Musical Theatre Festival: The Top 3 Priorities For Writers

The Broadway cast of Million Dollar Quartet, which appeared in Village Theatre's 2006 Festival of New Musicals.

It’s 19 days until Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals and if YOUR show was part of this year’s festival, you’d likely be doing several things in the next few days:

Staying in close contact with the on-site creative team to work out your festival week schedule

Finalizing the current version of the script and score that we’ll use going into the festival week

And hopefully thinking about what you hope to accomplish during your week at the festival.

A festival of new musicals is a strange animal because the priorities may not be what you think. If I were to list the top 3 priorities as I see them, I’d have to say:

#1 For the writers and the theater to get to know each other and each others work.

This is key because if everyone can’t get along, that’s a deal breaker. The festival is a trial by fire for the collaborative process and if both sides can’t traverse a week of hectic festival stress for whatever reason then a mainstage production will be a no go.

#2 To give local audiences a taste of each new show

Village Theatre has made a commitment to produce two large scale original musicals in their mainstage season each year. They are able to sustain this risky proposition due to overwhelming support from their audiences which the company has gained by including their nearest and dearest patrons in the process. This begins with the festival where audience feedback after each reading as well as interactions with the writers during festival events plays a key role in which shows move on.

#3 For the writers to see the show on its feet in a 29 Hour Reading format with professional performers, in order to further tweak and refine the script and score.

Writers often get few opportunities to see their show on its feet with a professional cast. Village has a deep pool of directors and actors who are exceptionally talented and eager to be part of the festival. Having a pre-assigned director and cast gives the writers the unique opportunity to focus purely on the show itself without having to worry about the politics of long term directors and cast members. In fact, a couple of these shows have, up until now, used the same director or cast members throughout each phase of development.  I have no doubt that a one week “fling” with a fresh team of artists will provide interesting and helpful insight.

You’ll see that my list doesn’t even include things like: locking in a new director, seeking long term cast members, or solidifying a future production. While those are all potential outcomes, they don’t rank among the top priorities.

Now I have to get back to work…today’s to-do list includes meetings with the front of house staff as well as the marketing and development departments. Not to mention an inbox full of emails from the festival writers, directors, stage managers, casting director, musical directors, technical director, my head’s spinning…happy Monday!

This is Part 3 in the Sneak Peek Inside a Musical Theatre Festival Series. Recent posts include The 29 Hour Reading and an Introduction of the 2011 Festival Line-Up. If you’re just tuning in, I’m producing Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals and am blogging about the process over the next few weeks!


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