Holy Smokers_

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					Vol. 2, No. 2                                                          April/May, 1999

Holy Smokers!
or: Come to the                              after the debut of the Footlights
                                             Club, seats to these “Smokers,”
Cabaret                                      as the revues were called, were at
                                             a premium—and British theater
BMI Workshop In-House Cab-                   insiders got their first glimpse of
arets Play to SRO Crowds                     the new generation of extraordi-
                                             narily talented writers and per-
Three years ago, Advanced Work-
shop moderator and two-time
                                                “We should do the same thing
Tony Aw a rd-Winning composer-
                                             at BMI,” Yeston said emphatically.
lyricist Maury Yeston had an idea
                                             “We’ve got some of the most tal-
that wouldn’t quit. The subject of
how to get more public exposure                                  (continued on page 8)
for BMI writers was being dis-
cussed at a Committee meeting.
And Yeston (whose musical                             Table of Contents
“T i t a n i c” is currently bre a k i n g
house records with its first nation-             I Don’t Do Exposition
al tour and preparing for Interna-                 by Patrick Cook . . . . . . . . . .2
tional productions in Japan, Hol-                Works
land, England, Germany and Aus-                    In Production . . . . . . . . . . .3
tralia) re m e m b e red back to his               In Progress . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
u n d e rgraduate days in Gre a t
                                                 Personals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Britain at Cambridge University,
                                                 Shelf Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
where as a member of the Foot-
lights Club (spawning ground for                 You Are What You Submit
Monty Python, Beyond the                           Part 3, by David Spencer . .11
Fringe and later, Emma Thomp-                    Spotlight On...
son), he and his fellow students                   by Frank Evans . . . . . . . . .21
w rote and performed original                    Richard’s Almanac
songs and sketches solely for their                by Richard Engquist . . . . . .26
own amusement. A short year
I Don’t Do Exposition
                                                               by Patrick Cook

Treat Williams told me the follow-         and Anita is very protective of
ing story:                                 Maria.
    A few weeks before a film
                                           5) Anita and Bernardo are in love
shoot, Steve McQueen sent the
                                           and have quite a steamy relation-
script back to the writer with a
number of his lines crossed out.
The writer called McQueen and              6) Anita is a realist – very sexual,
asked why he had crossed out the           very sharp.
lines. McQueen replied, “I don’t
                                           7) They have been in America for
do exposition.”
                                           a month and Maria is bored and
    Exposition – the facts, the set-
                                           anxious for adventure.
ting, the background of the char-
acters that the audience needs to          8) They are all going to a dance
know to follow the story. Some-            that night, and it is Maria’s first
times I find myself so frustrated by       social outing in America.
it that I consider giving the audi-
                                           9) Bernardo loves his sister Maria
ence a pamphlet to read before
                                           and is very protective of her and
the show starts.
    One of my favorite examples of
exposition is Act I, Scene 3 from                          (Continued on page 7)
“West Side Story” – the two page
scene in the bridal shop that intro-
duces the characters of Maria,                   BMI-Lehman Engel
Anita, and Chino. In two pages                Musical Theatre Workshop
this is the information we get:                Jean Banks – Senior Director
1) Maria is an innocent young
                                                   Steering Committee
Puerto Rican girl who has been
                                                          Patrick Cook
b rought to this country by her
                                                       Richard Engquist
brother Bernardo.                                         Frank Evans
2) She works in a bridal shop with                      Nancy Golladay
                                                 Walter Edgar (“Skip”) Kennon
Anita, who is Bernardo’s girlfriend.
                                                        Annette Leisten
3) Maria has been brought here to                        Alan Menken
marry Chino. But Maria does not                   Susan H. Schulman, M.F.A
                                                         Jane Smulyan
love Chino and does not re a l l y
                                                         David Spencer
want to marry him.                                   Maury Yeston, Ph.D.
4) Maria and Anita are very close

In Production:                           MIAMI BEACH MONSTERS
                                             A new revue that answers the
AMERICAN GIRL REVIEW                     musical question: what happens
                                         to horror movie icons (D r a c u l a,
     A seventy-five minute musical,
                                         F r a n k e n s t e i n ’s Monster, etc.)
based on the American Girl
                                         after they go into retirement? Con-
books, co mmiss ioned by the
                                         ceived and directed by H e l e n
Chicago re t a i l e r, American Girl
                                         ( “T h a t ’s Life”) B u t l e ro ff ( n o n -
P l a c e, written by composer
                                         member), the production features
Nancy Ford (Advanced) and lyri-
                                         material by Workshop members
cist-librettist Gretchen Cryer (BMI
                                         David Strickland ( A d v a n c e d ) ,
affiliate), currently playing a unique
                                         Ellen Schwartz (Advanced), Jane
venue: a 35,000 square foot Amer-
                                         Smulyan (Committee), David
ican Girl emporium in the thriving
                                         Metee (alumnus), Georgia Holof
shopping center of Chicago’s
                                         (alumnus) and Brad Ross (alum-
Michigan Boulevard. The produc-
                                         nus). Debut is set for April 15 at
tion features characters fro m
                                         Queens Playhouse in the Park.
American history and is aimed at
an audience of 8- to 12-year-old         ARTS AND ARTISTS AT ST.
girls and their parents. As the           PAULS presents SONGBOOK
chain opens stores in other cities,
                                             On January 26, 1999, the month-
new companies of the show will
                                         ly series featured songs by compos-
open concurrently. Ford told the
                                         er-lyricists Lewis Flynn (non-mem-
newsletter, “The show was partic-
                                         ber) and Clay Zambo (Advanced).
ularly fun for me to write because
                                         Flynn’s work was Act One, Zambo’s
it involved characters from six dif-
                                         was Act Two, and the venue was
f e rent periods in history: 1774,
                                         The Donnell Library Auditorium, 20
1824, 1854, 1904 and 1944.” The
                                         West 53rd Street, NYC.
Chicago production uses two
casts and does sixteen perfor-           HIDDEN VOICES
mances weekly. Orchestrated by
                                              A tribute to vocal doubles and
Bruce Coughlin (“On the Town,”
                                         the movie stars they dubbed.
“Parade” and “Annie Get Yo u r
                                         “Hidden Voices” played at Don’t
Gun”) the show has just been
                                         Tell Mama. The revue was per-
re c o rd ed and produced by
                                         formed by Milla Ilieva (non-mem-
Thomas Z. Shepard ( a l u m n u s
                                         ber) with pianist/arranger/musical
and 12-time Grammy winner).
                                         d i rector J e ff rey Chappell
Cryer and Ford are starting work
on a second show, “ A m e r i c a n
Girls Revue II,” featuring the
                                         THE HISTORY MYSTERY
same characters but using differ-
ent stories from the American Girl         An hour-long family musical
books.                                   about time-travel adventure, was
presented by TADA! Theatre on               His songs have been recorded by
M a rch 12-28, Music by E r i c             Barbra Stre i s a n d, Peggy Lee,
R o c k w e l l (Advanced), lyrics by       Rosemary Clooney, Nat King
Margaret Rose (Advanced).                   Cole and Bobby Short, to name
                                            a few. “Lew & the Night & the
THE LAST SUPPER                             Music” was presented at Danny’s
   A controversial new musical              Skylight Room on March 7 and 8,
theater rendering of the title event,       1999, with a roster of guest per-
that played during Lent at the              formers that included M u s i c a l
Theater at Saint Peter’s Churc h            D i rector Tex Arnold, Joyce
and during Holy Week at the                 B reach, Eric Comstock, Gerry
Seven Angels Theater in Connecti-           D i e ffenbach, Jane Scheckter,
cut, in which Jesus Christ is               and our own Jane Smulyan.
specifically depicted as Jewish
and ultimately sings in Hebre w.            MOSTLY MUSIC BY SOME-
Music by Gary William Friedman               BODY ELSE
(alumnus), book and lyrics by                  Advanced workshop composer
Thomas Mitz (non-member). The               Nancy Ford ’s f irst-ever solo
score will be published by Samuel           cabaret show played an exclusive
French and is available on CD. To           two week engagement in February
o rd e r, send $16.95 to Seafare r s        at the Firedbird Cafe. Her song
and International House/Maritime            Old Friend from the musical “I’m
Ministry of Southern New Eng-               Getting My Act Together And
land/123 East 15th Street, New              Taking It on the Road” (written in
York, NY 10003. (Mr. Friedman               collaboration with lyricist-librettist
received an Obie Award, a Drama             Gretchen Cryer) has become an
Critics Circle Aw a rd and a To n y         anthem for the cabaret communi-
nomination for his score of “The            ty. In “Mostly Music by Somebody
Me Nobody Knows.”                           Else,” audiences were finally able
                                            to hear Ms. Ford perform it her-
LEW & THE NIGHT & THE MUSIC                 self. Ford, a longtime veteran of
   A celebration of the work of             the musical theatre, has written
c o m p o s e r-lyricist Lew Spence         other works in collaboration with
(alumnus), who came to the BMI              Ms. Cryer including “ S h e l t e r, ”
workshop with a catalog of stan-            “Now is the Time for All Good
d a rds (among them That Face,              M e n , ” and the legendary “ T h e
written for Fred Astaire, and Nice          Last, Sweet Days of Isaac.”
’n’ Easy, written for F r a n k
Sinatra). He learned the craft of           STAGE LEFT
musical theater writing fro m                  A new play by I s a d o re Elias
Lehman Engel, and was working               (Advanced), was given a staged
with Burton Lane on a musical               reading by the 42nd Street Work-
based on the Actors’ Equity strike          shop. The evening was made up
just before Lane’s untimely death.          of four short works about people

