Monday, 15 April 2013

The Ideas List

written by Toksvig

I think the Having Of Ideas is a crucial aspect of being a musical theatre writer. It's also the one of the most fun parts, for me.

There are basically two ways to get your work on: you can either be commissioned by someone to write an idea they had, or you can pitch an idea of your own to someone.

In my twenty-odd years of writing musicals, I’ve had one commission, and every other show I’ve worked on was an idea that came from me.

Here's a starter list of ideas, in case it's useful. And because it was fun to write.

Source Material
Original story
Inspired by something free of linear narrative, like a painting

Show Size
Two acts
One act
24 hours long
Three days long
A year long (and why not?)

Venue / Audience Engagement
Traditional prosc arch
Non-theatre venue
Non-fourth-wall engagement
Transmedia presentation
Recorded media / online presentation

Target Audience
Traditional musical theatre audience
Non-musicals audience
Specific audience type
Specific audience size, from thousands to just one person


Massive cast to tiny cast, and everything in between, from thousands to just one person.
Young performers to elderly
Other specific performer type

Head over to @AnotherNibble on Twitter and add to the list.
Here is today's video.

And here is more about why it's great to have an Ideas List...

I think everyone should have multiple shows on the go, for three main reasons.

You're Always Ready
It allows you to be ready for any opportunity that comes your way, because you have multiple projects that are all at different stages of development.

A reading that would be good for a first draft? Got one that's ready for that. A full workshop? That's this one. Local school wants a new show? This one.

You're Always Active
It allows you to always do work that is deadline- or goal-driven. Instead of writing on spec, you can always be working on a thing that you know for sure will happen.

It's also a lot easier for you to keep organising those goals for yourself. If you're only working on one show, you will get to a stage where you need a production. If that opportunity is not there right now, it's great to be able to put that aside and pick up something else which is in first draft mode and needs a table reading. So you organise a table reading, and off you go again.

You're Always Learning
The more you write, the more you learn. Even when informed constructive critique is not readily available - and that can be the hardest thing to find sometimes - you will still be making discoveries about your own creative voice.

And the more you write, the easier it is to sit down and write. The easier it is to let go of things that aren't working, to move the work forwards because you remove yourself from getting in the way.

If you don't think you have a #IdeasList, check your creative brain. The chances are you already have a handful of things in there, hanging around. Bring them out, put them down in that list, look at it every day. Keep adding, keep making, keep working.


  1. Re: what form of work are we making?

    Some very interesting points here. I would like to add into the mix: ‘assumptions being made about the audience for musical theatre’. To my absolutely astonishment I was told recently by somebody who supposedly had credentials in musical theatre that a script was ‘too complicated for a musical theatre audience’. The genre is never going top move forward with this sort of self-limitation. I am still astounded by this.

    As for appealing to the older audience, like so much comedy as well, I feel a lot of it is simply down to the age of the people putting on the shows and their interests.

    Looking forward to Thursday
    Terry (Dr Tel) Newman

    1. Lovely comment, Dr T. I completely agree. That is a whole wall of assumptions blocking our work, right there, and I'm sure we've all had those thoughts at times: trying to pre-judge our audience too an unhelpful degree.