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John Breglio Talks Producing with Backstage

Next Tuesday, John Breglio shares the dos and don’ts and the hows and wherefores of being a Broadway producer in his news release from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, I Wanna Be a Producer. Breglio’s production credits include the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line and the 2008 prodcution of Dreamgirls at the Apollo Theater and in this interview with Backstage magazine, he shares some of his lessons learned.

IWannaBeCOVERJohn Breglio went from entertainment lawyer to successful Broadway producer. Now he’s sharing advice gleaned from a decades-long career in theater in his new book, “I Wanna Be a Producer: How to Make a Killing on Broadway… or Get Killed.”

Why did you want to write this book?
I decided it might be helpful to put instructions on how to produce a play from the idea to opening night in one place. I also give real, live stories of what I went through with my clients, everything from getting the rights to marketing and advertising to getting the show up and running.

Why make the switch to producer from entertainment lawyer?
I was a shadow producer. I woke up one day and thought, I could do this myself. I’m closely associated with “A Chorus Line.” Michael Bennett was a very good friend of mine. When I was producing the revival, I noticed there was a line where Cassie says, “I’m tired of teaching others what I should be doing myself.” I heard that line and said, “You know what? That’s how I feel.”

Read the rest of the interview at!

New from Applause Books: A Chorus Line FAQ!

When September rolls around, there are always new Broadway shows right behind it.  Applause Books is celebrating the new Broadway season — and one of the most popular and successful musicals of all time — with A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan.  Here’s an excerpt from Tom’s introduction!

00124221A Chorus Line is, arguably, the most popular and successful American musical of all time. It opened in 1975 and won nine Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and a slew of other awards. In 1983, it broke the record as the longest-running show in Broadway history: a distinction it held for fourteen years. Ten different touring companies have crisscrossed the nation, and the show has been translated into over twenty languages and produced all over the world. A hit Broadway revival in 2006, which ran for two years, and its subsequent tours revived interest in the show, and today it is nearly always onstage somewhere, in regional theatres, summer stock venues, dinner theatres, community theatres, high schools, and colleges.
What is the appeal of this unique musical, and how has it so thoroughly captured, and held, the imagination of the American public?
The show plays directly into dreams and values that are deeply rooted in the American psyche. The idea of an audition, a competition, a group of people risking it all for a job—to prove they’re the best—has long been a central trope in our culture. It’s one of the reasons Americans are so obsessed with sports, or beauty pageants. Baayork Lee has referred to A Chorus Line as “the first reality show,” and indeed, the explosion in the 1990s and 2000s of competition-based reality TV programs fed into that same American obsession with Cinderella stories: the every man putting himself on the line for a chance at a dream, being judged a winner or a loser. Anyone who’s ever gone on a job interview can identify with the auditionees fighting for an opportunity to do what they love—and let’s admit it, once in a while we all like, if only vicariously, to be the judge as well, the one actually making the selections. A Chorus Line gave us a chance to root for the underdog, to choose our favorites, and then hold our breath till we found out who got the job—and weep for those who didn’t. Current television shows like American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, and so forth satisfy those same deep-seated needs. There have even been a few (such as the British How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and the American Grease: You’re the One That I Want!) where the prize was an actual role in a West End or Broadway musical!
A closer look, though, reveals that A Chorus Line is something subtler, something deeper than this, perhaps even slyly subversive. Dancers in the show have expressed indignation at the existence of programs like You’re the One That I Want!; the implication that anybody off the street could be a Broadway star seems to negate the years of discipline and self-sacrifice and grueling, expensive training real dancers commit to in pursuit of their goals. And after all, the seventeen auditionees standing on that white line are not competing for a shot at stardom or celebrity; as the show’s finale makes startlingly clear, they are asking for a chanceto dance in a uniform, anonymous kick line behind a star. It’s love of the work itself that drives them, not any misplaced desire for wealth (which won’t be forthcoming in any case) or the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. Somewhere in there can perhaps be seen a metaphorical critique of the American dream: do we chase success by competing to be as much like everybody else as possible?

On the Aisle with Larry

Larry Harbison, editor of How I Did It: Establishing a Playwriting Career, recently reviewed On the Twentieth Century in his Playfixer blog! Read his opinion on the musical revival, as well as his opinions on several other musicals currently on and off Broadway!

On the Aisle with Larry

Lawrence Harbison, The Playfixer, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. In this column, Larry reports on AIRLINE HIGHWAY, DISENCHANTED, SOMETHING ROTTEN, THE VISIT, ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY and IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU.

