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Tony Asaro: Updates/Blog

Tony Gets Interviewed for the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program's Newsletter - September 11, 2013

Click here to read the interview by Emily Goldman.

OUR COUNTRY Gets a Glowing Review from www.nytheatre.com! - June 26, 2009

Check out the review by Martin Denton! Click on PRESS!

OUR COUNTRY Receives Its World Premiere in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity - June 19, 2009

Well, butter my butt an' call me a biscuit! My new musical OUR COUNTRY (music and lyrics by Tony Asaro, book by Dan Collins) is gittin' a production! Why that's gooder 'n grits!!!

OUR COUNTRY will play at the Robert Moss Theatre as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. For those of you who live in the NYC metro area and have yet to get tickets, just go to the festivity website:

http://www.planetconnectionsfestivity.com/shows.html
Scroll down to OUR COUNTRY (look for the boots!) and choose your performance date:
Sunday, June 21 at 4:30
Wednesday, June 24 at 4:30
Friday, June 26 at 7:00
Saturday, June 27 at 8:00

Tickets are only $18. Seating is VERY limited, and tickets have already started to go fast! Get your tickets NOW!

Justin Utley to Star in OUR COUNTRY - April 20, 2009

Singer/songwriter (and hottie) Justin Utley will be starring as Tommy Dautry in the upcoming production of OUR COUNTRY. If you don't know Justin's work, you should. Check him out on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Justin-Utley/15185031250?ref=ts
And be sure to download his album "Runaway" on iTunes!

Come See My New Song Cycle "Women of Colors" at the Laurie Beechman - January 26, 2009

The Spotlight cabaret is presenting a reading of my new song cycle Women of Colors Jan. 30 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. I wrote the book and all the lyrics, and collaborated with Vadim Feichtner, Ryan Scott Oliver, Will Aronson, Kevin Cummines, Tina Lear, Julianne Wick Davis, Julia Meinwald. I also wrote music for two of the songs.

Directed by Diana Basmajian, the evening boasts the talents of Natascia Diaz (Man of La Mancha; tick, tick...Boom!), Lucia Spina (Legally Blonde, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Caitlin Burke and Aurelia Williams (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...). Show time is 8 PM.

NY Theatre Barn Presents LOVE KILLER - August 20, 2008

Hey guys! The gracious folks down at NYTB are producing a night of Tony Asaro goodness down at the Duplex! The cabaret is called "LOVE KILLER" and features new songs! Some world premieres of collaborations with Ryan Scott Oliver, Will Aronson, Vadim Feichtner, and others! Also hear some old favorites!

The show is on Monday, August 25th at 9:30 PM. Don't miss out on all the love killin' fun!

OUR COUNTRY--Yee Haw!!! - November 6, 2007

Lord, Lord, Lord, what a rush!!! Somehow, everything fell into place, and about 10:35 I was sangin' my little heart out with my band rockin' behind me.

And I didn't forget words.

And the crowd (which was substantial--I don't think the bar's ever made that much money on a monday) cheered. They seemed to really enjoy themselves, and were very complimentary afterward. That said, audiences always are right after something. But I really think last night's cabaret actually DID go as well as I felt it did.

There were a few blunders. I had to restart a few songs. A few words were flubbed, a few notes were wrong, but all in all it couldn't have gone any better.

The playlist was:

1) Lord, Lord, Lord How the Mighty Fall
2) Double-Platinum Double Life
Part 1
3) Without One Word.
4) Hookers
5) Double-Platinum Double Life
Part 2
6) Sicka Singin' 'Bout Girls
7a) Pretty Kitty
7b) Heather
7c) Spit It Out
8) When Music Mattered
9) Sicka Singin' 'Bout Girls Reprise
10) Double-Platinum Double Life
Part 3
11) Turn it Around
12) Our Country
13) Ranch Hand

As you can see, it was a lot to put together. Despite the mere 4 hours of rehearsal, it all came together pretty well. That's what happens when you work with phenomenal musicians--their instincts compensate for lack of rehearsal time, and for lack of composer experience.

So now, Dan and I are going to regroup and really start molding this piece into a story. I'm so excited!

Thank you to everyone for all your love and support. Your attendance, your messages of love, your joy for my adventures in NY--that's what keeps me going.