out of the theatre.                      Boone NC, May 6-9, 1999.

  A one-woman show of original               Music by Eric Rockwell
songs, written and performed by          (Advanced), lyrics by M a r g a re t
Amanda Gre e n (Second Ye a r ) ,        R o s e (Advanced), book by
Saturdays in March at the Laurie         William J. Brooke (alumnus, LA)
Beechman Theatre at the We s t-          has three presentations this
bank Café, 407 West 42nd Street.         spring. A staged reading of the full
                                         show will take place on Monday
In Progress:                             M a rch 29 at 7:00 pm at the
                                         Dramatists Guild (1501 Broadway,
HUNGRY?                                  Suite 710) and on Monday April 5
                                         at 7:00 pm at TADA! (120 We s t
   A new musical, book and lyrics
                                         28th Street). To obtain re s e r v a-
by Cassie Angley ( A d v a n c e d ) ,
                                         tions or information, call 212-581-
music by C. Colby Sachs
                                         8205. Then, on Tuesday, April 6 at
(Advanced), which was produced
                                         5:00 pm at the Dramatists Guild
at H.E.R.E. space last March, had
                                         (1501 Bro a d w a y, Suite 710), an
a new reading January 31st under
                                         a b b reviated version will be pre-
the ægis of the C o ffee Clutch
                                         sented as part of the Dramatists
Playwrights Workshop.
                                         Guild Musical Theater Develop-
                                         ment Program. For reservations
SUGAR DUMPLING                           and information, call 212-398-
    The musical by librettist-lyricist   9366.
Cheryl Davis (Advanced) and
composer C. Colby Sachs                  UDDER MADNESS
(Advanced) will be having a work-            A madcap musical farce for
shop reading at CAP21 on May             c h i l d ren of all ages, featuring a
2 3 rd. (“Peace,” a song from the        s c o re by C. Colby Sachs, was
score, was performed by Chris-           produced February 1999 by Play-
tianne Noll as part of the               ful Theatre Pro d u c t i o n s at the
T R U L o v e c a b a r et benefit on    Kelsey Playhouse in New Jersey.
March 8th.)

   A new musical by J o h n
thomas Oaks (First Year) based
on a modern-day “Pro d i g a l
Daughter” story as told by Tommy
Oaks, will be produced by B l u e
Ridge Community Theatre under
the direction of Dr. Janet Speer at
Appalachian State University in

Personals                                  And the
Composer and Lyricist or Com-
poser-Lyricist sought for collabo-
                                           Winner Is…
ration with book writer on an origi-       Amanda Green (Second Year) is
nal musical based on 20th Centu-           the winner of a 1999 Bistro
ry European classic drama. Non-            Aw a rd (given to acknowledge
p rofit Manhattan-based theatre            c a b a ret excellence) in the O u t-
company. Call (212) 399-2524.              standing Special Material/Com-
                                           edy Song category for her song
Composer Wa n t e d: message               Every Time a Friend Succeeds…
reads, “Got the book—got the
lyrics—need the music for eleven           Dan Martin (Advanced) and
songs in a contemporary Two-Act            Michael Biello (Advanced) are
Musical Play set in Manhattan.”            ad visors to GLAMA (The
Call Nina Reiter, or leave message,        Gay/Lesbian American Music
at (212) 582-3568.                         Awards) which will hold their 4th
                                           annual ceremony Monday, April
Seeking Lyricist/Librettist for a          12th at the Manhattan Center.
sung-through musical adaptation            Aw a rds will honor re c o rdings in
of a classical text. “Enthusiasm for       more than a dozen genres includ-
collaboration a must! New Yo r k           ing Original Cast Recording and
a rea residency most practical.”           Cabaret. Martin and Biello will pre-
Fax or e-mail letter and resume to:        sent their special annual Outmu-
Crystal Theater Productions (212)          sic Aw a rd to BMI-aff i l i a t e d
582-1552, crystepro@aol.com.               recording artist Ani DiFranco. For
                                           further information about GLAMA,
                                           visit their website at www.
Shelf Life                                 glama.com.

                                           “A Visit From the Footbinder,”
STAR QUEEN                                 book and lyrics by David Dreyfus
    The cast CD recording of John          and music by Jeffrey Hardy has
thomas Oaks’ first musical, which          been named winner of the 1999
tells the story of Queen Esther, is        Jerry Bock Award. The bienniel
available at Tower Records, HMV,           a w a rd was established by Jerry
and Footlight Records, as well as          Bock, BMI composer of such
from Original Cast Records: Box            classic musicals as “She Loves
496, Georgetown CT 06829. The              Me,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The
CD i s also availa ble from the            R o t h s c h i l d s,” “ F i o re l l o ,” and
songwriter himself: call (718) 836-        “The Apple Tre e. ” The winning
1004 or e-mail hahaworld@                  musical is chosen by Bock per-
aol.com.                                   sonally from the collective output

of musicals developed in the BMI                “I Don’t Do Exposition” (cont.)
workshop by BMI writers.
   A private ceremony was held on               10) We also meet Chino who is a
March 11, 1999 at BMI’s New York                quiet, shy boy.
headquarters where Mr. Bock pre-
                                                11) Also, very importantly, we like
sented the recipients with their
                                                these people.
cash award of $2,000 as well as
plaques commemorating the honor.                    This is the work of a master. We
                                                know exactly what we need to
The only musicals chosen for the                know. No more, no less.
1999 Dramatists Guild Develop-                      The frustrating part of a scene
ment Program are two that have                  like this is that if it’s successful, the
been d eveloped in the BM I                     audience has no idea of the skill
Advanced Workshop. They are :                   that went into it. The goal is to
“Dora: Fragments of an Analysis                 make the exposition invisible. Just
of a Case of Hysteria,” with book,              as in songwriting, you have to
music and lyrics by Larry Bort-                 show, not tell.
niker; and “A Little Princess,” with                One approach is to follow Larry
music by Eric Rockwell, lyrics by               Gelbart’s maxim: “Exposition only
M a r g a ret Rose and book by                  in anger.” For instance, instead of
William J. Brooke (alumnus, LA).                saying, “Gosh, Harry, how long do
                                                we know each other? 20 years?
Angelo Parra (Librettists) has won              Since we went to college together,
a Special Opportunity Stipends                  right?” he might say, “Harry, you’re
Program grant, sponsored by the                 the same idiot you were twenty
NY Foundation for the Arts and                  years ago when we were in col-
the NYS Council for the Arts, to                lege!”
travel to California for the world                  Another view is Robert McKee’s
premiere of his prize-winning play,             idea of “exposition as ammunition”
“A Heart of Flesh,” late this spring,           – something the character thinks
marking the fourth honor the play—              will help them win the argument. In
which dramatizes the complex and                our scene from “West Side Story,”
emotional issues involved in choos-             Maria is trying to get Anita to lower
ing a heart transplant re c i p i e n t —       the neckline on her dress. To get
has received (see previous newslet-             her way, Maria threatens, “I think I
ters). Administered by the Garrison             will tell Mamma and Poppa about
Arts Center , Garrison, NY, the                 you and ’Nardo in the balcony of
$300 S.O.S. grant covers the air-               the movies!” This is a painless way
f a re, enabling the playwright to              of establishing the relationship of
attend rehearsals and opening                   Anita and Bernardo.
night of the play, produced by the                  There is also exposition through
Alliance Theatre Company in Bur-                humor (for those talented enough
bank.                                           to do it). Check out the first dia-
                                                logue scene in “...Forum.” It tells us
                                                what we need to know, and is hilar-

