Tuesday, 26 August 2014

I've written a musical! Now what?

written by Toksvig

You've written a musical! That's amazing. Lots of people want to, but only very few people do.

So first of all, be proud of the thing you've written.

And then be prepared to change it.

(Possibly beyond all recognition.)

The thing is, musicals are like cakes. They're made in stages, and what you have right now is essentially still just a list of ingredients.

You have characters, and settings, and some events, a bit of drama: the stuff you use to make a musical.

It's probably not in the right order yet, and certainly not combined in the right amounts, and it's been nowhere near a cake dish yet, let alone an oven.

Here's a short and very stereotypical breakdown of how (traditional) musicals are (traditionally) developed:
  • Ideas
  • Dramaturgy
  • Rough sketches
  • Dramaturgy
  • First draft
  • Dramaturgy
  • Developed first draft
  • Informal reading
  • Dramaturgy
  • Second draft
  • Informal short workshop (dramaturgy)
  • Third Draft
  • Formal long workshop culminating in...
  • Industry presentation or small first production
You can follow that path if you like. It doesn't often go like that, as it happens, but it's not a bad path to aim for.

'Dramaturgy' means constructive critique. It's basically feedback on your work, but we call it 'constructive critique' because its purpose is to help you achieve your intention for your show. It's not criticism, it's not correction, it's not comment. It's just about finding out what you intended with every word you've written and every choice you've made, and helping you realise those intentions in the best way possible for you.

As long as the people who are doing it understand that purpose, and try to be true to it, then dramaturgy can come from anyone. Near the start, from friends and family. Further down the line, from professional dramaturgs or a director.

An informal reading can be done around the kitchen table, with friends and family and food.

You could also ask a director or an actor to get a bunch of professionals together, and you could pay them the going rate, and do something a bit more advanced.

The Copenhagen Interpretation can organise that for you. We call them 'First Readings'. More about that here. Actually, what we do is often something in between a first reading and a short informal workshop.

There are other people who can help you along the way.

Mercury Musical Developments
They have lots of member writers and composers, some with a lot of experience and some with very little. If you pay to join, you can attend the events they hold in London, and access some information in the Backstage Area of their website. They also send out a regular newsletter with some opportunities for writers.

Perfect Pitch
PP have pitching days open to anyone. Pitch your show at them and, if they like it, they might help you develop it in return for a percentage ownership in the show. They also offer a paid critique service. More about that here.

Book, Music & Lyrics
This is a weekly workshop in London, for musical theatre writers, and although it's not free, it's really very affordable. Admission is through application and audition.

Companies like Aria Entertainment and SimG Productions make a lot of new musical theatre happen, and Musical Theatre Network has member organisations in the UK and beyond, all of whom are interested and engaged in making new musicals.

You can also engage with the theatre world at large by coming along to Improbable's Devoted & Disgruntled. It's a big annual gathering of theatre folk, where you can literally ask everyone the question, "What should I do with this musical?" and get a broad range of answers from all kinds of creative artists and theatre practitioners.

Book tickets here for next January

The best advice I can give you is this: it is almost impossible to get a production of your musical through the traditional channels. Approaching a theatre, finding a producer: these are things that happen to you and your work, and only when you and your work are in the right place for it to happen.

Until then, you can serve your work best by making it happen yourself, and letting everybody know that it's happening.

And by 'everybody', I don't mean everybody. I mean 'everybody who is the perfect person to want a show like yours'. Do your research. Invite the right people, in the right way, and at the right time in your show's development process.

If you're not sure about how to figure all that out, The Copenhagen Interpretation does hour-long Creative Counselling sessions, and we can help you figure out whatever you need to figure out.

Or just ask anyone. Ask everyone. (And by that, I do mean everyone.)