Our Country Cabaret--1st Rehearsal - November 1, 2007

So I just got home from working Halloween at the Eagle. It's 6:00 am. The owners had made up posters for the "Our Country" cabaret which they hung all around the bar. It was so nice of them to do that. Many of the patrons were asking me about the date and time. The word is getting out.

Anyway, today, I had the first rehearsal with my band. I was nervous going into it. I have been scrambling these past few weeks to get the charts done. ("Charts" are what you call the individual sheet music you give to each band member--ie: the guitar charts, the drum charts.) I've never prepared charts before, and it felt like I was shooting in the dark. I had a tutorial one day from my friend Arvi, who is amazing with this stuff, and who is playing drums for the band. Also, my friend Ryan did a little hand-holding. But really, I had no idea if I was doing things correctly.

I was also worried about getting everything printed in time. I still haven't bought myself a printer for my apartment. Lame, I know... But, I haven't done it. So there I was, in James Lapine's office, (he let's me use the office for my needs as well), FREAKING OUT, because the crappy Gateway computer (Yes, a gateway. That's how old it is...) wouldn't print my files. I shut the computer down, and unplugged the printer, and it finally worked when I started everything back up.

Anyway, my friend Richard was there with me helping me print and collate. Thanks to his help, we got it all done in time to go to see a matinee of Young Frankenstein.

Then at 5:30, the rehearsal began!

I am working with 4 phenomenal musicians. They instantly picked up the feel and flavors of each song. We moved so fast, we not only got through everything, and had time to revisit a few of the more challenging numbers.

So the verdict is, the songs DO sound like what I hear in my head when played by a band. No. They sound better. In some cases, way better!!! And what's even more encouraging--the band members are excited about it. All of the band members are not just instrumentalists, they are members of my class at NYU--each an excellent composer in his own rite. To have them enjoying playing my music is so validating.

Our next rehearsal is on Friday evening. I can't wait!!!

Broken--GMTWP Reading, Update #5 - April 30, 2007

My loyal supporters,

It’s been five days since our final faculty critique, and I haven’t done an update. I think I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. I’m sure you’re all waiting on the edge of your seats…

Before I get to the faculty critique, I’ll tell you a little about the week after the thesis reading. My reading was on Tuesday, April 17th, and on Thursday, the 19th, I had to begin stage-managing one of my classmate’s readings. We all have stage-management duties. Stage-managing is a huge undertaking, and is almost as much work as being in your OWN rehearsal process. Plus, a lot of the work is mindless—keeping watch on the clock, photocopying replacement pages, taking notes on the cuts, etc.—so you disappear into your own head a lot.

The week after my thesis was tough. I had quite a case of postpartum depression. It’s very strange: you have one day that is the culmination of all of your efforts for an entire year, and there’s all but fanfare for your accomplishment. Then, the next day, it’s over. Your family’s gone. Your actors and director are gone. Your suit is back in the closet. Immediately, the musical theatre factory that is the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program begins spitting out three new ones.

Also, I made the mistake of asking for feedback from my peers way too soon. I approached three classmates whose opinion I respect very much to tell me what they thought. They had some wonderful constructive criticism to give. I wasn’t prepared to hear any of it. Instead, all I heard were the little monsters that live in the dark corners of my insecurity: “No one is interested in this story.” “No matter how you revise it, people just don’t care about the two main characters.” “What made you think you could write book?” "Why are you in New York?" “No one is commenting on the lyrics, because they don’t know how to tell you they weren’t good.” Have you ever see lionesses take down a zebra on the Discovery Channel? Well, in my head live lots of vicious lionesses. All the while, I was stage-managing and putting on my most supportive smiley face… I couldn't let my friends know that I was crumbling inside. Luckily, last week I went out for dinner with my good friend Julianne whose thesis also was on April 17th. She was going through a similar transition, and was also feeling insecure. Apparently it’s common. That helped me to quell the demons and get them back in their cages.

I'm doing OK now. I've gotten my bearings and am standing upright again. The feedback from my friends was all really helpful in the end, once I had enough distance to digest it. When we went into the final faculty critique, we had some concrete things to say about how to make our show better.