iously funny as well. Be care f u l ,         composers and lyricists from all
though. Don’t assume your dia-                t h ree composer-lyricist work-
logue is funny until you’ve heard a           shops. The cabaret included
paying audience laugh.                        songs from:
   P robably the most important
thing to remember about writing                   • Composer-lyricist Larry Bort-
exposition is this: do not h a v e            niker’s “Kinsey Report,” a musi-
characters tell each other things             cal treatment of the life of famed
they already know.                            sex researcher, Alfred Charles Kin-
   However you attack it, exposi-             sey whose works included “Sexual
tion is one of the toughest things to         Behavior     in     the    Human
write. I don’t find it unusual to write       Male”(1948) and “Sexual Behavior
twenty to twenty-five drafts of a             in the Human Female”(1953).
short scene. Every word counts!
                                                 • Composer C. Colby Sachs
                                              and librettist-lyricist Cheryl Davis’
“Holy Smokers” (continued)                    “Sugar Dumpling,” a transplanta-
                                              tion of the noted French novelist
ented writers around. Why don’t               Guy de Maupassant’s short story
we have our own Smokers and                   “Boule de Suif” to an American
use their material?” He insisted              Civil War setting.
that, as exclusive, in-house
events, the Smokers would attain                  • “ S u r ro u n d e d,” written by
the status of a hot ticket, once              Arlene Jaff e and Jon Cobert ,
word got out about the high quali-            based on the real life hostage situ-
ty of the writing they presented.             ation which occurred in Brooklyn
Lest the literal image conjured by            on August 22, 1972.
the sobriquet “Smokers” seem
less romantic than intended, the                 • Di sney staff-writer B r i a n
term “in-house” became the even-              Wo o d b u r y’s “Little Nemo in
tual official title of the series—and         Slumberland,” the tale of a young
Yeston’s prediction proved correct.           boy who is caught in his own
Since their inception in 1997, The            dream.
BMI-Lehman Engel Musical The-
                                                  • Kleban Award-winning lyri-
ater       Workshop         In-House
                                              cist Glenn Slater’s collaboration
C a b a re t s have been playing to
                                              with composer Steve Weiner that
standing room crowds. And mem-
                                              redefined the term torch song in
bers of the theatre industry have,
                                              Tall Quiet Guy (in which the Stat-
indeed, been paying attention.
                                              ue of Liberty confesses her attrac-
   The most recent In-House
                                              tion for the Empire State Building)
Cabaret was produced, per usual,
                                              f rom the upcoming Manhattan
by Workshop Co-ordinator Walter
                                              Theatre Club revue “Island of the
Edgar (“Skip”) Kennon on March
11. The 65-minute cabaret fea-
tured work by 20 BMI Workshop

   • Award-winning cabaret artist                • C o m p o s e r-l yricist J u d d
Amanda Green and writing part-                Woldin (best known as composer
ner David Sherman’s sample from               of “Raisin,” a Tony-Award-winner
their new musical “She’s Out of               for Best Musical) will be perform-
Line.”                                        ing work from his new musical,
   • Dan Martin and M i c h a e l
Biello’s preview of their new one-                • Clark Gesner, who wro t e
woman show “Waitress,” as well                book, music and lyrics for the
as material written specifically for          phenomenal off - B roadway hit ,
the upcoming Chicago production               “ Yo u ’ re A Good Man, Charlie
of “Breathe.”                                 B ro w n,” c u r rently in revival on
                                              B roadway at the A m b a s s a d o r
   • Composer-lyricist Keith Gor-             Theatre, will be performing mater-
don’s exploration of the rich musi-           ial from his newest show, “Bongo
cal language of gospel in his new             Fever,” which opens at the Grove
musical “The Gift.”                           Street Playhouse on April 14, one
                                              night before the BMI Theatrical. It
    Other writing teams included              will be the first time that Gesner
Robert Lopez and J e ff Marx                  has had two shows playing simul-
(“Kermit: The Prince of Den-                  taneously in New York. Gesner’s
m a r k ”), Daniel Aquisto a n d              “The Jello is Always Red” played
Steven D’Addico (“The Neon                    at the York Theatre last season.
B i b l e ”) Jenne Wa s o n and A l a n
C a n c e l i n o (“Bingo City”) and              • Susan Birkenhead, currently
individual songs from composer-               writing lyrics to the music of
lyricist John thomas Oaks a n d               Charles Strouse for “The Night
composer-lyricist B.J. Bjorkman.              They Raided Minksy’s,” w ro t e
                                              lyrics for the Tony Award-nominat-
WORKSHOP ALUMNI CABARET:                      ed Best Musical, “ J e l l y ’s Last
 A MUSICAL THEATRE THE-                       J a m,” will also participate. Last
 ATRICAL                                      season, she was represented on
                                              Broadway with both “Triumph of
    On Thursday April 15, profes-             Love” ( Tony nomination, cast
sional musical dramatists whose               album on JAY records) as well as
c a reers began at BMI will have              “High Society,” which is currently
their own in-house cabaret: com-              on national tour.
posers and lyricists who are veter-
ans of the Workshop will join sev-              • Doug Katsaros, who is cur-
eral Workshop Committee Mem-                  rently Musical Supervisor for
bers to present new work in the               “Footloose” as well as a cast
forthcoming “Musical Theatre                  member of the new Cy Coleman
Theatrical.” Among those already              musical “Exactly Like Yo u,” h a s
scheduled:                                    collaborated with R i c h a rd
                                              Engquist (Committee, Outer Crit-

ics Circle Award for “Keni-Leml”),                      showcase work from their adapta-
Ron Sproat (Emmy Nomination,                            tion of the late Pulitzer Prize-win-
“ R a c h e l ’s Summer”) a n d F r a n k               ner Paul Monette’s novel, “Taking
E v a n s (Committee, TheatreWeek                       Care of Mrs. Carroll.”
Aw a rd, “No Speed Limit”) on a
f o u r-character musical comedy                           • Patrick Cook and Frederick
“Abie’s Island Rose.” Evans will                        Freyer, fresh from their Manhattan
also be represented by work from                        Theatre Club production of “Cap-
“Dinner at Eight,” the musical                          tains Courageous,” will pre s e n t
adaptation of the classic George                        the first public look at their new
S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber p l a y                          musical “97 Orc h a rd Stre e t ,”
with book by Pulitzer nominee                           about the lives of immigrants in
Julie Gilbert and music by B e n                        New York at the turn of the century.
Schaechter (Drama Desk and
Outer Critics nominee).                                    • Annette Leisten (Committee)
                                                        and Shelly Markham will be pre-
    • Gary William Friedman (Obie                       senting work from “Forge Of Free-
and Outer Critics Circle Aw a rd                        dom,” which traces the history of
Winner as well as Tony nominee for                      the American colonies becoming a
“The Me Nobody Knows”) will be                          nation during the Revolutionary
showcasing work from two: his                           War. Markham and Leisten are the
current “Last Supper” as well as                        composer-lyricist team responsible
his free-wheeling adaptation of “A                      for helping establish the National
Midsummer Night’s Dream” enti-                          Theatre Company (Fran and Barry
tled simply, “Dream.”                                   We i s s l e r, producers). The team
    • C o m p o s e r- l y r i c i s t D a v i d        w rote seven musicals for the
S p e n c e r (Committee, “ We i rd                     Weisslers, which toured for 15 sea-
R o m a n c e,” Public Theatre “ L a                    sons.
B o h è m e,” “The Appre n t i c e s h i p                  The April 15th event, which will,
of Duddy Kravitz,” Gilman Gonza-                        like the other cabarets, be held in
lez-Falla Commendation award -                          B M I ’s third floor Media Room, is
winner for Theatre w o r k s / U S A’s                  scheduled for two performances,
“The Phantom of the Opera,”                             at 6 and 8 p.m. The audience may
forthcoming “The Fabulist”) has                         expect several surprise additions to
invited the original cast of his latest                 the event.
T h e a t reworks/USA production to                         An additional in-house cabaret
perform selections from his and                         for the season, showcasing more
librettist-director Rob Barron’s YA                     songs from the composer-lyricist
musical version of “Les Mis-                            workshops, is planned for May—
érables.”                                               date to be announced.
    • Georgia Holof and D a v i d                       [Note: The forthcoming program
Mettee, best known for their con-                       described in the above article is
tributions to the Obie-nominated                        accurate as of press time, but sub -
revue “A, My Name Is Alice,” will                       ject to change.]