AIR279x238pxLisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway, a Steppenwolf import currently at the Samuel J.Friedman Theatre, is something of a throwback which put me in mind of the glory days of Circle Rep. It’s a thoroughly realistic large-cast slice of life play more about its characters than its plot. Think The Hot L Baltimore. Think Balm in Gilead (which was also a Steppenwolf import, directed by John Malkovich, with a sensational performance by an unknown-to-New York actress named Laurie Metcalfe. Both plays were by the late Lanford Wilson). D’Amour’s play is about the denizens of a seedy motel in New Orleans called The Humming Bird. There’s a seen-better-days hooker (played wonderfully by Julie White); there’s a transvestite with a heart of gold named Sissy Na Na, played with quite a flair by J. Todd Freedman (both actors are nominated for Tony Awards, by the way). What plot there is concerned the funeral of an elderly resident named Miss Ruby, once a madam. She ain’t dead yet (she’s in bad shape up in her room) but has requested that her funeral be held before her imminent demise so she can attend it. Joe Mantello has elicited fantastic performances from his ensemble cast.

As a Lanford Wilson fan, I was thrilled to see that his legacy is carrying on.

Disenchanted, at the Westside Theatre, spoofs heroines from Disney animated films, such as Belle and the Little Mermaid, done by an energetic cast of 5 women. The songs by Dennis T. deal_1413916803Giacino (who also wrote the sorta one-joke book) are tuneful and clever. This is a great “Girls Night Out” show. I rolled my eyes more than once, but the ladies in  the audience were whooping it up.

Something Rotten, at the St. James Theatre, is that SR-0026M-TelechargeLogos-176x176rarity these days – a Broadway musical which is not based on a popular film. It’s about a failing theatre troupe in Elizabethan London who need to come up with a New Idea which will trump their main competition, a guy named Shakespeare. Nick Bottom, the troupe’s leader, goes to a soothsayer, who predicts that the Next Big Thing will be musical comedy, so Nigel and his writer brother, Nigel, come up with a ridiculous musical comedy called “Omelette,” about a Danish prince trying to make eggs (The addled soothsayer, trying to come up with Shakespeare’s next hit so the Bottom brothers can beat him to the punch, scrambles the title, as it were).

Brian D’Arcy James and John Cariani are hilarious as the Bottoms, and Brad Oscar equally so as the Soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus (not him – his nephew). The book, by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and the  music and lyrics by Wayne and Carey Kirkpatrick are as funny as The Producers or Spamalot, loaded with witty references to musicals of the future, such as Cats.

You won’t find a funnier show on Broadway, except for maybe The Book of Mormon, and who can get into that?

The Visit, at the Lyceum Theatre, is a musicalization by Kander and Ebb of the great play of the99492 same title by Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, about the world’s wealthiest woman who returns to her impoverished home town to enact revenge on the man who wronged her as a girl. She offers to give every citizen a million marks if they will kill the guy. Of course, everyone refuses – and then starts buying things on credit. Chita Rivera, although she’s more than a little creaky by this point, is striking as Claire, the rich woman intent on revenge, and Rogers Rees is touching her lover long ago whom she wants killed.

I think this is well worth seeing – but do so soon, because after the Tony Awards I don’t think it will be around much longer. There’s just too much competition, and this is not exactly an “audience-friendly” show.

The revival of On the Twentieth Century (book by Comden and Green, music by Cy Coleman), at the American Airlines Theatre is, if anything, even better than the original on-the-20th-century-large-643x441production. It stars Peter Gallagher as an insolvent Broadway producer named Oscar Jaffe and Kristin Chenoweth as the screen goddess he discovered and bedded years ago, named Lili Garland. who are both on the Twentieth Century Limited on its way from Chicago to New York. If Oscar can get Lily to star in his next Broadway project, a ridiculous epic of Joan of Arc which hasn’t even been written yet, all his woes are over. Problem is, she hates him. She’s travelling with her boy toy and recent co-star, Bruce Granit, played wonderfully by Andy Karl. Gallagher and Chenoweth and simply sensational, as are Scott Ellis’ direction, Warren Carlyle’s choreography and William Ivey Long’s sumptuous costumes.

You’ll get real bang for your buck with this one. Don’t miss it.

