Last Monday I hosted Musi-CAL, a bimonthly concert celebrating new works of Musical Theatre in Los Angeles. I premiered a new song from my musical-in-development Passing Through. It turned out to be perfect timing, as it was announced last week in the New York Times that my book writer Eric Ulloa and I were accepted to the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat to continue working on the piece this summer.
The song is sung by a 73-year-old ranch hand, Dennis, in New Mexico. Our main character, Andrew, is taken in by him for the night and begins to open up with Dennis about his conflict with his dad. In a very fatherly way, the old ranch hand shares his experience with Andrew, offering him a little perspective.
For nine consecutive weeks beginning July 2, each writing team will have a weeklong residency in the Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City, to write their new musical.
Writers pay nothing to participate in Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, which takes no percentage of future royalties, and donors cover all the writers’ costs. Each writing team lives in a private home and is provided transportation, food, and a $500 stipend.
I saw a couple new plays over the last few weeks, and it got me thinking about structure.
There seems to be a trend with young playwrights that rejects the “restraints” of traditional structure. With nothing worthwhile to replace it, however, rejecting traditional structure feels like a rejection of any structure at all. The resulting play feels like a meditation on a theme at best and a plot with no climax or catharsis at worst.
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.’
There are people in your phone and they have something they’d like to sing to you.
That’s right – all those emojis you use to embellish or simplify your texts are people, too, and now there’s a brand new musical in the works about them. Yes, even the pile of poo.
Thankfully, their songs have music and lyrics by Keith Harrison and a book by Keith and Laura Harrison. (Yes, they’re married. And yes they’re adorable.)
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting an event called Musi-CAL. Presented by the Festival of New American Musicals, Musi-CAL is a bimonthly concert series featuring material from new and in-progress musicals written by Southern Californian composers, lyricists, and bookwriters.
The final presentation was Keith and Laura’s show, Emojiland. I can’t even describe the energy that filled the room with each song they presented. Everyone in attendance was blown away by the quality and production-value of their work. It was simply stellar.
I had originally heard of Michael when I saw a song from his largely autobiographical musical A Strange Loop performed as part of William Finn’sRidiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Should cabaret at 54 Below. (Well – truth be told I think I originally originally heard of him when the pop-star Michael Jackson died, and he was forced to distinguish himself on Facebook as Michael “Living” Jackson, but that’s neither here nor there.)
I then got to meet him as we were both participants of the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at the Goodspeed Musical Theatre this past January. There I got to see more of his work on the show come to life.
The Tony Awards always leave me inspired. I didn’t get to watch this years broadcast, but even just seeing the names of nominees and winners that are close to my heart fuels me to keep pushing ahead in this crazy business of show.
I’m especially inspired by the win of FUN HOME – a story we’ve never seen before on the musical stage – as it further widens the breadth of what stories a musical can tell. As it has for centuries, the theatre continues to have the power to give voice to all sorts of populations whose stories deserve to be told.
That’s why I’m so excited to premiere some brand new songs from JOE SHMOE SAVES THE WORLD as part of The Festival of New American Musical’s Musi-CAL series, celebrating new musicals written by SoCal writers.
Come have a bite to eat and support new musical theatre performed by my incredible cast featuring Jonah Hill (American Idiot, Hair at the Hollywood Bowl), Alex Wyse (Masters of Sex, Broadway’s Lysistrata Jones), Ashley Argota (The Fosters), and Nicole Farnoush, as well as Kat Hennessey, Chris Meissner, Lyle Mackston, and Holly Howell.
It’s a difficult thing to balance two “careers” at once. For me, acting has always taken precedence because it’s my “bread-and-butter,” which I say while making a very ironic face.
But I love writing with the same passion as I love acting, so I can’t just do one and not the other. It just means I’ve had to accept that sometimes the writing is just gonna take longer. A looooot longer.
But this week I was able to finish the first draft of my musical Joe Shmoe Saves the World. Which thrills me to itty bitty little pieces.
Granted – it’s incomplete. That’s right. It’s an incomplete first draft. But it’s cohesive! And now that the first draft is written it means that the rewriting can begin. And so the cycle never ends.
Here’s a paragraph I’m particularly proud of. This comes from my own personal inspiration for writing this piece:
If you’re looking for an excuse to see MURDER FOR TWO – there ain’t a better one than this.
Next Monday, April 7th, following our performance you’ll get to see work from 2 emerging musical theatre composers. Alexander Sage Oyen and ME! I will be presenting a condensed concertof my musical comedy THE TAVERN KEEPER’S DAUGHTER.
For the price of one ticket – you get 3 shows. Frankly, it’s criminal.
And a portion of all ticket sales goes to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Use code MRMUSMON20 to get $37 tickets (normally $87) and join Alexander and myself and a cast of massive Broadway talent (i.e. Lesli Margherita, Taylor Trensch, Todd Buonopane, Julia Mattison, Preston Sadleir, Leo Ash Evans, and so on) for a GREAT Monday night out.