You Are What You Submit
Part Three:                             giving organization, most of the
                                        screeners can’t get through all the
Demo Tapes: Presentation                tapes in all the envelopes
                                        assigned to them fast enough.
by David Spencer                            O ffice honchos will often set
                                        screeners up at desks, sometimes
Everybody who enjoys music and
                                        closed-off rooms, where they are
has two cents to rub together has
                                        p rovided with Walkmans (unless
a Walkman.
                                        they’ve been asked to bring their
    Well, that’s not precisely true:
                                        own); that way, the submissions
“Walkman” is a Sony trademark,
                                        never get lost for leaving the
and any other brand would be,
                                        office; and the screeners can listen
officially, a “personal stereo” unit,
                                        to new demos more or less in pri-
to which the term Walkman would
                                        vate without the sound disrupting
be applied colloquially; and while
                                        the rest of the workplace. So it’s a
two cents won’t get you one of
                                        bit of a day job.
those small cassette players, ten
                                            And if a screener has to fast for-
bucks or so will get you a bargain
                                        ward through a lot of garbage on a
basement model at any chain drug
                                        particular reel to get to the gem
s t o re—and get you better than
                                        some misguided writer may have
that at a Chelsea electro n i c s
                                        buried in the middle of Side A, the
wholesaler. And maybe not every -
                                        chances are even, at least, that the
body has a personal stereo, but I’ll
                                        gem will go unheard…and certain
lay odds you can’t swing a dead
                                        that the screener will resent the
opossum in the midtown are a
                                        writer making him wait while he
without hitting five people sporting
                                        watches the capstans torture their
earphones. And every one of
                                        way through revolution after revo-
those five will tell you the same
                                        lution—until he randomly stops the
thing about their personal stereo,
                                        tape, listens some more, hears
no matter what the brand or
                                        m o re garbage, and continues to
                                        fast forward, spot check (garbage),
    Even with fresh batteries, even
                                        fast forward, spot check (garbage),
connected to a wall outlet via AC
                                        all the while sighing and, to put it
power adapter, if it runs analog
                                        mildly, thinking less of the sender.
cassettes, the fast forward and
                                        And t h e n when the screener is
rewind functions are sluggish.
                                        done with the tape (usual transla-
    At first blush, this doesn’t seem
                                        tion: loses patience), he has to
too relevant to demo tape presen-
                                        rewind it, to be courteous to the
tations, but it’s actually vital infor-
                                        next scre e n e r — t h e re ’s usually
                                        m o re than one, for the sake of
    And that’s because at a produc-
                                        checks and balances—which
er’s office, or the office of a grant-

means waiting while the tape huffs              Garbage
and puffs its way in the re v e r s e                I referred to it before. Speaking
direction.                                      demo-wise, what is Garbage?
   At this point, the only safe thing                Garbage is anything extrane-
to be said for the writer’s chance              ous. Garbage is anything a
of serious consideration is a                   screener or a producer should not
heartfelt Buh-byeeee.                           have to be listening to, or wading
   Just as anything less than a                 through. Garbage is anything that
p rofessionally re n d e red libre t t o        makes the listener suspect a lack
can sabotage the way your work                  of professionalism. Garbage
is perceived, a sloppily, or                    needs to be regarded as harshly
thoughtlessly conceived cas-                    as decency permits. Garbage is
sette—and make no mistake, you                  the enemy.
must conceive the presentation, at                   The most common manifesta-
least on a rudimentary level—is                 tion of Garbage is The Overture.
p retty much a death sentence.                  Speaking as an occasional read-
This can also apply to the packag-              er/screener, I cannot tell you how
ing: what’s displayed through the               many demo tapes float by with
clear plastic of the cassette case              f u l l - b o re o v e r t u res. I t ’s bad
can be almost as vital as the con-              enough when they’re elaborately
tents of the tape itself.                       sequenced (electronically orches-
   B e f o re we begin, a teeny                 trated), but when they’re primitive -
caveat. Unlike script formatting,               ly sequenced, using nothing more
demo tape presentation is not a                 than keyboard samples, generic
standardized affair—there’s mar-                drum kits and tacky brass sounds,
gin for some personal variation.                they’re simply excruciating.
What you’re getting here is specif-                  Understand, the very notion of
ic to my approach. So if you find               an overture on a demo tape can
that, for whatever reason, it’s not             denote pomposity or arrogance at
practical to follow the advice here-            worst, naïveté at best. The over-
in to the letter, adapt its general             ture is the last thing ever written
guiding principals to your needs.               for a show (assuming that the
The main thing to keep in mind is               frozen version of the show even
this: you want your w o r k t o                 has an overture, a less and less
appear passionate, and to inspire               f requent occurrence since the
passion in the listener…but you                 ’70s) because, as common sense
want the presentation to be as                  would indicate, t h a t ’s when you
cool, collected, clear, organized,              know which of the many, possibly
strategically advantageous and                  dozens, of songs you’ve written
matter-of-fact as possible.                     a re actually re m a i n i n g in the
   And now, to better pro m o t e               score. The same applies to dance
clean demos, a little dissertation              music, or extended passages of
on—                                             incidental music: unless you’re in
                                                p roduction, working in tandem

with designers, a director and a                 p o s s i b l e , tells the listener that,
choreographer, you can have no                   onstage, the seamen are working
idea what the practical require-                 the ship, and that the work is
ments of such music may be. Writ-                incredibly hard. Only that, and in
ing it in advance is folly. Present-             about that many words, before he
ing it as part of a preliminary vision           and Rick (on multiple tracks, to
is goofy. Accurately or not, the                 create the effect of a full male cho-
subtext a screener usually reads                 rus) quickly return to the song. It’s
into an overture, dance music or                 not a demo that Pat likes to give
incidental music is: “I’m a writer               out any more: it’s years outdated,
seduced by my own dreams of                      and like most any really splendid
success, my own fantasy of                       writer, he’s defensive and a little
omnipotence, my own insular                      embarrassed by work that rewrites
vision—and not bothered by my                    and reconsideration have made
own practical ign orance.” It’s                  obsolete. But it did its job, in its
almost impossible for a demo tape                time, and as one of the few proud
submission to recover from that.                 owners of a copy, I can tell you
(“Our Founder” Lehman Engel                      that, even today, it is ro u s i n g l y
used to archly refer to “accidental              effective.
music”; but where demos are con-                     There is a list of other things to
cerned, the term is less of a joke.)             avoid, and I’d be willing to bet that
    Also avoid excessive narration.              very few, if any, of the Workshop
In general, I’d say avoid narration              community are quite so green as
of any sort, but o c c a s i o n a l l y,        to be quite this amateurish…but
depending upon the style of your                 as it’s a roster of common abuses,
demo, s o m e narration may be                   they’re worth noting. Just in case:
necessary, and helpful. As a rule,                   • Apologias, editorial comments
demos that provide such interpo-                 and/or excuses. I recently heard a
lated continuity should be those in              tape in which some old coot, with
which the authors perform their                  what I suppose he took to be
own work because author-perfor-                  avuncular good humor, announced
mance tapes can approximate the                  his hope that the listener wouldn’t
ambience of a live audition (as                  mind his inability to play piano; his
opposed to full-cast demos,                      dream being that the score would
wherein narrative can only violate               be arranged, harmonized and
verisimilitude—unless narrative is               notated in production. Whereby he
of a pre-existing theatrical device              proceeded to sing a capella, whis-
that is an actual component of the               tle and hum. You can measure the
show’s libretto). In one of the earli-           length of time a screener will stick
est demos of Pat Cook and Rick                   with a demo like this in seconds…
F r y e r ’s “Captains Courageous,”                  • Lyric-less music. As Madeline
their original opening number,                   Kahn said in “Blazing Saddles,”
Nothin’ to Do contains a b r i e f ,             it’s twue, it’s twue: there are actu-
u n d e r s c o red interlude between            ally people out there—a l o t o f
verses, in which Pat, as tersely as              them—who send tapes of nothing