The critique went well. The faculty had many constructive things to offer, but were very encouraging and supportive. They all felt like the reading was an accurate and enjoyable presentation of what we were trying to create. You can’t really ask for better then that. They liked our ideas. They felt unanimously about a number of things:

• The show should be longer than 90 minutes. We have a lot of room to expand the show. Maybe add some plot twists, and maybe even add some characters.
• In the rewrite process at the end, we lost a lot of the humanity of the character of Anetta. They approved of the new direction we’re going with her, but they all felt that this “new” Anetta needs to be more developed.
• They all felt that while individual consecutive moments were a pleasure to watch, the connections between the scenes—how one scene leads to another—were often questionable. One of the faculty members said that there were all these beautiful moments, but they felt strung next to one another on a clothesline, instead of following a clear narrative.
• And lastly, and most surprisingly, they all felt that we’d actually written AN OPERA, not a musical! This was not a criticism. They were actually very excited about this discovery.

An OPERA?! How could I have written an opera? I HATE opera! Yes, it’s true that we wanted to borrow some elements from opera, especially with the sound and style of the music, but we set out to write a musical. Musicals and operas function very differently. And, I feel that opera is an inferior way to tell a story. But, when they presented the idea to us, the faculty had some great points. I realize that while opera may be an inferior way to tell A story, it might be the best way to tell THIS story. Their points are as follows:

• In Broken, the gestures and emotions are all very grand and heightened. The musical numbers in the piece live in over-the-top emotional earnestness. They make sense that way. Despite the fact that the dialogue (which I’m very proud of) is well written, it is very nuanced and subtle. The scenes feel at odds with the musical numbers, and not in a pleasing way.
• In our cast, we had one operatic baritone. On his voice, the music just soared. The other actors were all great, but it really sounded “right” on Dave’s voice.
• In the opera world, we would be able to find two men in their late 60s who can sing the two main parts. In the musical theatre world, that’s probably not the case.
• There is currently a movement towards a hybrid form—opera meets musical theatre. This new grey-area is championed by two of my teachers, Michael John LaChiusa and Ricky Ian Gordon (neither in the group that gave us our final critique). This new form is growing rapidly, and opera AND theatre companies are looking for new works in this vein.
• There is a built-in audience for Broken in the contemporary opera-going world. It is a small niche, but a loyal, educated market (with lots of money). These patrons would instantly know that our characters are based 2 composers that they know and love. Mel Marvin, a faculty member who has written 2 operas, thinks this community of opera-goers would eat Broken up.

So now, Kevin and I are taking this idea very seriously. It will mean a LOT of work. Much of the show will need to be restructured. Much of the dialogue will have to be pared down and turned into recitative. (Recitative—aka. “recit”—is basically sung dialogue. It’s how scenes are “acted” in opera.) I’m not a fan of recit. It feels very artificial to me. So my challenge will be to create a language of recit that feels natural, while maintaining the integrity of the dialogue that it is replacing. Also, there are formal considerations. For instance, currently the show begins with a grand opening number called “The Piano”. The character of Vic sees his old piano and is flooded with memories. He sings a trio with the ghosts of himself and Enzo. The music is huge and sublime. When the number ends, a short comic scene between Vic and Anetta gives us some exposition. In dramatic musical theatre, the standard is to begin with a big opening number. In chamber opera, however, the standard is to begin (usually) with an overture. Then, an expository bit of recit usually follows the overture, and THEN you have your big number. So, to make this happen, we would probably want to add an overture, then switch the places of the scene and the song.

The trick to opera is that the music does the acting, not the performers. The music is what tells the audience what the characters are feeling and what the situation is. However, in this new grey-area that is emerging, all this is changing. Opera singers are getting acting training. Musical theatre actors are training their voice classically. Still though, the expectation in the world of opera is that the music carries the drama.

Anyway, I've got lots to think about and lots to do, but I’m back on track. The insecurities are mostly gone, and I’m looking forward to how this piece will grow over the summer. Then, at the end of the summer, we’ll be applying for awards and festivals.

In other news, I’ve launched my website!!! Take a second and check it out:

http://www.unrelentingmonkey.com
I haven’t uploaded any sound files yet, but they’re coming. Soon, I hope to get these updates in a list serve, so your emails aren’t flooded with my nonsense, and then only those who care to look will have to read my ramblings.

Much love,
Tone

Broken--GMTWP Reading, Update #4 - April 19, 2007

Well gang, it’s finally over! My thesis reading was
on Tuesday afternoon. I would have written sooner,
but I’ve been busy with the family.

