collaboration work, but it may take a lot longer because you each spend a lot of time explaining yourself. If the collaboration isn’t working, get out fast or else you lose time, energy and creative satisfaction. Make a mutual agreement that if after a specific number of months the partnership isn’t working for either of you, you can simply depart with no hard feelings. Remember, you are going to birth a baby together so you better be on the same page.
How did you get bit by the theater bug?
DGA: Theatre has always been a part of who I am. My mother was a director so I spent most of my childhood curled up in Row F doing homework and watching rehearsals. I remember the first time I performed on stage, as Gretel, in third grade. It was such an invigorating experience. Since then I have worked in three aspect of theatre: acting, directing, writing. I love all of them and plan to keep going.
What do you love about MusicalWriters.com?
DGA: I admire and appreciate the professional standard it exemplifies. I sit in seminars and classes with other members and think,” Wow, I want to be like her!” Also, Holly is very generous with her expertise and I appreciate that very much. She is always willing to answer my questions or ponder a challenge with me.
How have you benefited from MusicalWriters Academy?
DGA: The articles and classes are extremely well constructed and valuable. I find practical information I didn’t even learn in graduate school that comes from established industry professionals. Also, MusicalWriters Academy is the perfect platform on which to build my community of theatre peeps. After all, theatre by nature is a group activity. The MusicalWriters Academy provides me with a tribe.
Donna Gay Anderson is a playwright/lyricist currently collaborating with composer Theodore Christman on the musical, Unfolded, based on the life and work of Susie Scott Krabacher. Other works including High and Mighty, Shrimp and Crab, and Formula One have been presented and developed in New York City, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans and North Carolina. She is a contributing writer to Dramatists Magazine and MusicalWriters.com (see her articles here). Her fiction has been included in The Louisville Review (Fall 2020) and Arkansas Review (Winter 2021). MFA Spalding University. She and her husband Tom live in swampy south Louisiana with any dog willing to spend the night. www.donnagayanderson.com