but accompaniment and melody                      best kind of demo. Two of the
lines, fully expecting the listener to            most common—and for my
follow along with the script and                  money most highly debatable—
match the words to the notes.                     dictums are: (1) that orchestrated
Which usually elicits a muttere d                 tapes are trying to hide some-
response akin to: Hey, pal, follow                thing: if the score can’t be com-
this…                                             municated effectively via piano, it
     • Bad live performance tapes. A              can’t be very good; and (2) that
plethora of the entries that pour                 generic vocal performances are
into producer and grant-giving                    better than stellar, as they provide
o ffices are musicals that had a                  leeway for the imagination of the
first staging on the community or                 directors and producers consider-
university level. The performances                ing the material to envision things
tend to be taped live, from the                   for themselves—if it’s too idiosyn-
house, which lets the listener                    cratically “performed” (the theory
know that the thing has been                      goes), the listening honchos will
orchestrated (if it has) and that the             feel that they’ve been given no
audience is having a good time (if                room to contribute, and will be
they are). Unfortunately, as often                less likely to take on the project.
as not, the listener can’t clearly                      My personal feeling about this
hear the one i m p o r t a n t t h i n g ,        is—you can’t be responsible for
which is the score itself. Unless                 the stupid prejudice of somebody
you can record a live performance                 else, nor for second guessing a
t h rough a versatile enough in-                  pre-conditioned reaction; you can
house sound system to give you a                  only be responsible for cre a t i n g
good mix—and even then, the                       the best product within your capa-
vocal and instrumental perfor-                    b i l i t y. As MIDI-generated music
mances have to be impeccably                      has become more and more per-
re n d e red and theatrically excit-              vasive, the piano-only philosophy
ing—these tapes can be self-                      has been re n d e red incre a s i n g l y
defeating, and the audience reac-                 obsolete. And as our own Skip
tion off-putting. Especially when                 Kennon has pointed out, there is
it’s clearly a sympathetic “local” or             some music that simply isn’t pre-
p a rochial audience, rather than                 sented in its best light when ren-
more discerning viewers in a more                 dered pianistically. The instrumen -
professional venue. Never under-                  tal approach depends entire l y
estimate the power of snobbery.                   upon the composer’s imprimatur,
     And now that we’ve covere d                  and what s/he’s trying to accom-
what to avoid, let’s look at the                  plish. (Personally, I happen to think
things to work toward.                            in orchestral colors, and I can’t
                                                  play a decent piano lick to save
Judgment Calls                                    my life; so my demos are o n l y
  There are different schools of                  orchestrated, because I have no
thought about what makes the                      other choice.) As for “generic
                                                  vocal performances”…if you think

your demo can survive them, it’s          mic or community contexts; while
your call. All I can tell you is, I       it’s not unheard of for more mature
want my demos to sound like pol-          songwriters, who feel they’re not
ished cast albums, or as near to          really in the loop of the biz, to
that as practicality allows. Com-         work with limited vocalists of their
municating theatricality is half the      acquaintance, or friends (or rela-
game, and if your score can be            tives!)—all of which is to be dis -
brilliantly acted and sung, why           couraged. If you don’t have a ros-
waste the effort on anything less?        ter of first-rate people to call
    All that said, demos that use         upon, don’t be too shy or intimi-
nothing but piano accompaniment           dated to ask around: that kind of
are perfectly fine—as are demos in        networking is part of what the
which the authors present their           Workshop environment is about.
own work. But it is vital that the        You’ll develop a reliable roster in
pianist be a dramatically sensitive,      time; and—I promise you—as long
technically exacting musician—            as your deportment is professional
and if the authors sing their own         and considerate, you’ll be flabber-
work, they must be able to sell it.       gasted at the quality, and fre-
“Sell it” doesn’t necessarily mean        quently the identities, of the per-
sing like a boid—it means you can         formers who’ll say yes.
gratifyingly deliver the intent, get
the right message across, make it             Demo Types
compelling. If you’re an author               There are four kinds of theatrical
with a voice that is bad, croaky,             demo tape. In no particular order,
imprecise of pitch, self-conscious            they are:
when acting, wobbly or otherwise
unlikely to inspire confidence, bag           • The Full Score Pre-Produc-
the idea of doing it yourself. You        tion Demo: Exactly as the name
w o n ’t do your work any favors,         implies, a recording of whatever
and your c h u t z p a h will not be      complete draft you want to send
admired. On the other hand, if like       out to elicit interest in your show.
Cook & Fryer, you can bring it on         This can be a composite of indi-
home, and you want your pure              vidual re c o rdings you’ve made
interpretation to be what’s heard         throughout the creative process,
first, go for it. Author-performance      or a wholly new demo. The draw-
demos, if they’re in the gro o v e ,      back to the “anthology” approach
can generate a rare excitement.           is the likelihood of inconsistency:
    Similarly, if you’re using actors,    u n f o reseen circumstances may
take the time to cast the demo            necessitate your changing actors
memorably and well. Often                 in mid-stream for one role or
younger, less experienced song-           another; or, due to revisions, earli-
writers will settle for weak perfor-      er recordings may not match the
mances by “substandard” actors            accompanying script once it has
with whom they developed amica-           sustained cuts, refinements, addi-
ble relationships in recent acade-

tions, etc. If the presentation is                      etc.—that seem appropriate.)
attractive, polished and pro f e s-                          If you’re unsure of your show’s
sional, and if the inconsistencies                      future prospects, and especially if
aren’t too distracting, you’re prob-                    the show proved itself an audi-
ably in good shape with a com-                          ence pleaser, never let the oppor-
posite reel. But if you’re even                         tunity to record the score yourself
slightly in doubt, or aspire to the                     pass by. (As many of you know,
ideal, start from scratch and do it                     Richard Engquist and Rafael Crys-
over. Approach it like an album, so                     tal just finished re c o rding their
it’s all clearly of the same sensibili-                 charming score for “Kuni Leml,”
ty and fabric. (Recently, Alan                          featuring their 15th anniversary
Menken decided that, despite the                        revival cast. The show, an award-
existence of a very re s p e c t a b l e                winner, has been performed with
composite reel, he and I were bet-                      modest, respectable re g u l a r i t y
ter off to wholly re-demo our new                       since its 1984 debut, which is a
version of “The Apprenticeship of                       testament         to   its    innate
Duddy Kravitz” with a full cast, to                     s t rengths…but, given that, one
reflect its current vitality. My point                  can’t help wondering how much
being, if no less a light than Alan is                  b e t t e r a stock, amateur and
thus concerned about a demo                             regional life it might have enjoyed
putting its best foot forward, it’s                     had its authors taken it into the
certainly best for writers who are                      studio 15 years sooner.)
not brand-name commodities to
regard any “expedient” shortcuts                           • The Sampler: This is but a
with grave caution.)                                    selection of songs, the selection
                                                        tending to vary, depending upon
      • The Post-Production Demo:                       need. One competition may limit
The re c o rding of the score you                       you to, say, five or eight songs;
make—if you have to—after a full                        another may ask for material that
production. This can be in lieu of,                     runs a certain amount of minutes.
in anticipation of, or by way of                        A production office may ask to
securing, a cast album. Failing the                     hear some re p resentative selec-
existence of an actual cast album,                      tions; or a cabaret venue may be
the post-production demo can be                         looking for stuff that will go over
instrumental in placing your musi-                      well in a club setting. But whether
cal with a stock-and-amateur                            you newly create the demo to
licensing organization. Copies of                       specifications, or assemble exist-
the demo can subsequently be the                        ing tracks, bear in mind what the
audio selling tool the licensers                        recording needs to accomplish.
routinely send out with perusal                            There will be exceptions, but in
scripts. (Since the post-production                     m o s t cases, your few numbers
demo is a permanent record of a                         should be more or less self-con-
f i n i s h e d and p r o d u c e d s c o re, it        tained (needing little or no set-up
may well include some pure l y                          to be understood) and emphasize
instrumental tracks—overture s ,                        dramatic highlights of the piece. A

