The problem we're solving
Musical theater actors have plenty of opportunities to learn and grow — from youth theater groups to high schools and colleges everywhere.
But… if you want to create musical theater — compose, write lyrics/book — the opportunities to learn and grow are miniscule. In the entire country only 2 colleges offer degree programs — NYU (graduate degree only), and PACE. None west of New York.
In 2012 the Festival of New American Musicals inaugurated ShowSearch, our hugely successful nationwide search for new short musicals created by high school and college age youth. After the initial success, it was the Festival’s decision to delay the next ShowSearch until we could find a permanent home. Subsequently, we have established working relationships with two schools, Santa Monica College and UC Irvine. We have agreed to present ShowSearch annually on both campuses, bringing talented young creative participants to the campuses each summer in support development of creative curriculum. ShowSearch 2.0 was delayed to take advantage of these expanded opportunities for a permanent home and the college connections. We hope to launch ShowSearch in January, 2015. Finals would be held on both campuses in July, 2015. SMC will stage the ShowSearch finals with faculty direction and student cast. UCI’s ShowSearch will be produced on campus by the Festival with a professional cast.
Additionally, as part of the expanded program, UC Irvine and Santa Monica College are currently working to establish creative curricula. Also on board is what we think will be the first high school in America to offer show writing courses. VIP Charter High School in Van Nuys. Our hope is to introduce a 2-year creative curriculum at Santa Monica College in Fall, 2015. UC Irvine would like to follow with a 4-year show writing program in ‘16 or ’17.
One of the Festival’s responsibilities is to attract faculty as well as participation from top professionals in the field. Stephen Schwartz met recently with the participating schools to work with us to help develop the curriculum. Jason Robert Brown has said he is available after Honeymoon in Vegas opens. Ricky Ian Gordon and Ryan Scott Oliver are also on board.
Once the educational program is established, the Festival is also committed to working with the participating schools and supporters to create the world’s first full-time development center for new musicals (The DC) to give talented young creators a major support for bringing their ideas to life. Meanwhile, we are working with the cabaret, Rockwell in LA, to present an ongoing series of ShowSearch showcases for new composers and musical scores. These shows take place every other month through 2015.
FutureFest LA & NYC
FutureFest is the Festival’s annual event showcasing the most talented young performers in Southern California high schools and colleges in a day of singing songs from new American musicals. Up until now, we’ve moved it to a new locale every year to help spread the word. In 2015 we staged FutureFest at Rockwell, LA’s premiere musical theater cabaret. We may just make Rockwell a permanent home. It’ll happen next May.
Meanwhile, for the first time in the Festival’s 8-year history, we’re going to invade New York City. FutureFest East will take place on Tuesday, January 6, at Manhattan’s favorite musical theater cabaret, 54 Below. Our partners in crime, producer Luis Cardenas and director Sarah "Rosie" Rosenberg recently moved to NYC where they opened the first professional musical theater in the Bronx, Open Hydrant. They do amazing things on stage with young people. They’ll be working on FutureFest East and West forever, as far as we’re concerned. So, if you happen to be anywhere near Manhattan that first week in January, please plan to join us. We’ll have more details shortly.
Marquez Elementary School — Pacific Palisades
120 5th-graders at Marquez Elementary School in the Palisades study American history by performing original musicals about the pilgrims, the writing of the constitution, the Louisiana Purchase, the birth of the industrial revolution and the civil rights movement. The Festival takes these remarkable shows public each year. In 2010 we sent Marquez to New York where the kids performed their musical about the birth of the Industrial Revolution, WATER & POWER, in the New York Musical Theater Festival.
This may be the only program of its type in America. UCLA recently did a research study which concludes that these kids retain twice as much knowledge of the history they've studied as the average 5th grade history class. And wait till you see sixty ten-year-olds on stage together singing and dancing. It's a great story and a remarkable new way of learning. All credit due to Jeff Lantos, 5th grade teacher, book writer, lyricist, his composer Bill Augustine and the faculty and staff of the school.
In 2012/13 the Marquez American History Musicals program was expanded to five more schools in the LAUSD. Here is teacher-book writer-lyricist Jeff Lantos rehearsing MIRACLE IN PHILADELPHIA with the cast at Quincy Jones Elementary School.