And the verdict: I couldn’t have asked for it to have
gone any better!!! It was AMAZING! I don’t even know
what to say about it, except that my show works! It
has a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying end (which
is a much bigger accomplishment than it sounds). It
has characters you care about. The songs are not just
beautiful, but also function dramatically to tell the
story. My lyrics don't call attention to themselves.
The funny parts are VERY funny. People were moved.
Many cried.

Of course, the entire time I was watching, I was
mouthing the lines along with the actors. I'm
ridiculous that way. It's just that I get so excited.
I also get analytical. Half of me was swooning with
the delight of seeing my work being performed so well.
The other half of me was taking mental notes on
transitions that weren't smooth, or places to revise
the dialogue, or places where there should be
underscore. But that's par for the course. When
you're a writer, you can't ever turn it off.

The actress that played Anetta, the nurse, sent Kevin
and I an email today that said:

Hey Tony and Kevin,
It's been a few days and I'm still humming and
thinking about your beautiful musical. I was happy to
be a part of it. And thank you for writting Anetta
with such substance. I loved that she was proud of her
work and still had just enough sass to be "real".
ALWAYS made me cry. it was so amazing. I'm gonna cut
the R&B version.
Continued success to both of you.

Sheryl McCallum

[ALWAYS is a song in the show that is basically the
main theme. It gets reprised a few times.]

So anyway, Kevin and I will be getting our final
evaluation/critique from the faculty on Wednesday.
Until then, I’m stage managing one of next week’s
readings. AND, I’m catching up on sleep.

I’ll let you know what the faculty has to say!

Tony

Broken--GMTWP Reading, Update #3 - April 16, 2007

So much has happened since the last update, I don't
even know where to begin... Last I checked in, I had
just made my revisions based on the table
read-through. I gave the script to our director, and
then for 6 days, I did NOTHING. We handed her the
script on Tuesday the 3rd, and weren't meeting with
her until the 9th. And I didn't want to make any
changes until we talked with her. I started reworking
an old idea for a musical, I started writing a new
choral piece, I went back to the gym, I designed a
graphic for my website (soon to come)... The website
will be unrelentingmonkey.com. I've attached the
graphic. The website won't be live for a month or so,
though.

Anyway, it was nice to have some time away from
Broken. I was hoping to come back to it with fresh
eyes. It was a good plan. We met with Lori (the
director) at her apartment on the Upper West Side.
She had some really great insights about the piece.
She mentioned the things that she thought were
working, and then the things that she was confused
about. I of course, got to work THAT night doing
rewrites. We had to turn in our official integrated
score on Wednesday morning, the 11th. An integrated
score what the actors read from in a reading—it has
the script merged with the sheet music so everything’s
in the right order. It takes a long time to prepare a
good integrated score. Kevin and I began working on
ours on Tuesday afternoon. At 11 o’clock pm, school
closes, and Kevin and I went back to his apartment in
Jersey City to finish. I was up until about 4:45 am.
I slept 2 and 1/2 hours on his couch, and then went to
school to turn in the files. The full integrated
score was 249 pages.

THEN on Thursday, the rehearsals began! Finally,
after a year of having this piece living only in our
heads and our computers, this story and these
characters were being inhabited by real human
beings!!! There is nothing more exciting! The voices
we’re working with are incredible, and they’re all
very skilled musicians. The cast seemed very excited
about the piece. They are working very hard to learn
the material. Thursday morning, we started with a
table-read (no music), and then immediately, the Music
Director began teaching the songs. While they were
doing that, Lori, Sybille, and I had a meeting about
the script, and we began finding places for revision.
I went back to the rehearsal, and listened to these
amazing singers singing our songs! I made some lyric
revisions on the fly—(hearing actual people singing
your words is very inspiring.) Kevin and I were
constantly interjecting things like, “Can we cut that
last part?” or “Change the word ‘future’ to ‘present’
in measure 48.” That night, I made many, many
corrections to the script, which I brought in on
Friday morning. I put a paper clip on each page where
there was a correction. There were lots of paper
clips. Lori was impressed at the amount of work I was
able to do in one night. So much so that she had no
qualms about giving me HUGE feedback after Friday’s
rehearsal… But more about that later.

