How to Make a Musical
Coen, Stephanie, American Theatre
Harold Prince trains the next generation in a unique laboratory for the musical theatre
"'Astonish me,'" Harold Prince says, "are the two most important words ever said to a director." The program that bears the legendary director and producer's name aims to create works that will astonish new audiences. At its best, it also creates an atmosphere for artists to astonish themselves. It's one part training ground and one part developmental program, a hybrid of an old-fashioned apprenticeship for emerging artists and a new-fangled laboratory for evolving work. It bills itself as a performance lab for directors; its founders aspire for it to be a think tank on the musical theatre.
It is the Harold Prince Musical Theatre Program, an alliance between the Directors Company of New York and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts that aims to develop new musicals for the American stage by involving the director early in the collaborative process - and ultimately raises a series of provocative questions not only about how original work is created, but also how it is funded and produced.
There are four phases to the program - discovery, development, performance lab and production - three of which occur in New York City. During the first two, up to three original musical projects are competitively selected from submissions to the Directors Company and then developed by their writers and directors over a six-month period. The third stage is a performance lab that includes a four-week rehearsal period - overseen by Prince and his associate, Arthur Masella - during which 30-to-45-minute excerpts from the musicals are staged by the directors; these excerpts are then presented (with full production values) for an invited audience.
The potential fourth phase - performance - is where the Denver Center comes in. The Colorado company joined forces with the Directors Company two years ago, after the program's pilot season, to provide $1 million over the alliance's initial three-year agreement - and, in return, has the rights to produce a workshop or full production of any selected projects. (Thanks to the Denver theatre's participation, everyone working on the program is salaried except Prince, who donates his time.) "When I heard about the program, I had the feeling that it really was an opportunity for artists to get started in the American theatre today," …
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Publication information: Article title: How to Make a Musical. Contributors: Coen, Stephanie - Author. Magazine title: American Theatre. Volume: 13. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 1996. Page number: 26+. © 1999 Theatre Communications Group. COPYRIGHT 1996 Gale Group.
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