beautifully arranged choral num-                    for submitting your sampler, follow
ber may not matter worth diddly if                  them precisely…or, at any rate as
the listener is not interested in the               precisely as your score permits. (If
character singing, or not getting                   you’re submitting songs from sev-
some sense of story. (I’m not say-                  eral scores, the same criteria
ing you have to include plot num-                   apply.)
bers—you may, you may not—I
am saying you have to imply dra-                        • The Maintainer: Once you’ve
matic context…with the highly                       secured an actual gig, with pro-
a rguable exception of cabare t -                   ducers involved—and, pre s u m-
specific material.)                                 ably, some kind of concrete devel-
      Similarly—and this principle is               opment and production sched-
especially crucial for composers—                   ule—it sometimes behooves you
beware including music that may                     to keep a “running tab” on the
be too sophisticated or “artsy” for                 s c o re: to periodically revise the
an untrained, slow or casual ear.                   demo to reflect changes as it is
Said music may be every bit as                      rewritten and re c o n f i g u red, the
breathtaking as you think it is; but                better to provide all concern e d
if it doesn’t communicate outside                   personnel with updated reference
the full-show or full-score environ-                material. How polished these
ment, it is n o t your friend on a                  updates need to be depends upon
sampler. Sometimes the only way                     the environment; in most cases,
to know for certain whether or not                  interim adjustments—evolutionary
you’ve chosen well is by using                      tweaks between complete, broad-
t r i a l - a n d - e r ror upon the ears of        ly defined drafts of the entire
friends and colleagues as your                      score—can be realized, and dis-
m e a s u re. (In the mid-eighties,                 tributed, in a quick-and-dirty fash-
Stephen Sondheim and William                        ion, like sound-byte memos: the
Goldman were meeting to discuss                     mix needn’t be perfect, and the
a possible joint project. Sondheim                  author(s) singing the material
played a song for Goldman, who                      should be fine (presumably by that
responded, he thought apprecia-                     point all parties concerned are
bly, by saying, “That’s really clever.              used to the writers’ voices any-
Now play me something pretty.”                      way). So it pays to work out a rou-
Sondheim leveled a hooded gaze                      tine that allows you to handle this
at Goldman and replied, in mea-                     as quickly and efficiently as possi-
sured tones: “I just…did.”)                         ble, since you don’t want it to
      Make sure your sampler                        become your life’s work. However,
demonstrates a range of song-                       if at any point the demo is required
styles (the old standby checklist—                  to speak for the impending pro-
comedy song, ballad, charm song,                    duction as a document of the
musical scene—is not a bad gen-                     score’s current (and, however tem-
eral template if you’re unsure what                 p o r a r i l y, definitive) state—espe-
to choose). And whatever the pub-                   cially if its purpose is some kind of
lished guidelines you’re provided                   distribution and/or exposure out-

side the immediate loop of the                    Which is why it’s so important
production/creative teams—then               to remember that they’re worse
you need to overhaul, and recap-             than useless unless implemented
ture the polish of your initial pre-         very sparingly.
sentation. The good news, at least                In most contexts I can think of,
in commercial venues, is: if your            elaborate illustration tends to
p roducers are in earnest, they’ll           make a demo seem less like a
cover the cost of that as a produc-          businesslike tool than a vanity pro-
tion expense.                                ject. More importantly, graphics
    The update process can be as             take up too great a proportion of
“simple” as inserting new numbers            the very limited amount of print-
and deleting old ones from the               able “real estate” you have avail-
master reel. More likely, though,            able to you. Real estate that
you’ll also be digging into existing         should be devoted to the bare
material that has been too heavily           essentials applicable: the name of
revised for the previous re n d e r-         the musical, the authorship, the
ing(s) to stand untouched. While in          authors’ re p resentative (agent),
many cases a wholly new record-              titles of musical numbers, the
ing of such a number is the most             names of the vocalists and the
trouble-free, obvious answer, you            roles they sing. (Obviously, with
may find that this can be where              regard to competitions where the
having a digital workstation,                rules require you to submit materi-
and/or a hard drive recorder-mixer           al anonymously, you reconfigure
setup (see Part Two of this series)          and edit this info as common
is extraordinarily useful: the versa-        sense dictates.)
tility of virtual editing techniques              A demo’s printable real estate—
may allow you to implement revi-             if it’s a cassette—has two parts.
sions to music and lyrics via easily              The first is what the recording
added alternate tracks and data              industry calls the J-card: the little
manipulation. So re m e m b e r, as          insert that fits neatly into the larger
you approach your first demo of a            component of the cassette case,
score, to consider what the best             named for the letter it resembles
long range plan is for your ability          when viewed in position, edge-
and sensibility.                             wise. The J-card has three subdi-
                                             visions: from top to bottom, let’s
The Final Consideration:                     dub them the backflap, the spine,
 Packaging                                   and the frontispiece. The fine
   With scanners and color print-            points of how you arrange your
ers being so inexpensive and per-            information on this little slip of
vasive, it’s easier than ever to cre-        paper are up to you, but as a gen-
ate fancy graphics and distinctive           eral rule, everything should be laid
logos for cassette cases and CD              out in as clean and uncluttered a
jewel boxes right in your own                fashion as realistically possible.
home.                                        Personally, I use the backflap for

my manager’s name and address,              same Usual Suspects demo:
keeping that info discrete from the            If your demo is in CD format—a
“art” data. The spine contains the          more and more frequent medium
title of the project and the author-        now that you can actually “burn”
ship. The frontispiece re i t e r a t e s   discs at home—the jewel box
title and authorship, and under             architecture gives you more space
that, provides the remaining infor-         in which to maneuver, and use
mation. To keep it all from seem-           tasteful, understated graphics.
ing too bland, I may allow myself a         Title and authorship can, if you
modestly fancy (albeit appropriate)         wish, claim exclusive rights to the
font for the title, and I’ll print the      top cover insert (which goes in the
whole thing out on pastel colored           sl ot where CD booklets are
paper.                                      found). Cast, contents, copyright
     Figure #1 (illustration, page 20),     and representation, etc. can go on
modeled on one of my standard               the back panel (or L-card) that
templates, is the J-card layout for         gets tucked behind the snap-out-
“The Usual Suspects,” a non-exis-           able CD berth. There ’s nothing
tent musical’s post-pro d u c t i o n       wrong with creating an actual CD
demo—with dotted lines added to             booklet for the insert—its inside
indicate the folds between sec-             contents might include a brief plot
tions.                                      synopsis, song set-ups and/or
     The second part of the packag-         author bios—but keep the CD
ing is the adhesive label that goes         booklet to four panels, keep the
on the physical cassette. Yo u              auxiliary text tersely to the point (if
won’t really lose any points if you         you can’t be economical, err on
handwrite a basic title-and-author          the side of conservati sm and
legend on one of the narro w                leave it out), and don’t overdo the
crack-and-peel strips that came             “production values.”
with the once-blank reel; but it is            Never forget, the packaging of
nicer—and re c o m m e n d e d — t o        your demo is the first thing a
print out professional-looking, full-       screener sees. The more assured
size labels. (Office supply compa-          the presentation, the more likely
nies such as Avery manufacture              the listener is likely to feel in good
crack-and-peel labels especially            hands. After that—
for cassettes and CDs. A box of                … w h a t ’s on the inside has
50 sheets, 600 labels, is obscene -         merely to live up to what’s on the
ly expensive—around $40—but on              outside…
the plus side, those 50 sheets will
last you a very long time.)
     The label need not duplicate
too much of the information on
the J-card; in fact, a clean, unclut-
tered presentation is preferable.
F i g u re #2 (also page 20) shows
the label on the first side of the

