As part of my 2014 career map, I set a goal of attending a musical theatre festival in New York. Thanks to funds provided by Theatre Bay Area's Titan Award and the influence of my mentor, Leslie Martinson, I was able to tag along with TheatreWorks to NAMT’s Festival of New Musicals last week at New World Stages in NYC (Holy Hyperlinks!). My main objectives were to observe, learn and get a pulse on what is happening in the musical theatre industry.
Here’s how the two-day festival worked. Eight writing teams, who were chosen prior to the festival, prepared 45-minute versions of their current projects for presentation on one of two stages. Festival attendees were assigned one of two show-tracks. On the first day, we waited in line to enter a theatre, watched one team present their 45-minute snippet, exited into the lobby where the writers handed out demos and made themselves available for conversation, then immediately queued up again to re-enter the theatre to watch the next presentation. This repeated until we saw four shows that day. The second day was nearly identical, except we watched the remaining four shows in the second theatre. There was also a special songwriting showcase on the first day, during which four writing teams were able to share two songs from their current projects. Basically, it was a full two days of musical theatre. I should say, NEW musical theatre.
I won't go into too much detail (if you're curious about the line-up of shows, click here). I will say that there was such a refreshing breadth of musical theatre styles represented in the festival. Some were very contemporary and varied, while others stayed true to a particular culture or time-period. There were love stories and tragedies and hilarious comedies. And my God, the talent! From the writing to the musicians to the actors, it was clear to me that these were not mere dabblers in the art of musical theatre. These folks took what they were doing seriously and poured themselves into their projects.
I think that’s what stood out to me most about the Festival of New Musicals. Everyone there loved musicals and wanted to catch a glimpse of where the art form is headed. Theatre companies were interested in finding a work they could invest in and help develop into a fully realized show. I was surrounded by people who loved musical theatre as much as I do. I come away from the festival with great, practical insight into what gets a show to its next steps. But perhaps more importantly, I come away feeling like my passion for musical theatre is not silly or ungrounded - it's a passion shared by others - and I am invigorated to jump right back into my own writing.