On the other hand, you could skip It Shoulda Been You at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, a itshouldabeenyoucontrived, unfunny musical loaded with tired ethnic humor about a wedding. She’s Jewish – he’s a goy. Both, it turns out, are gay. Oy, vey …



Also, be sure to check out both How I Did It: Establishing a Playwriting Career and You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman!


Happy Tony’s!

What with the 2014 Tony’s happening this Sunday, there is no better time to brush up on your Broadway trivia! Test your knowledge with a few questions from The Broadway Musical Quiz Book. The answers will be posted next week. The questions we’ve chosen to ask have everything to do with Broadway’s most well-known duo: Rodgers and Hammerstein, of course. Think you know your Broadway stuff? Give it a go!

1) What is there to say about Oklahoma! (1943)? It marked a watershed in musical theatre history. Even poor souls who know next to nothing about musicals have heard of it. Richard Rodgers’ folksy melodies and Oscar Hammerstain’s easy, conversational lyrics helped give this tale of cowboys and farmers its naturalistic feel. Which of the following critters is not found in Oklahoma! (the show, not the state)?

A. a hawk

B. a lark

C. Rams and ewes

D. a field mouse

E. a little brown maverick


2) The duo followed Oklahoma!‘s triumph with another success, 19945’s Carousel, based on Ferenc Molnár’s Liliom. Fortunately for Rodgers and Hammerstein (and musical lovers everywhere), Molnár approved many changes to his play, including a drastically softened ending and its relocation from Hungary to New England. During the Boston tryouts, Hammerstein (or director Reuben Mamoulian, depending on which source you read) came up with a new concept for the deity figure: he became “the Starkeeper,” perched on his ladder, polishing the stars. How was this character previously depicted?

A. as a calm sea captain in a celestial boat

B. as a stonecutter

C. as the owner of the mill

D. as Billy’s angelic counterpart, the operator of a heavenly carousel

E. as “Mr. God,” sitting quietly in a New England parlor, with “Mrs. God” playing on the harmonium


3) 1949’s South Pacific  returned the pair to the heights, capturing the Pulitzer for drama and running 1,925 performances. based on James Michener’s stories, it concerns the romance between a navy nurse, Nellie Forbush (Mary Martin), and a French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (opera star Ezio Pinza). The subplot involves the tragic love affair of a young officer (William Tabbert) for an island girl (Betta St. John). What does Lt. Cable try to give Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall) after he renounces Liat?

A. a boar’s tooth necklace

B. his grandfather’s watch

C. DiMaggio’s glove

D. “fo’ dolla'”

E. a blueberry pie

Happy Birthday, Gerald Schoenfeld

Gerald Schoenfeld, credited as one of the major influences in Broadway’s history, would have been 89 today. To honor his memory, enjoy this excerpt from his memoir, Mr. Broadway

As I became immersed in the Shubert business, I became more infatuated with the theater. My life with the Shuberts was a wild ride, full of platonic flings with thousands of people and all the highs and lows of dealing with huge theatrical successes and massive failures. There were ceaseless negotiations with money men, and all the many joys and frustrations of combining the creative side with the practical. There was no shortage of putting on the kid gloves to deal with prima donnas—actors, writers, directors, choreographers, producers.

There were also times of rejection and disappointment, times of birth and renewal, times of cruelty and of serious personal depression. And mostly there were never-ending battles, a procession of confrontations and conflicts that could not be ignored. Some were brush fires; others were frontal attacks. Some irrational and absurd. Others inevitable. All were costly, time consuming, and terribly debilitating. In some cases, defeat would have meant the end of the Shubert Organization, my professional career, and the Broadway that I’d come to love and cherish.

I can’t actually remember when I started to go to the theater. My first memory of seeing a significant theatrical attraction was A Streetcar Named Desire, probably sometime in 1949, when I was twenty-five. Written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan, it starred Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden.

I also recall seeing another Tennessee Williams–Elia Kazan classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But that was some years later, in 1955, around the time I saw Inherit the Wind. The following year, I saw My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. Up to that point, I was only an occasional theatergoer. It wasn’t until I became more entrenched in the Shubert business that I started attending the theater regularly, sometimes four or five nights a week.

As my role in the business grew and my love for the theater became a passion, I recall countless occasions of pure exhilaration. Gypsy with Ethel Merman absolutely electrified me. One of the greatest American musicals ever, it opened in May 1959 in the Shuberts’ Broadway Theatre. It was brilliantly directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. I was so captivated that I would stand in the back of the theater night after night just to hear Ethel close the first act as she belted out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

Hundreds of other dramas, comedies, and musicals have made my heart beat faster.