         Representative for Tune Smith: The Tough Negotiator Company. Limited
               340 West 55th Street / New York, NY10019 / (212) 555-7614
                 The Usual Suspects
       Music and Lyrics by Tune Smith             Book by Fellow Scribe
                     The Original Off-Broadway Cast in

          The Usual Suspects
                                                    …a noir musical…
                Book and Direction by FELLOW SCRIBE
           Music, Lyrics and Orchestrations by TUNE SMITH
 Angel Dunne Jenny Reiger                    Joe Pockets John Wallyhood
 Grifter Kenneth Boydon                  Bluejaw McCain Craig Oldfeather
 Mrs. Berg Jean Reltaf Carlotta Nicole Salmon Bunky Michael Princeton
 Side A                                          Side B
 Prologue & Misdemeanor                          Fugue for Tin Ears
 Throwin’the Book at You, Baby!                  Your Safe’s With Me (incidental)
 The Big Score (incidental)                      Cuff Him? I Don’t Even Know Him!
 ABag Marked Swag                                AKind Word and a Gun
 Counterfeit Angel                               I’m da PD, He’s da DA
 Fingerprints on My Heart                        Plastique Love
 Ali-bye-bye                                     My Man (on the Upper Bunk)
 She Read Me My Rights                           Chalk Outline Cha-Cha (Finale)
 Who’s Miranda? (incidental)                     Bow Music

                                (Fig. 1: J Card)

                     The Original Off-Broadway Cast in

                  The Usual Suspects
                                                    …a noir musical…

      SIDE A                                                    See case
               Music, Lyrics and Orchestrations by TUNE SMITH
                   Book and Direction by FELLOW SCRIBE

                           (Fig. 2: Cassette Label)

Spotlight On...
Dan Martin and
Michael Biello
                                                             by Frank Evans

When I arrive at Dan Martin and
Michael Biello’s downtown Man -           DAN & M I C H A E L : …G r o u p
hattan apartment, I warn them that        M o t i o n, they had come fro m
this may be a very personal inter -       Berlin…
v i e w. They are not only writing
partners, but as life partners, and       MICHAEL: …I was touring with
their intertwined lives are bound to      them, [I had just come back from]
be reflected in their work.               Berlin, and Dan was in a workshop
    Dan and Michael are physically        that we did at Antioch College.
similar: tall and slim with short hair    And that’s where we met.
styles. At the beginning of my
i n t e rview I threaten to print my      DAN: We met in a very creative
own particular device for distin -        situation and we fell in love. [An
guishing one from the other, but          early memory] I have of Michael
as the afternoon progresses they          when we were courting was—the
both show two distinctive, albeit         first song we wrote together.
harmonious voices. For starters,          Michael wrote me a poem and we
Dan is the composer and Michael           w e re sitting on the roof of his
is the lyricist. Both are native          house in Philadelphia overlooking
Philadelphians (although they did -       the city and I was playing the gui-
n ’t meet there) but Michael is a         tar at the time and I set the poem
product of the Italian section of         to music, so we actually had a
the city while Dan is from the out -      collaboration early [in our relation-
lying suburban area. I ask how            ship].
they met.
                                          MICHAEL: I wrote a lot before I
DAN: We were in a modern dance            met Dan but never to music. I just
company together. Michael was a           j o u rnaled and wrote poems and
dancer and I was an apprentice. It        used them in performance pieces
was multi-media company where             and more political in-your- f a c e
they brought dancers, musicians,          monologues and autobiographical
film makers, set designers and            stuff.
sculptors together and we created
these multi-media pieces. So we           Q: Talk about your early exposure
met in a dance workshop…                  to music and musical theatre.

DAN: I had a lot of music in my           traditional song writing for the
younger years. In elementary              musical theater. It was all for this
school I studied piano, guitar, and       very active creative performance
I wanted to play the flute, but they      world we were in.
told me only girls can play the
flute so they gave me a clarinet. I       Q: How does it feel getting into a
was a terrible clarinet player, last      more mainstream form?
chair for my entire high school
career and finally got back to the        DAN & MICHAEL: I’m thrilled.
flute when I was in college [where]
I was also in the choir.                  M I C H A E L : I t ’s something we
                                          wanted to do, because we love
MICHAEL: My dad was a singer              the form. Being in that, sort of
when my mom met him. He was               downtown, underground world—
making recordings with big bands          Dan and I would get up on the
so I have re c o rds of him. When         stage and do our thing. But there
[my mom] met him, she kind of             was this drive in us to create a
said, we’re going to get married          bridge to more commercial musi-
and have a family or you’re going         cal theatre. We auditioned for the
to go do your care e r. And he            Workshop with our out-homo-love
stopped. So he sang to us all the         song stuff [laughter], so right from
time, like all the time. We didn’t do     the beginning we said that if we’re
B ro a d w a y. We would go to the        going to go in [the workshop], we
Valley Forge Music Fair—Anna              just want to do what it is that we
Maria Alberghetti in West Side            do. And through the years, we’ve
S t o r y and Milton Berle in To p        been learning how to make it more
Banana. [Since we were from] a            accessible, creating a way that
large Italian family, there was lots      people can understand what
of drama and rhythm.                      [m o re laughter ] we’re talking
DAN: We’ve had a really interest-
ing career together and I wouldn’t        Q : Yo u ’ re juggling a number of
call it a musical career, I would call    projects. Can you tell me about
it a performance art care e r.            them?
Michael is also a visual artist and a
ceramic designer. [After our initial      D A N : “ B re a t h e ” is one of our
meeting through the dance com-            more “dear to our heart” projects.
pany,] I got into music for dance, I      We had this had wonderful pro-
accompanied dance classes at              duction in Provincetown in ’96 and
Temple University and started             did two festival productions in ’97
writing scores for dance compa-           in Philadelphia and New York. We
nies. Together, we created pieces         kind of let it rest for a while and
that combined movement, art,              started to work on two new
t h e a t re and original songs, but      shows, and as things always hap-
never really did anything that was        pen, it’s going to go up in Chicago

in June in a small production at          ble to the public—even though
the Bailiwick. We started writing         “Breathe” is a gay-themed show—
“ Wa i t re s s ,” a light piece that     as we worked on it, we cre a t e d
would be easier to perform, and           characters who were not gay. We
started working on an even bigger         reached a lot of general audiences
piece than we’ve ever done,               who were moved by the human
“David’s Heart,” which is a more          issues. When you’re younger in
serious piece [about a female car-        your experience, I think defining
diologist who has exhausted all           yourself as one thing or another
medical means to cure her hus-            seems more important. The older I
band’s heart condition].                  get, the more I just want to make
                                          a difference in the human race; I
Q: Are you being recorded?                want to communicate passionate-
                                          ly to people, to humanize people,
DAN: People are starting to record        to wake people up.
us. We’ve been invited to be on a
couple of CDs and we have a cou-          MICHAEL: This has come in, too,
ple of things coming out this             t h rough the BMI workshop,
year—up and coming singers are            because, we’re more and more
doing a couple of our tunes.              comfortable to come in and just
                                          present our thing. I see that every-
Q: Do you think of yourselves as          body is affected by it; we don’t
gay writers or writers who are            have to be [confrontational], like
gay?                                      A C T- U P, to do our work.
                                          [L a u g h t e r] And that reflection is
MICHAEL: Having been out there            saying to me, just keep doing
in the beginning of my care e r, I        more of what you do.
feel more comfortable with not
having to put that out in front. I’ve     DAN: Whether it’s a female char-
done it. The more I can feel com-         acter in “David’s Heart,” or the
fortable with it, [the more] my art       waitress who’s stuck in this place
really comes first. [Early on] I was      who wants to break out…I want to
saying I’m a gay artist—now it’s          reach people and have a lot of joy-
art and I happen to be gay. I’ve          ful experiences and have fun and
done so much of it on stage and           make a living through our art.
my family’s been there and the
whole deal. [It’s reflected in our        MICHAEL: Which we didn’t have
writing] in “David’s Heart” and           b e f o re the workshop. We were
“Waitress.” We’re going more to           blocking ourselves. It was more
the family now. In “David’s Heart,”       “dig the ditch.” But something’s
t h e re ’s a gay son. It’s not eight     lifted in the last couple of years.
gay characters.                           I’m looking at the history of what
                                          we’ve done and we’ve dug the
D A N : I think I found from doing        ditch already. Let’s build the build-
something that was more accessi-          ing. We’ve got the foundation.