Friday was another great day of rehearsal. They spent
the morning learning the rest of the music. Then in
the afternoon, we had a “rough-through”. It’s a
read/sing through but with the understanding that it’s
still very rough. Well, it may have been rough, but
it was phenomenal. They were really starting to get
into their characters. The actors had clearly
reviewed their material on Thursday night. I was in
tears at one point. I wrote the thing!!! I know what
happens in the story! It shouldn’t be moving to ME!!!
But they brought new life to it, and nuance that I
had never imagined. Anyway, I was completely euphoric
from the rough-through. Then the creative team all
had a meeting in which Lori and Sybille told us that
there were major structural problems with Act I.
WHAT?!?!? COULD THEY NOT SEE THE BRILLIANT PIECE OF
THEATER THAT HAD JUST BEEN PRESENTED TO THEM?!?!?
WERE THEY BLIND?! My process for getting major
constructive criticism on my writing usually goes
something like this:

1. cross my arms and pout
2. completely, viscerally, and physically reject the
new ideas
3. steam about it for a night
4. completely take all of the suggestions and write
something that works so much better than what I had
before.

I was true to form in that meeting. But, the hard
questions lead to the good stuff. I'm learning this
concept slowly but surely.

After the meeting, I was dazed and a little huffy. My
sister had arrived in town (yay!) and she and I went
out for dinner, where I had a glass of sangria in an
effor to cool down. Kevin and I met up at 8:30 to
discuss a plan of attack for the weekend. I got home,
and I was still frustrated, so I decided to go right
to sleep. I woke up at 7:00 am on Saturday, and in 2
hours, had a completely new draft of Act I that
incorporated ALL of the suggestions that Lori and
Sybille had made. The songs now come in a different
order, and this new version solves some other problems
we were having as well. I met with Kevin at 2:30 to
put it all together, and then he and I went out with
my sister. We took the night off and saw Altar Boyz.
(Well, part of the night. We both went home and
worked after the show.) Anyway, I woke up this
morning at 8:30, and rewrote three scenes in Act II,
did some lyric revisions, went through the whole
script and made more cuts, and got all the files ready
for photocopying for tomorrow.

At tomorrow’s rehearsal, the cast will arrive having
studied their parts over the weekend, and Lori will
begin working with them on character stuff. I can’t
wait. OK. I’m off to bed now. It’s 11, and I’ve got
to get to school by 8:30. With my sister here, we’ll
need to get up extra early to coordinate showers and
stuff.

Much love to you all. Oh, and thanks to all of you
who've sent messages of encouragement and
congratulations. I am so lucky to have so many people
in my corner!

Tony

Broken--GMTWP Reading, Update #2 - April 3, 2007

So, today we had our table read-through. I gathered 4
friends to read all the parts, and we presented the
full show for our faculty advisors. Also, our VERY
generous and ridiculously skilled music director, Matt
Castle, came. Matt asked if he could sit in, as he
was told that our score was REALLY difficult. Before
we began he asked us if we would mind him singing
along. I figured he'd hum along with the melody...
Well, not quite. Instead, he sight-sang the ENTIRE
score which is no easy feat. Kevin's music changes
key and meter a lot, and the melodies leap all over
the place. Plus, he was switching back and forth
between characters in the duets, trios, and quartets.
It was pretty amazing. It was great for me, because
if I had to sing it alone, it would have been scary.
Plus, it allowed me to focus on other things--turning
pages for Kevin, listening for flow, writing down the
starting time and stopping time for each song, working
my iPod recorder, etc.

Surprisingly, the reading lasted only 91 minutes. I
was SURE that our show was so much longer than that.
Lo and behold, I was wrong. Well, the Act I finale
lyric hadn't been set to music yet, so we just read
through the lyric--that would have added a few
minutes, but still, it was so much shorter than I
thought. My libretto was 103 pages this afternoon!
Some of my classmates have libretti that are around 75
pages! And my friends who were reading the dialogue
today didn't rush or anything. So it looks like we
won't have to cut too much for length reasons. We'll
be cutting some things for content reasons, though...

