Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU), a trade group of small theatres and independent producers, presents its First Annual New Musicals Reading Series in New York City Nov. 8, 15 and 22.
More than 50 submissions by emerging musical theatre composers, lyricists and librettists were considered for three staged reading slots. TRU offers support and a space for the readings, plus a post-reading "dollars and cents" panel in which professional discuss the viability of the show (not a judgment of its artistic merit).
The 7 PM readings at the 14th Street Y are open to the public, but reservations are required.
The three musicals chosen are:
• Vanity and Vexation (book and lyrics by Yvonne Adrian and Cheryl Stern, music by Tom Kochan), an attempt to skewer the nuclear family and explore middle American angst from the point of view of a mother whose daughter is dealing with anorexia. The reading is presented by TRU member company Cosmic Leopard/Womenkind and features Eden Riegel, Jeff Skowron, Rita Gardner, Anne Kanangeiser and Adam Heller. Jack Cummings directs. Guest panelist are producers Brent Peek and Scott Perrin and theatrical marketer-producer Randall Wreghitt. Nov. 15:
• The Red House (book, music and lyrics by Brett Kristofferson), a suspenseful musical about teenagers who searching into the woods for a fabled "red house" filled with secrets and danger. The reading is presented by TRU member company Frontline Productions in association with Suzanna Bowling, and is directed by the reading TRU musical readings director Mark Cannistraro. Guest panelists are Jack De Palma (of National Artists Management Co.), Andrew Kato (of Daryl Roth Productions) and Shari Upbin (producer of One Mo' Time).
• Vices (book, music and lyrics by Everett Bradley, Susan Draus, Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid), a "theatri-concert" on the subject of human weakness. The shows has had New York workshops and stagings in Chicago and Minneapolis. The cast includes Jason Danieley (Candide), Bradely, Heitzman and Reid. The reading is presented by Jonathan Cerullo. Guest panelists include producers Jeff Ash, Bill Repici and Robert Straus.
The 14th Street Y is at 344 E. 14th Street at First Ave. Call (212) 714 7628 for information.
TRU is a nonprofit collective of theatre production companies and individuals, with a database of 800 theatre professionals and 140 dues paying members. Members share information, advice and physical resources. After eight years of sharing information, the group is reaching out to help nurture new productions.
TRU assists in the development of three selected works by paying for public readings of the pieces.
The series is designed to develop new musicals and to help producers develop the skills needed to produce new musicals. The "dollars and sense" panel discussion featuring prominent New York City producers and general managers will focus on potential venues, marketing and budgets for projects. The artistic merits will not be scrutinized by the panel, and TRU holds no rights to future stagings.
"It basically ends up being a cash grant of sorts," said Mark Cannistraro, producing director of the series. "We’re trying to create an opportunity for both writers and producers to develop new musicals by giving them all of the necessary tools -- the most important of which is, of course, the money to present the reading. I think that's the most interesting facet of the whole series: rather than simply producing the work, we're empowering people to do it for themselves."
Projects with a producer-coordinator attached are preferred. If a director is not attached, TRU can help find one for the reading.
The TRU grant will cover costs of producing the small-scale reading including musical director's fee, Equity actor transportation, rehearsal space, lighting-sound technicians and copying; performance space with piano; promotional postcards; publicity services and access to the TRU database of performers, musical directors and producers.
To be eligible for the series, the project in its present form must not have had a previous New York City production before a paying audience.
Producers and writers interested in submitting projects for future consideration can request a copy of the guidelines and application form by calling TRU at (212) 714-7628 or emailing a request to SourceW@aol.com.
"We've always wanted to create programs that would benefit membership and create visibility for us," said TRU founder Bob Ost.
TRU began life years ago, said Ost, a playwright-composer-lyricist. "I had a couple of friends running theatre companies and everybody seemed to be struggling," Ost told Playbill On-Line. In 1991, he offered his apartment as a meeting place to talk about small companies to share some information. Some 30 people showed up, and the grassroots TRU, with both for-profit and nonprofit people involved, was born.
Early meetings yielded offers of a fax machine and office furniture for some, and there have been many referrals of talent.
"We've gotten a lot of people working together over the years," said Ost.
TRU board members and advisors include producers, directors, actors, journalists and others.
-- By Kenneth Jones