Sitting with my wife, Pat, in our aisle seats, in a beautiful rococo room buzzing with excitement as the lights dim and the curtain comes up. . . there is nothing like it.

We have sat through, literally, thousands of overtures and curtain calls. Some have been very good, some very bad, some just all right, but many have been so exceptional that they have enriched our lives.

And then there are a few that stand out as extra special.

I’m thinking of A Chorus Line, Cats, Les Misérables, Sunday in the Park with George, Phantom of the Opera, Passion, and Miss Saigon.

These are some of the shows that created a fabulous new chapter in Broadway theater, shows that have withstood the test of time and are still performed so many years later.

Mr. Broadway was completed just one month before Gerald Schoenfeld’s death in 2008 at the age of 84. Bringing the reader backstage, the long-term chairman of the Shubert Organization shares his triumphs and failures, sings praise, and settles scores. He recounts nightmarish tales of the Shuberts, themselves – the meanness of Lee, the madness of JJ, the turmoil surrounding John’s personal life, and the drunken ineptitude of Lawrence Shubert Lawrence, Jr., the man who succeeded them and nearly brought the Shubert legacy to an ignominious end.


Carol de Giere, an Interview

Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, Carol de Giere, author of the Stephen Schwartz biography Defying Gravity, joins Patrick for a Wicked-themed episode of The Patrick Phillips Show. This episode has been cut down and reposted on Onstage and Backstage podcast with permission of Patrick Phillips. Visit his site for the full episode, including interview with Schwartz himself.


Defying Gravity takes readers into the creative world of Broadway and film composer Stephen Schwartz, from writing Godspell‘s score at age 23 through the making of the megahit Wicked. For this first authorized biography, de Giere draws from 80 hours of interviews with Schwartz and over 100 interviews with his colleagues, friends, and family. Her sympathetic yet frank narrative reveals never-before-told stories and explores both Schwartz’s phenomenal hits and expensive flops. The book also includes a series of “Creativity Notes” with insights about artistic life, and more than 200 photographs and illustrations.

Stephen Schwartz: A Creative Force at Age Sixty-Five

Guest Blogger: Carol de Giere is the author of Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked. Today, we are celebrating Stephen Schwartz’s 65th birthday!

Stephen Schwartz 2008 - photograph by Erin Dorso

Stephen Schwartz 2008 – photograph by Erin Dorso

A small upright piano arrived at the home of Stan and Sheila Schwartz on Long Island when their son Stephen was seven years old. It wasn’t long before the boy started goofing off from his piano lessons so he could improvise new tunes. No one imaged his creative “noodling,” as he calls it, would become one of his strategies for writing songs for Broadway and Hollywood, including the megahit musical Wicked.

Now, at age sixty-five, Stephen Schwartz still centers much of his work around his pianos, including his two grand pianos at home in Connecticut and one in his New York City office/condo. While writing scores for musicals, he almost never writes notes on paper as a first step. And even though his lyrics have won awards, when he feels his way into a character’s psychology, he likes to keep his hands on the ivories. “It’s my belief that music has a certain internal emotional logic, and therefore it should rule the song,” he says.

Schwartz’s credits to date include numerous stage musicals, such as the Broadway hits Wicked, Pippin, The Magic Show and Godspell. His movie credit list is not too shabby either, including lyrics for Disney’s Enchanted, Pocahontas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and songs for DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt.

As he marks his sixty-fifth birthday on March 6, 2013, even with his many achievements he still has no desire to retire. After all, one of his collaborators, Joseph Stein, with whom he worked on The Baker’s Wife and Rags, continued working up until his final days at age ninety-eight. Schwartz is currently penning lyrics for a DreamWorks animated feature as well as songs for a Broadway show about Houdini. (To keep up with his activities, subscribe to The Schwartz Scene newsletter.)

While the songwriter keeps busy writing new musicals, he also takes time to help up and coming composers, lyricists, and librettists through his role as Artistic Director for the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop and as President of the Dramatists Guild.

When I was writing his biography, Defying Gravity (Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 2008), I noticed that Stephen was especially good at talking about his creative process. I decided to include many of his perspectives and tips in a series of “Creativity Notes” so that other writers and fans could enjoy the insights.