After the reading, the faculty and Matt gave us
feedback for about an hour and a half. It's not easy
hearing criticism ever, but it's really tough when
you're not secure in your craft, AND with the clock
ticking loudly in your ear. Almost all of the
criticism today was about the book: moments that were
unclear or misleading, moments where they felt the
story-telling was interrupted, questions about
character motivation, etc. So, we've had to rethink
some parts. We've unfortunately had to strip out some
of the lush harmonies in the first few numbers for
clarity. Also, I had to combine a scene and a song
into one entity that once were separate. (This is
called a threaded scene--a scene that contains stanzas
of song within it. Or a song that contains sections
of dialogue, depending on how you look at it.) And
lastly, and most importantly, I had to reconceive the
way Act I ends. I went back to an old lyric that I
had written a few months ago, dusted it off and got to
work on rewriting it. It took me about 2.5 hours to
rewrite it.

In order to accomplish all of this, I drank a mocha at
9:30. As most of you know, I NEVER have caffeine. It
is now almost 4 am, and I'm still wired. I am no
longer jumping out of my skin, but I am wide awake,
and nauseous. I need to be up in 3.5 hours...

I wanted to get this all done tonight because the plan
is to give the revised script to our director
tomorrow. I still have a few more corrections to
make, but I'll make them tomorrow morning.

Today was a hard day, but it proved to me that though
we have some fixes to make, we do indeed have a show
worth watching. I hope those watching it will feel
the same. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

~Tone

Broken--GMTWP Reading, Update #1 - March 28, 2007

Dear Everyone I Know:

OK, beware! This email is lengthy.

I am nearing the end of my time at NYU. My thesis
musical, Broken, will have its reading on April 17th.
At that point, I will pretty much be done with
graduate school. You all know that I’m out here, but
most of you don’t know what the heck I’ve been doing
this whole time. I figured that I would keep a little
log for my closest friends and family detailing the
process over the next three weeks. Don’t worry. I’ll
only be sending a few of these (maybe four total, and
all the rest will be much shorter. Today is the first
installment, and is therefore a little lengthy.) So,
without further ado:

I’m attending the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing
Program in the Tisch School of the Arts. It is a
two-year program. I attended the program as a
composer/lyricist, meaning I write both music and
words.

The first year was spent completing weekly songwriting
assignments where you would be paired with a
collaborator for that week (musical theatre is usually
written in teams), and you would write a song based on
a prompt. Each week, your team’s song would be
presented to and critiqued by the faculty and by your
classmates. This is called Lab. Think “Project
Runway” except there are no eliminations. Your
collaborator would be different for each assignment.
Sometimes, I’d be paired with a composer, and I’d
write the lyrics. Other times, I’d be paired with a
lyricist and I’d write the music. There are 28 people
in our class, and I worked with most of them. (We
started with 30, but 2 dropped out.) In addition to
these lab assignments there were other classes and
tutorials in music composition, lyric writing,
playwriting, musical theatre history, etc. I have
never worked harder, slept less, nor had more fun in
my entire life.

The first year culminates in a 20-minute one-act
musical. This musical gets a professional reading,
meaning professional actors (paid) are brought in, and
a director and music director are hired. This team of
people rehearses your material with you there, and
then performs the work standing at music stands in
front of the audience. A reading means that there are
no sets or costumes, no one has anything memorized,
and there is no moving around. Actors stand when
they’re “onstage” and sit when they are not. The
purpose of a reading is so that the authors can hear
the work performed. Because theatre is a living art,
hearing your work out loud helps you decide what works
and what doesn’t. My one-act was called “StoryEarth
Chronicles: Case #247” and was a funny reimagining of
the Cinderella story. My collaborative team for
StoryEarth Chronicles was a team of three: I wrote
lyrics, and my good friends Tina Lear and Kevin
Cummines wrote the book and the music respectively.
(I’ll explain what “the book” is in a second.)

Anyway, based on our success with StoryEarth
Chronicles, Kevin and I were paired together for the
2nd year. (Tina was put with someone else.) During
the 2nd year of the program, you and your one
collaborator work together all year writing a
full-length musical. From conception to the
professional 90-minute reading you receive at the end
of the year, you and your partner are in charge,
making all the decisions about the project. This
project is what we call our “thesis”, though instead
of defending a dissertation in front of a faculty
panel, we have professional readings. During the
school year, almost all of your time is spent on your
thesis. You attend some other classes—classes to help
you get ready for the business side of musical
theatre—but mostly, you just write. Once a week, you
have lab to present new material, but now, only the
writing team and your faculty advisors are present.
They critique it and help guide you, but really, it’s
up to you to figure out how to tell your story. For
my show, Broken, I am writing book and lyrics. Kevin
is writing music.

