How to Improve Any Skill

When I first began teaching at USC, I was hesitant, afraid. “Those who can’t…” kept ringing in my head. I didn’t want to focus too much time and energy training other people to do what I was still focusing on perfecting myself.

The past few years of teaching acting has proven me very wrong. Rather than sapping my attention away from my skills, it has only honed them and made them all the more available to me in my professional career.

It reminded me of the time I spent helping my friends with their homework in grade school. My friend Danny was not very good at math. So I would sit with him and work through the problems, step by step, going through the process we had learned. Doing this allowed me to solidify the process in my own head. When it came time for the test, I now had double the practice and confidence to do well.

If you want to improve something you know how to do, all you have to do is teach it to someone else. Here’s a list of things you’ll find: Continue reading How to Improve Any Skill

How to Write a Song for the Musical Theatre

PC: Dayne Topkin

Consistent writing with consistent quality requires consistent habit. There are always a lot of variables when you’re writing something new – new characters, new circumstances, new voices, new points of view. Given that there will always be lots of new unknowns, when it comes to your process you don’t want to have to always be reinventing the wheel.

When I’m writing a new song for a musical, I start by asking myself a series of questions. The order of the series is not important, and I will usually stop at whichever point I feel I’ve answered enough to begin writing the song. (I am taking for granted that at this point I’ve created a musical language for the world of the piece as well as the individual characters.)


1. What is the EVENT of the scene/moment? This is often but not always coupled with the second question on the list (What is the conflict of the scene/moment?) This question allows me to identify what the major dramatic event is. The story in a musical is communicated and moves forward via song, therefore Continue reading How to Write a Song for the Musical Theatre

The Donut Problem, or What’s the Matter with Ingénues?

Photo by: Thomas Kelly

The term isn’t mine, but the problem is one that lots of writers fall into. The Donut Problem describes what happens when your main character is nowhere near as interesting or as active as all the characters that surround her.

There are several reasons this may occur. Continue reading The Donut Problem, or What’s the Matter with Ingénues?

Streep. Agree or Disagree?

Handout/Getty Images

Last night during the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award for Lifetime Achievement. There’s hardly an actor more deserving it would seem, as she has been celebrated almost from the day she first emerged on screen. The woman collects award nominations the way most of us collect ugly Christmas sweaters. We don’t ask for them and yet every year, there they are.

Her thank you speech last night was…surprising, I think. While many actors take those opportunities to speak broadly for what they feel their career has meant to them or other people, Meryl took an interestingly more political, and potentially divisive tack. She (quite brilliantly) dissected the phrase ‘Hollywood Foreign Press’ into the people that have been and will doubtless continue to be some of the most vilified people in our current President-Elect’s playbook. Continue reading Streep. Agree or Disagree?

Brett Ryback to Receive Cole Porter Award

220px-coleporterIt’s De-Lovely! I am so honored to announce that I will be the recipient of this year’s ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award.

Established in 2009 with a gift from the Cole Porter Musical and Literary Trusts, The ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award is  presented annually to an ASCAP or unaffiliated member who writes music and lyrics, whose work shows promise, and who has participated in the ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop.

Past recipients include Peter Mills, Sam Willmott, and Daniel Maté.

The awards will be distributed at the 2016 ASCAP Foundation Honors, to be held on Wednesday, December 14. This invitation-only event takes place at the Appel Room and Ertegun Atrium in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.

On Cultural Appropriation

A photo by Aidan Meyer. unsplash.com/photos/Q9GlzfhYgGk

About a year ago now, I wrote an article on my blog called Race and the New Generation of Musical Theatre Writers. In the article, I called out to my white colleagues to ‘stretch’ their worldview to a point where they were able to see that our communities are not just populated by white people; to step outside of our unconscious biases and take an active part in truly ‘holding up the mirror.’

This recent Op-Ed in the NY Times by Kaitlyn Greenidge struck me as an interesting extension of that call to arms. It asks the question, “Who Gets to Write What?” and examines the tightrope of cultural appropriation. Continue reading On Cultural Appropriation

The Money Problem

moneyI have always been a worrier when it comes to money. Blame it on my practical Midwestern upbringing. Or my Father. Or the fact that I’ve chosen writing musicals as my ironclad fall-back career in case acting doesn’t work out.

Thankfully, I’ve been extremely lucky to make my living as an artist. I say “artist” because it encompasses the various roles that I play in my work. Sometimes I’m an actor, sometimes I’m a writer, sometimes I’m a musician or a teacher. But it all stems from my passion for and abilities as an artist.

It’s only been recently, though, that I’ve had to actually sit down and think about what to do with the money I’ve made.

Shortly after college, I found myself with a big chunk of credit card debt. And because of the piecemeal nature of making money as an artist, I had no real system to keep track of how much I was making and how much I was spending. Never mind saving or investing!

That’s when I had to get smart about my money. Continue reading The Money Problem

Ryback scored short film “30 Nights” an Official Selection Broad Humor Film Fest, 2015

This Saturday, September 26th @ 5pm, come to Venice, CA to see this hilarious short film I scored. It’s an official selection of the Broad Humor Film Festival – celebrating funny films by funny women.

The festival is held at the Electric Lodge Performing Arts Center at 1416 Electric Ave, Venice CA, 90291.

Get ticket and schedule information here.

The Drugstoppers – a new DARE-ody

DAREleadRemember the DARE program from the 90’s? Remember how it stopped y’all from drinking and smoking pot?

Probably not.

The DARE program was part of a wildly ineffective craze in the 80’s and 90’s to get kids to “just say no” to drugs, which included over-the-top PSA’s including this turkey from 1993:

Well, now there is a brand new stage parody celebrating the nostalgic anti-drug hysteria of our childhood, and you can help us produce it in New York City!

Introducing The Drugstoppers – a new DARE-ody.

Druggstoppers_Final

The Drugstoppers is a new comedy, written by Gili Malinsky, wherein the audience plays the role of classroom, and the play itself is an over-the-top anti-drug program (complete with our own hilarious PSA’s.) Continue reading The Drugstoppers – a new DARE-ody