For example, one of the challenges that every writer faces is deciding how to work with feedback while maintaining his or her vision for the piece. This is especially critical for success in collaborative arts like musical theatre. As Wicked developed, Schwartz and his collaborator, Winnie Holzman, found it challenging to sort through feedback when everybody around them had opinions. In my Creativity Note about this I included one of Stephen’s reflections about this process: “Ultimately, I think you have to take everything in and understand what in your show is communicating and what’s not—and then write what you think you would like to see, informed, of course, by what you have learned. My experience has taught me that when I write what truly moves, amuses, or interests me, it usually communicates with others.”

As many millions of owners of his cast albums will testify, what Stephen Schwartz writes seems to touch on their own life experience. That’s the magic of creativity at its best.

For more creativity ideas and stories about Schwartz’s creative career, read Defying Gravity and visit the book’s website.

Defying Gravity takes readers into the creative world of Broadway and film composer Stephen Schwartz, from writing Godspell‘s score at age 23 through the making of the megahit Wicked. For this first authorized biography, de Giere draws from 80 hours of interviews with Schwartz and over 100 interviews with his colleagues, friends, and family. Her sympathetic yet frank narrative reveals never-before-told stories and explores both Schwartz’s phenomenal hits and expensive flops. The book also includes a series of “Creativity Notes” with insights about artistic life, and more than 200 photographs and illustrations.

Bruce Miller: Broadway and Theater

BruceMillerBruce Miller is the author of The Actor as Storyteller, The Scene Study Book, Acting Solo, and Actor’s Alchemy. asks Bruce, “What made you first get interested in Broadway and theater?”

I’m a certified secondary English teacher and I taught for three years and during that time I did a community theater production. I was always a lead or director in the camp show as a kid. That was a safe venue to do theater and I always loved it. In my first teaching job, which was middle school, I got called on to direct the middle school production of Arsenic and Old Lace and I had no clue what I was doing. Apparently, I did it better than most. That was my first toe in the water.

I taught high school English for four years and I went back to graduate school for Journalism. I wanted to be a television journalist and in order for me to take the graduate class I needed, which was Journalistic camerawork, I needed a prerequisite. The undergraduate journalistic prerequisite was full so they told me to take an acting class. Because I was a little older, the guy who taught the most advanced BA undergraduate scene study class said “Come on in, you’re smart. Work with these guys.”  Without any previous training or classes, I went into the highest level scene study class and I was no worse than anybody else. Then I applied to grad school at the same school which was Temple University, they had a very good graduate program. I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t get in.

I was so interested at this point that I went to find out what I would need to do in order to be good enough. I bumped into a woman who I had a graduate course with and she turned out to be the wife of the director of the acting conservatory and she spoke to her husband. Another long picaresque series of events-it seems like destiny in hindsight-I got into this program I didn’t deserve to be in. Within the three years of graduate school, I caught up, I guess, and I learned how to do some stuff.

When I left, the one big issue that everyone was talking about was my “technique” and my “toolkit.” Most of us didn’t really have a technique. Ironically, it was a really good acting program by reputation but none of us left with a solid background. It wasn’t until I was acting in NY and found some other teachers that I really learned to put together that thing called technique. Except for one really good teacher who had a tremendous influence on me, on all of us.

I dedicated my teaching career to making it [acting techniques] simple and clear. And so nothing I teach is original, other than maybe my definition of good acting, but everything else is just basic late Stanislavsky but articulated to the lowest common denominator and through repetition, it seems to work.

Keep reading this interview with Bruce Miller on

Acting can – and should – be more than guesswork and instinct. Actor’s Alchemy: Finding the Gold in the Script examines the relationship between the script and what an actor ultimately does on the stage or on screen. Here is a straightforward guide filled with useful information to help actors learn to use their scripts in a specific and analytical way to solve the problems of the scene and bring their elusive characters to life. In learning how to decipher the script, actors will be equipped to make the choices that lead to delivering a gold performance.

Q&A with Andrew Gerle

Andrew GerleAndrew Gerle is the author of The Enraged Accompanist’s Guide to the Perfect Audition. Below is a Q&A that was done with

What first sparked your interest in Broadway and Theatre?

I’ve been in love with theater since I was a small child, doing plays and musicals in school growing up, then joining a children’s theater company in Tallahassee. I love music (grew up as a classical pianist) and I love stories, so it’s a perfect combination.

What was your favorite subject in High School and why?

I was a typical music/math geek, so I really liked math classes. It was like doing puzzles. Organic chemistry was also fun, similar puzzle-type activity.

When did you decide to write The Enraged Accompanist’s Guide to the Perfect Audition and why?

