Training Musical Theatre Writers: Australia v USA (It’s not pretty)

Music_Theatre_Writers_Opportunity_Melbourne_AustraliaI was gobsmacked recently to see this poster up on a noticeboard at the Victorian College of the Arts.

First impression: Great!

Thought that immediately followed: Actually maybe not!  What is meant to be inferred by the image of the weed growing up to the sky?

Third thought: Let me just think back to the Agenda for the forthcoming ANMT “Biz of the Musical Theatre Biz” conference, in LA, in July, by comparison.

Culminating thought:  Sigh!

Frankly, it was just one of those depressing moments where one calls to mind the distribution of stale crumbs to pigeons.  In this case the crumbs are not analogous to the panelists involved in the development opportunity held in Melbourne, but the general malaise that “this is all Australian musical theatre writers deserve; one day with an ad-hoc programme thrown together of talks from industry players at differing levels of career advancement?

So, in comparison here is a run-down of the ANMT program (as of June 15):



Friday, July 20, 2012

8:00 PM – 10:00 PM


Anecdotes and insiders-only stories, tips (and possibly gossip) directly from produced writers who’ve been there and lived to tell the tale.

 Confirmed Panelists: 
Cheri Steinkellner (Tony nominated bookwriter of Sister Act)
Paul Gordon (Tony nominated lyricist/composer of Jane Eyre)


Saturday, July 21, 2012

9:00 AM – 9:30 AM

Networking Coffee Break

Informal, casual milling, handshaking, and introductions to your fellow conference participants.

9:30 AM – 10:15 AM


Meet the staff of the Academy for New Musical Theatre, followed by the conference Keynote Address, laying the framework for the weekend and contemplating the future of the American Musical.

 10:15 AM – 10:45 AM


An aggressive, fast-paced thirty-minutes of pitching your show, career, and ambitions to dozens of like-minded artists. Opportunities to sell your show, link up with new collaborators, or find networking opportunities for your next project.

 11:15 AM – 1:00 PM


How do you get your musical noticed? A discussion of the pros and cons of various different festivals, workshops, and fringes for new musicals: Featuring insider information from writers and producers who have taken part in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Village Theatre Festival, Stages Musical Theatre Festival, the Finger Lakes Festival, Edinburgh, the Los Angeles Festival of New American Musicals, the ASCAP/Dreamworks Workshops, the UC Irvine Festival of New Musicals, and more.

Confirmed Panelists: 
Erik Przytulski (Princesses/ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop 2012)
Jordan Beck (Creator of the web series Sunset Players)
Jonathan May (Peter Pan – ASCAP/Dreamworks 2012)
Bob Klein (LA Festival of New Musicals)
Linda Shusett (Producer, LA Festival of New Musicals)
Gary Busby (Assistant Professor, Musical Theater; UC Irvine)

Invited Panelists: 
Robb Hunt (Producer, Village Theatre)


2:15 PM – 4:00 PM


Always one of the highlights of the Conference: a free-wheeling exchange between writers and entertainment attorneys, on whatever topic you’d like to ask them. Copyright questions? How do you acquire rights to a movie? How do you get out of a disasterous collaboration? Do you need permission to write a musical about [you fill in the blank]….no question is off-limits. It’s like a free hour-and-three-quarters of attorney time (you do that math — this panel alone is worth the price of the conference!).

Confirmed Panelists: 
Michael R. Blaha (Entertainment Lawyer, Producer)
Gordon P. Firemark (Entertainment Lawyer)

 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM


A powerful panel, packed with the people who greenlight musicals for production. They’re ready to take your questions: What are they looking for at their theatre? How should you approach them? How should you NOT approach them? What’s coming up next season for them? What do they want to see two years from now?

Moderator:  Terence McFarland (Executive Director, LA Stage Alliance)

Confirmed Panelists: 
Kevin Bailey (Producer, NoHo Arts Center)
Daniel Henning (Founding Artistic Director/Producer, The Blank Theatre Company)
Steven Glaudini (Producing Artistic Director, Musical Theatre West)
Tim Dang (Artistic Director, East West Players)
Michael Michetti (Co-Artistic Director, The Theatre @ Boston Court)

Invited Panelists: 
Karyl Lynn Burns (Producing Artistic Director, The Rubicon Theatre)
John Michael Beck (Artistic Director, Celebration Theatre)


Sunday, July 22, 2012

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM


This panel is comprised of folks who are on YOUR side in the biz: We’ve invited representatives from ASCAP, BMI, Dramatists Guild, Writers’ Guild, Samuel French, Theatrical Rights Worldwide, etc. Find out what your rights are, and what kind of treatment to expect from producers, theatres and publishers. Also – reps from the unions you might need to deal with if you are involved in producing a show including Actors’ Equity and the Musician’s Union.

Confirmed Panelists: 
Larry Dean Harris (Dramatists Guild)
Michael A. Kerker (ASCAP Director of Musical Theatre)
Dan Berkowitz (Co-Chair of The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights)
Bob Sanders (President of Theatre Musician’s Association (SoCal and Local 7))
Michael Ankney (Assistant to the President Referral Service/Live Performance Professional Musicians Local 47, AFM)
Michael Van Duzer (Actors’ Equity Association)

Invited Panelists: 
Fred Stuart (Director of Sales & Marketing, Theatrical Rights Worldwide)
Brad Lohrenz (Samuel French, Director of Licensing)

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM


Frank, eye-opening discussion about the logistics and politics of raising money for theatre production. From small productions to million-dollar funds, get the inside scoop from the people who do this for a living.

