OUR ROAD TO NAMT FEST: Musical Theater Bytes
On October 11 & 12, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (a service organization made up of some of the top producers, presenters and theatrical educators in the nation) will present its 24th annual Festival of New Musicals. Eight new works will receive readings for industry professionals in hopes of finding assistance with further development and ultimately productions. In a series of personal blogs over the next month, I will take you behind-the-scenes of the festival as my collaborators and I prepare our show Triangle for its presentation.
If anyone asked me what to look for in a great composing partner, I’d tell them to seek out many of the qualities of my own long-time collaborator Curtis Moore. Find someone who is talented (clearly), fun to be around (long hours together in small rooms), committed (to the theater, not a mental institution) – and, most importantly, someone who has a degree in electrical engineering. Seriously, skip Juilliard and start trolling MIT.
As we dive into preparations for our NAMT Festival presentation, I have realized that this is a highly technical operation. Just gathering our team for a prep meeting is like tasking a bunch of liberal arts students with landing the Rover on Mars. I’m in Brooklyn; Curtis is music directing a show in Kansas City; our music director was in Pittsfield, MA; our festival consultants (NAMT members assigned to shepherd us through the process) are based in Chicago and Princeton; and our fearless director was in transit somewhere in the American Southwest (though, at times, even she wasn’t sure exactly where). We have to use scheduling programs to find overlapping minutes across time zones and rehearsals. We must turn to web chat, skype and conference call technology to simulate round table discussions.
To cast the show, we don’t need a casting director; we need an I.T. expert. Headshots are emailed. Song files are downloaded. YouTube videos are shared. (A free bit of advice to any actors reading this; type your name into YouTube and clean house. This is how you “audition” now. If there is a seemingly drunk karaoke version of “Love is a Battlefield” anywhere near the top of your page, remove it…unless you are interested in being seen for Rock of Ages.) In fact, we will likely have not met nor even seen in person some of our actors until the first day of rehearsal.
Even the act of writing is a tech game. The NAMT presentations are 45-minute cuttings so we are currently trying out different versions of a script that will give a flavor of the show and still feel like a coherent event. This requires a lot of trial and error. We use online drop boxes and “versioning” software to keep track of and give everyone on the team access to different drafts. (Do I sound like I know what I mean in the last sentence? I don’t. Ask Curtis.) We are also prepping some new song demos which Curtis will capture and mix remotely on a laptop recording studio far from a sound proof booth and an orchestra.
And I haven’t even touched on the need for publicity through social networking, reminding the industry to come, and so much more. It’s a brave new world. To be in music theatre today, the genius bar you need to reach is less Sondheim and more Apple Store.
For more from authors of NAMT Festival of New Musicals Works, check out the official NAMT blog, Musical Notes.