In a letter to the Editor of the New York Times titled “Writing the Book for a Musical: A Misunderstood Art,” theatre artists such as Alan Menken, Terrence McNally and James Lapine join the Dramatists Guild of America to clarify the vital role of a book writer.
The letter was penned in response to the Times’ May 4 article, “Hamilton’ Aside, Where the Real Tony Competition Lies.” In that piece, NYT theatre critic Charles Isherwood stated that he found it “slightly puzzling that [Hamilton] was nominated in the book of a musical category, since the show is almost sung-through.”
In light of Isherwood’s comment and the Drama Desk Awards' recent decision to eliminate the category of Outstanding Book for a Musical (the category was later reinstated), the Dramatists Guild offers “a few lessons in this understood art form” from several esteemed musical theatre practitioners.
“Perhaps the toughest, most pivotal and thankless job in musical theater is that of the book writer. Their work lays the groundwork that allows our songs to soar. Their words are the runway we take off on, the flight plan we follow and the key to our safe landing,” says Menken in the letter.
Menken, McNally and Lapine's comments are joined by those of Marsha Norman, Craig Lucas and David Lindsay-Abaire. The letter is signed by DGA president and playwright Doug Wright. You can read it here.