We’re really starting to get it and
write and have fun with it and             Summer
argue and play and throw things
away and edit. That’s our relation-
ship. That’s such a part of it.
That’s what we do.                         The Advanced Workshop will
   One of the things I’m so grate-         meet this summer on the following
ful for is the education I got in          Mondays:
writing comedic material. That’s
                                             • June 14
been so incredibly valuable to us
because we’ve always had a really            • July 12
good grasp on expressing serious             • August 18
issues and I think that it’s been a          Classes are from 4-6 PM. See
revelation to learn to use comedy          you there!
to bring people in so that we can
then talk about what we want to
talk about.
                                           We’re On
DAN: I’m ready to cross a bridge
f rom underg round work to work
that’s more universal. I don’t want
to put a lid on what I’m doing.            You can download an on-line ver-
                                           sion of this newsletter at http://
In my umpteen years with BMI               bmi.com.
Workshop, I’ve seen double
umpteen fringe writers and artists
fall by the wayside, afraid that their
unique voices would be stilled.
Then there are those who take
what the Workshop has to offer
and apply it to their work. As
Michael (or was it Dan) said: “The
experimental work limited us. With
the Workshop, we can concentrate
on writing and the feeling of what
we want to do with it. Some peo -
ple may see the Workshop as lim -
iting, but we don’t feel it in there.
When we’re in the Wo r k s h o p ,
we’re getting all this information
that only helps us expand our hori -

The Newsletter Still Wants
You (and your stories)
If you’re a Workshop member and             Newsletter edition, so several such
have a notion or an idea for an             pieces per issue can be accom-
article, we want to know about it,          modated. Don’t necessarily limit
whether it’s one you suggest that           yourself to parochial Wo r k s h o p
we write, or one you might write            matters. The Newsletter is a place
yourself (and please indicate your          of sharing: relevant general advice,
preference).                                humor, think pieces, reports, anec-
    We’d be appreciative if you’d           dotes, and journals of theatrical
submit each idea as a terse, eco-           experiences (on the job or observ-
nomical single-paragraph summa-             ing the job), are welcome too.
ry, in writing only (no phone calls             Also welcome, as always, are
or verbal pitches, please; use the          your announcements. Use the
submission procedure for listings,          Listings in any published BMI
as described below). We’ll exam-            Workshop Newsletter as your
ine all the proposals and “commis-          model for submission. Please sub-
sion,” or take on, the ones that            mit the information to the Musical
seem most suited to the needs—              Theatre Department. The medium
or fancies—of the Workshop com-             for submission can be hand-deliv-
munity.                                     ered hard copy, faxes sent to (212)
    There are no criteria for selec-        2 6 2 - 2 8 2 4 , or email sent to
tion other than the vicissitudes of         jbanks@bmi.com.
group discussion—but take heart
that the gro u p ’s diversity tends
toward fair decisions. (For reasons                   Newsletter Staff
of time, please also assume that
you will hear from us only if we
wish to solicit your article, or                Editor:        David Spencer
assign the idea in-committee. If                Associate Editor: Frank Evans
your idea is not taken up, please
don’t view the silence as a snub,               Design and
                                                                 Patrick Cook
or as disapproval, or as you might               Layout:
the classroom presentation of a
                                                Copy Editor:    Jane Smulyan
t roubled song; the Newsletter
e n v i ronment operates on an                  Contributing     Skip Kennon
entirely different basis.)                       Editors:    Richard Engquist
    Within reason, there seems to
be no constraint to the length of a

                                                       by Richard Engquist

   “In the newsletter of The Loft, a     the character of an elderly male
Minnesota writers’ center that I         Midwesterner with an expanding
support, you read about African-         waistline and a receding hairline,
American writers, gay writers,           but I must also people that char-
Asian-American writers, hearing-         a c t e r ’s world with myriad other
impaired writers, physically chal-       characters, of every size, shape,
lenged writers, as if membership         age, color, gender, economic level,
in an approved group were their          background and experience of life.
certification as writers. At the Uni-        This is all so obvious; why bring
versity, you can’t walk ten steps        it up? Because of a tendency—
without being required to stop and       even in the ideal little world of our
salute multiculturalism.”                Workshop—to categorize one
   A few years have passed since         a n o t h e r with the various labels
Garrison Keillor made those              and hyphens; and to assume that,
observations in a St. Paul Pioneer       once a writer gets off the turf of
Press editorial. Happily, the pas-       his/her real life, the writing
sion for such Orwellian gobblede-        becomes problematical. As if we
gook as he cites has cooled              as w r i t e r s w e re defined by the
somewhat. But it has not disap-          adjectives that describe us as per -
peared.                                  sons.
   As if being a writer were not             Such defining is much too con-
difficult enough, many of us feel        fining. And it is nonsensical.
the pre s s u re to hyphenate our-       C a n you imagine suggesting to
selves, to worry about labels, and       Mark Twain or DuBose Heyward
to wonder whether we adequately          that he should write only about
(not to mention nobly) represent         white people? Or to Langston
whatever tiny cultural niche we          Hughes or James Baldwin that
find ourselves in.                       he shouldn’t let the world of his
   Silly, isn’t it? Writers shouldn’t    imagination reach beyond the
burden themselves with such dis-         world of Harlem? Georg e
tractions. After all, we have to “get    Sand and George Eliot (regardless
into the heads” of an infinite vari-     of the pen names) were women
ety of personalities in order to         who created male characters as
develop characters that seem real        complex and convincing as their
to the reader or the audience.           female characters. If Te n n e s s e e
True, I may find it easier to create     Williams and Edward Albee had
written only about white gay men,        roots, learn our history, make the
we would not have had Blanche            most of what nature has given us,
and Stanley or George and                discover our uniqueness, cele-
Martha.                                  brate our diversity without apolo-
    The idea is not that we should       gy, and then move on.
each erase the specifics of our               In “Our Town,” Thornton Wilder
individual experience and some-          c reated these lines of dialogue
how become bland—Everyman or             for the adolescent Emily Webb:
Everywoman—but that we should                 “I never told you about that let-
celebrate those specifics and use        ter Jane Crofut got from her minis-
them in our work to achieve uni-         ter when she was sick. He wrote
versality. To create a new world in      Jane a letter and on the envelope
each work of art and thus expand         the address was like this: It said,
the universe of our audiences.           Jane Crofut, the Crofut Farm,
    We must resist giving way to         Grover’s Corners; Sutton County;
the tribal mentality that seems to       New Hampshire; United States of
have taken over the world. Even in       America; continent of North Amer-
America, the great Melting Pot has       ica; We s t e r n Hemisphere; the
become a seething cauldron of            Earth; the Solar System; The Uni-
a n i m o s i t y. Slogans, uniforms,    verse; the mind of God—that’s
labels, hyphens! What may begin          what it said on the envelope. And
as a celebration of diversity—or         t h e postman brought it just the
the recovery of self-esteem—             same.”
becomes trivialized. We end up                H o w ’s that for a colossal
wearing lapel buttons proclaiming        vision? No hyphens—no lapel but-
pride in the accidents of birth—         tons—just a limitless scheme of
our ethnicity, our pigmentation,         things.
our sexual orientation—as if these            Want to make a diff e re n c e
w e re achievements! In the              through your writing? Think big!
p rocess, we become not m o re
than the sum of our parts, but
    To me, even the political cor-
rectness of the ’90’s is a kind
of straitjacket, and it has the same
sour smell as the McCarthyism of
the ’50’s: the smell of snobbery,
self-righteousness, cynicism and
    Writers can provide a corrective
to this state of affairs. To do so we
have to see labels and uniforms
for what they are. In a gro w n u p
world where people think, feel, act
and react, we can explore our


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