We're presenting our 6th annual Festival, May – August, 2013. In our first 5 years, we've presented:
The Festival was founded in 2006 by Marcia Seligson, Producing Artistic Director (1996–2006) of Reprise! Broadway's Best and Bob Klein, founding board member of Reprise! and specialist in marketing the arts. By 2006 it was clear to Seligson and Klein that a renaissance in American theater was beginning to happen. Wicked had debuted on Broadway and was drawing huge audiences dominated by teenagers who had never seen a Broadway musical before. Where previously only a handful of successful musicals were "new" and "American" now the number had doubled and tripled in a few short years. Away from Broadway, a new generation of composers, lyricists and book writers were beginning to attract a substantial following. Names like Adam Guettel, Jason Robert Brown, Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael John LaChiusa were having shows produced off Broadway, on college campuses and in small theaters around the country. Their songs were recorded in a best seller by Audra McDonald.
Where Reprise! was dedicated to revivals of classic American musicals, Seligson and Klein decided it was the right time to develop an event to celebrate "the new" and to showcase the enormous body of creative and performing talent they had discovered in Southern California during the first decade of Reprise! Also to encourage a new generation to join the musical theater-going audience. The festival concept was designed to encourage theaters, large and small, high schools, colleges and cultural centers to participate. Seligson and Klein shared their ideas for the festival approach with the composer of Wicked, Stephen Schwartz and Michael Kerker, head of musical theater for ASCAP. Both were enthusiastic and offered their support. Schwartz became the honorary co-chair of the festival. Later Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Angela Lansbury and Jason Alexander also became honorary co-chairs.
After more than two years of planning, the festival debuted in May to June, 2008. It encompassed 43 events in 36 theaters that stretched from Santa Barbara to San Diego and included Santa Barbara's Granada, the Rubicon in Ventura, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Ford theater, Orange County Performing Arts Center, South Coast Rep and the Old Globe and 7 high schools and colleges, with major educational outreach activities. In 2011, in the aftermath of the recession and the current severe cutback in arts programs in the schools, the Festival has increased its commitment to the schools and to encouraging new work from young composers, lyricists and book wirters. In 2012, the Festival launched SHOW SEARCH, its nationwide search for new short musicals created by high school and college age youth. Responses came from 40 states. Six finalists were chosen and their musicals presented in concert in April 2013. Judges, led by Tony and Oscar winner, Joel Grey, chose winners in each of the two categories. Each of the six finalists was presented with a $1000 award check from the Maurer Family Foundation. Go to SHOW SEARCH and OUTREACH for details of these activities.
Festival supporters and sponsors have included Los Angeles County Supervisors and the County Arts Commission and The Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles, The Bank of New York Mellon, the ASCAP Foundation, KUSC, the Flourish Foundation, Jamie Rosenthal Wolf and David Wolf, Greenberg & Glusker attorneys, the Lear Foundation, the Phillips Family, and the Wells Fargo Foundation.
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Marcia Seligson, Linda Shusett & Bob Klein