Musical Theatre Festivals
Last summer I went to NYC and saw several shows at the New York Musical Festival (NYMF). I was struck by many elements of this top-of-the-line festival – arguably the best in the world. The shows were sold out, the audience was enthusiastic, and some of the shows had “stars” in the cast. Oh yeah, and the tickets were reasonably priced.
My mentor Ken Davenport tells his fellow producers to submit your shows to every festival you can when your show is in the developmental stage. I really could not grasp his strategy at first, but after doing two festivals, here is what I learned.
- Your show gets to be staged. Usually at this point there have only been readings of the musical, but this is very different. Staging means the actors have memorized their lines, there is blocking, choreography and lighting. Also, the transition music has to be written and entrances/exits and costume changes are accounted for. So whatever else happens, it pushes you to really “finish” the show.
- You get to work on a nice stage (usually with good dressing rooms, backstage areas, etc.) and you don’t have to bear the cost all by yourself. While many festivals charge a fee, it is minimal compared to the fees you would pay if you rented the theatre by yourself.
- Marketing and audience services are taken care of. Many of the people in the audience come because the festival has done the marketing (once again, not charging you) and the refreshments, house management and box office staff is included.
But, mostly, you get to see your work in full. You get to watch, listen and talk to the audience – literally see how they react to the jokes, the story and the characters. You get to see if the show “works”- or where it falls flat.
This past weekend, we were fortunate to participate in another festival – the Illinois Theatre Association Community Theatre Festival. NUMBERS NERDS performed a showcase (meaning we did not compete) of our entire show. We got to see the changes we implemented after the August festival. With Wanda now gone, how did the show flow? After cutting two songs in the last part of the show, did the show make sense? What about the new finale?
We are still working on NUMBERS NERDS…but we are closer. Thanks to everyone involved. Thoughts? I would love to hear them.