The 2nd year teams were all announced at the end of
the 1st year, right before we left for vacation. I
was very happy to get Kevin as my partner, although it
meant that I would be writing book—something that
scared me to death. “The book” is all of the words in
the libretto that are not lyrics. This means the
dialogue and stage directions, but it’s so much more
than that. When writing a story from scratch, there
is no one to tell you what scene should come next, who
should be in that scene, or how long that scene should
take. There is no one to tell you how your songs
should function in your show, what theatrical conceits
to use, what your structure is, or how many characters
you should have. All of this is “the book”. It’s
incredibly difficult, and when the faculty told me I’d
be writing book, I worked out a deal with them that if
I had to (and I was FREAKING OUT about it) that I
would get to have Sybille Pearson as my advisor. They
agreed. Sybille has been a Godsend for us. She holds
my hand when it needs holding, pets my head when it
needs petting, and kicks my butt when it needs
kicking. I don’t know how anyone writes a musical
without her.

So, back to the story… Over the summer, the teams are
all required to come up with 2 ideas for shows, one of
which has to be an adaptation. An adaptation is a
musical based on an existing property—a play, a
newspaper article, a poem. By the end of the summer,
we had to have for each show:
• A summary of the plot
• A scene break down
• An opening number
• The 2nd song of the show
• Some sample dialogue—a scene or two
• A detailed explanation of your choice: Why does this
story have to be a musical and not a movie, a play, or
a novel? What about the story is important to you?
What gives you the right to tell this story? Etc.
These items together are known as “a treatment”. So,
that’s 4 songs total, plus all of the written material
to go with it. You propose your thesis ideas in front
of the entire 2nd year faculty. Then, they confer,
and give you assignments based on your pieces to bring
in the following week. They meet with you once more
as a large group. Then the subsequent labs are just
with your faculty advisors. You get 3 faculty members
on your advisory team: your main advisor, plus two
others. Each specializes in a certain area: 1
specializes in book, 1 in lyrics, and 1 in music.
(For Kevin and I, that would be Sybille, Mindi, and
Fred respectively.) After the 2nd lab, the faculty
stops giving you assignments. They expect you to know
what to write next. You continue to present material
to your advisor team in lab for BOTH of your musicals
until the faculty gives you approval for one of the
two projects. We got approval for Broken in early
October.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
Broken is a contemporary romance that explores the
themes of regret, commitment, and love in the face of
terminal illness. With a lush and innovative score
that draws upon American post-Romanticism, Broken is
an emotional journey toward redemption.
*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

That’s our blurb. It’s based on the actual events in
the lives of composers Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo
Menotti. We have given them pseudonyms and have
fabricated the majority of the content, but the
circumstances are directly from their lives. Anyway,
it’s very dramatic and depressing, though it has lots
of comedy, and is very life-affirming in the end. It
deals with love, death, and art. We bit off a bunch,
but I think we can chew it.

Kevin and I have been writing non-stop all year. As
of today, the show has 19 musical numbers. The
libretto (the script with all the lyrics in it) is 105
pages long. 14 full-length songs and countless pages
of dialogue have been written and discarded. This
morning, I wrote my final lyric (the finale of Act I)
and Kevin will set that to music this week. In the
next few days, I need to do my fourth revision to the
Act II book, and correct a few errant lines in the
lyrics. Then, on Monday afternoon, we will have a
table-read of the show. For the table-read, you get
some friends and your advisors together in a room to
read the script out loud. Kevin and I will sing the
songs. This is done for 2 reasons: 1) to get an
approximate running time, and 2) to hear how the show
is working as a whole. I imagine that our show will
run about an hour and fifty minutes without an
intermission. The readings can only be 90 minutes
long, so this means we’ll need to cut some things,
and/or summarize certain scenes for the reading—the
stage manager will say “In the next scene, blah blah
blah happens” and then you continue with the
performance.

After the table-read, Kevin and I will have a few days
to revise, and then we hand the script and a shoddy
recording of some of the songs to the director. Our
rehearsals will begin on Thursday, April 12th with the
cast.

I’ll write a new (shorter) update after the table-read
on Monday.

Much love to you all,
Tony

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