Moderator:  Gordon P. Firemark (Entertainment Lawyer)

Confirmed Panelists: 
Michael Shapiro (Kensington Entertainment)
Rick Culbertson (Producer, Divorce, the Musical)
Peach Reasoner (Producer, Hoboken to Hollywood)
Murphy Cross (Independent Producer)

Invited Panelists: 
Susan Dietz (Producer)
Heather Provost (Broadway Producer)

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM


Should you produce your own show? Should you raise your own money? Find out directly from the people who work in the trenches of self-production and self-promotion. Get tips on promoting your show from marketing and publicity gurus. Evaluate your own risk/reward scenario, and prepare yourself for what lies ahead if you want to produce or finance your own work.

Moderator:  Stuart Ross (Director, Creator of Forever Plaid)

Confirmed Panelists: 
Ken Werther (Public Relations)
David Elzer (Demand PR)
Michael Antin (Writer, Sophia)
Debbie Kasper (Writer-Producer, Boomermania)
Pat Sierchio (Writer-Producer, Boomermania)
Peter Colley (Writer, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight)

5:00 PM – 6:30 PM


We’re assembling a powerful panel of producers who actually want to hear about YOUR musical. You’ll be given an opportunity to submit a written pitch of your musical and/or a sample sound file, and they will be frank-but-supportive about what’s appealing to them about your pitch. We’ll also take their temperature about the future of the American Musical, and ask their advice for writers of the next few seasons of new musical theatre in America.
All registrants will be given the opportunity to submit a one-page pitch about your project and/or a single mp3 file. All written pitches will be handed directly to the producers for them to discuss during the panel; all sound clips will be sampled live in the room (up to 1 minute per entry).

ADDED BONUS: Sign up by the early registration date, and you’ll get a chance to send your one-page pitch to ANMT ahead of time for an evaluation – giving you a chance to get your spiel ‘pitch perfect’ before submitting to the Producer panel.

An ADDITIONAL bonus for everyone who’s registered for the conference (at LEAST for the Sunday session), we’ve compiled a long list of producers of new musicals who’ve agreed to receive an email pitch from you: you send us two paragraphs — one about you and one about your project — and we’ll send it directly to them. The regional theatres and commercial producers who have already agreed to be part of the list (so far!) includes:

Geffen Playhouse
New York Theatre Barn
5th Avenue Theatre
Abrams Artists Agency
Music Theatre of Wichita
Cumberland County Playhouse
Red Mountain Theatre Company
The Broadway Consortium, LLC
Musical Mondays Theatre Lab
Maltz Jupiter Theatre
Ogunquit Playhouse
California Musical Theatre
Mercury Musical Developments
Broadway Rose Theatre
Act II Playhouse
New Line Theatre
Danish Academy of Musical Theatre
Dallas Theater Center
Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music
Tacoma Musical Playhouse
Pace New Musicals
Theater Latt? Da
Pennsylvania Centre Stage
321 Theatrical Management
American Musical Theatre Project (AMTP)
ZACH Theatre
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company
Denver Center Theatre Company
Brigham Young University
Amas Musical Theatre
1113 Productions, Inc.
CAP21 – Collaborative Arts Project 21
Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre
Cabrillo Music Theatre
NOTE: Bring your proposed pitch to the Sunday panel for feedback; but note that you will be given the opportunity to REVISE your pitch and submit it via the ANMT website anytime prior to August 9, which is when we will actually be submitting the pitches to the list.

Moderator:  Victoria Morris (Senior Agent, KSR)

Confirmed Panelists: 
Brian McDonald (Resident Director, Rubicon Theatre Company)
Michael Jung (VP, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering)
Oanh Nguyen (Artistic Director, Chance Theatre, Anaheim)
Gregg Maday (Warner Brothers Theatrical)

Invited Panelists: 
Dana Harrel (Producer, La Jolla Playhouse)
James Blackman (Executive Director/Producer, Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities)

I don’t think I need to labour the point any further.  Hmm?

Back soon, with more regular updates.

‘Chookas’ Triple Threats at YABC!  The performances are going well.



2 Responses to Training Musical Theatre Writers: Australia v USA (It’s not pretty)

  1. Diana Bartak Lipkus June 18, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Hello Kevin,

    I get the imagery on the poster.

    To me the intent of the image of the newly sprouted seedling (could be a veggie or a mighty oak, but not necessarily a weed) is to represent development of newly “sprouted” musical theater.

    I thank you for posting the very useful and highly informative ANMT conference program and presenters listings .I hope to learn a lot by researching these people and programs and one day even attending.

    It seems to me, after reading and considering your post, that what could be useful in furthering Musical Theater in Australia might be a “sprouting” of a continuing organization with a periodic (yearly?) conference using the ANMT conference as a template.

    Is this what you think is needed?

    Are all the equivalent resources and game players available in Australia ?

    The information on this conference would be helpful remaining on your “links” listings too.

    Thank you,

    • Kevin June 20, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      Thanks Diana. I’ve never been strong on flora and fauna, so my mistaking the image of a seedling for something looks alarmingly like a weed that grows in our garden was perhaps presumptuous. Australia is in desperate need of an organisation to oversee musical theatre development of Australian writers. We are neither fortunate to have a PRO like ASCAP, or even a BMI, or an MMD in London, nor numerous festivals (some of which as you rightly point out are listed on my Resource page on this site) who take much interest in this genre. New Musicals Australia tries to do some of this work, but it is still a fledgling organisation, functioning more as an advocacy body than an organisation committed to year-round professional development programs and conference offerings. Hopefully things will change into the future. Until then, Australian writers just dispapear overseas. Kevin.