I had been toying with the idea for several years before I sat down to write it a few summers ago. I had played so many auditions and had begun to see patterns in the actors that were auditioning, simple pointers that clearly they just weren’t being taught. I love actors, and it frustrated me to see good ones giving bad auditions when I knew they could be doing better and feeling better about the process.

Other than auditioning, what lessons can be taken away from the book for subjects like Public Speaking, Music, Psychology, Social Studies, etc.?

I’ve had a lot of people read the book and see parallels in other disciplines. What I stress is not only the nuts-and-bolts specifics of audition technique for musical theater, but even more importantly, the mindset that leads to a successful audition, and a successful career. When you put too much pressure on a single audition (or speech, or performance, or athletic event), it can really get in your way. The most successful auditions are ones where the actor is simply showing themselves off to their best ability, doing what they do best, not trying to be something they’re not, not trying to please people they’ve never met. Confidence is seductive and leads to a better performance, no matter what the field.

Keep reading this interview on

The Enraged Accompanist’s Guide to the Perfect Audition

“I am your accompanist. You do not know me. I am the guy who sits behind the upright in the unflattering fluorescent light of the dance studio, a bottle of water on the floor, a half-eaten Power Bar on the bench, and your audition in my hands.”

Award-winning New York theatre composer and pianist Andrew Gerle pulls no punches in this irreverent, fly-on-the-wall guide to everything you’ve never been taught about auditioning for musical theatre. From the unique perspective of the pianist’s bench, he demystifies the audition process, from how to put together your book and speak to an accompanist to the healthiest and savviest ways to approach the audition marketplace and your career. By better understanding the dynamics of professional auditions, you will learn to present yourself in the strongest, most castable way while remaining true to your own special voice – the one that, in the end, will get you the job.

13 in Your Classroom

Jason Robert Brown is the songwriter and lyricist for 13: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway MusicalBelow is an excerpt from the libretto’s introduction, as seen on

From the age of eleven until I turned eighteen, I spent my summers at a music and theater camp called French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, a pretentious and ridiculous name that perfectly suited the pretentious and ridiculous upper-middle-class teenagers who went there (and still do). French Woods promised its campers an immersive experience in the arts; what mattered most to me as an aspiring thespian were the thirty or so plays and musicals that were produced there every summer.

I know it can’t be true that the version of Nine I saw at French Woods in 1986 was superior to Tommy Tune’s Tony Award-winning original production, but as far as my memory is concerned, there’s no contest. I am convinced that when I was in Merrily We Roll Along that same summer, we made that show work in ways it never did before or since. And it doesn’t matter what Neil Simon says—the definitive Eugene Morris Jerome in Brighton Beach Memoirs is Doug Shapiro of Miller Place, Long Island, even though he only did the show in a two-hundred-seat un-air-conditioned theater in upstate New York filled with restless suburban drama nerds, and even though the girl who played his mother was fifteen. There is a certain strange comfort in not attempting to reconcile these memories with the more likely reality that we looked exactly like the bunch of gawky, goofy amateurs playing dress-up that we were. It doesn’t matter. We felt the current crackling through the theater, and we knew we got it right.

Some of us campers did end up making a life in the theater, but for those summers, all of us were making a life from the theater. We were nurtured and sustained and given meaning not just by the words and songs and dances that inhabited our bodies but by the communion of sharing the stage with our friends, our mentors, and our audience. Once I became a “professional,” once I joined the ragtag army of artists who count on the theater to pay their bills and provide a long and consistent career, that communion became ever more elusive. It is simply true that in spite of anyone’s best intentions, professional artists are not “all in this together.” We are climbing and fighting and pushing for a life that at least occasionally resembles the thing that we all fell in love with in the first place, and for the vast majority of us, that thing remains tantalizingly in the distance.

Keep reading this post on

13: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical

One of the most frequently produced new musicals of the last decade, 13 is a rollicking musical comedy featuring a cast exclusively made up of teenagers. Thirteen 13-year-olds, as a matter of fact.

Evan Goldman is two months from turning 13 years old, living happily in New York City, the greatest city on Earth, when his world is blown apart by his parents’ divorce, and he is dragged away from home to live with his mother in a small town in the Midwest. Facing a new life in a new place where the customs and culture are utterly alien to him, and with his bar mitzvah getting closer every day, Evan has to navigate who he wants to be versus who he really is, and see if he can make it through the fall without losing the best friends he’ll ever have.