It’s Time to Go Virtual

It’s Time to Go Virtual

Is it necessary to add virtual to your development tasks? YES. Are you uncertain or even scared about this? YES. Should you continue to do it anyway? YES.

But only if you want to get your play in front of more people.

 

Why Virtual

 

I remember when cable tv was just beginning to be a force in the industry in the 80’s. At the time I was the new Programming Director for a new cable channel (I was young and came cheap), and my task was to find and develop programming for a voracious new 24-hour cable channel. The demands of providing content were enormous, as the beast was insatiable. We had to air everything we could license as often as possible, with multiple repeats of every episode to make sure that something was on the air 24 hours a day, every day. It was exhausting.

The need today is similar with social media. You should always be broadcasting something to create an awareness of yourself as a professional in the industry. This is not easy! I constantly try to do better, because I must. As theater professionals we must first do the work but then also promote and  disseminate it to as broad an audience as possible (hence the term broadcasting). It  is as exhausting today as it was back in the early days of cable.

Virtual readings and performances, promotional videos and “happenings” are all proven strategies to promote yourself as a successful playwright (even if you don’t consider yourself one yet). But you must first carve a space for yourself online.

 

How to Add Virtual Content

 

The ability to add virtual content to your website and promotional materials is well worth the effort. Plays and musicals that consistently promote themselves online brand themselves as ready for production. Is your show ready for production?

If the answer is yes, then concentrate regularly on broadcasting yourself and your play to the public by embracing virtual content.

  1. Promote your show online. It goes without saying that each of your shows should have a website, Facebook page and/or an Instagram site, and a NPX page. Musicals should add a YouTube channel. You must be “discoverable” when people look you up, and have a contact page if people want to make contact. Update these as often as possible with audience testimonials, “coming soon” notices, sizzle reels, etc.
  2. Plan a reading. Put it out to your email list and promote free tickets to attend. Build up to the reading with regular content to promote your actors, director, and yourself. If you can record the reading (for archival use only), do so in order to share later with interested prospects. Capture outstanding feedback from audience members for written (or video) content.
  3. Make demos of your music. Record excellent quality musical demos to put on your website and on YouTube with playlists.
  4. Plan “happenings.” Be creative and plan events at local spaces to promote an awareness of your work. Have a play about immigrants? Interview real life characters that speak to the themes in your play and livestream the discussion on Facebook live. Do you have a musical that speaks to young girls? Partner with an establishment that has that audience and then plan an event centered around your musical to promote it. Get your work in front of your target audience as often as possible, and record everything.
  5. Have a professional sizzle reel. A great sizzle reel makes your work stand out from the others online and makes it memorable. A sizzle reel becomes your online pitch that works even when you sleep – so make sure it is everywhere you have want to have a presence. Also, a good strategy is to link your sizzle reel to your email signature page so it’s available to everyone that you communicate with – if they know you they should know about your show.

 

Scared? Do It Anyway

 

I have a phrase that has helped me get through everything in life that has frightened me out of my wits, but the I knew I had to do anyway.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

That may seem counter-intuitive to you, and you may even be shocked that I’m recommending it. But the way I think of it is, this saying gives me permission not to be perfect. Sometimes just crossing the finish line, even in last place, is a success. And, if repeated often enough, you’ll just get better and better each time.

So give yourself permission to go virtual “imperfectly.” Just do it.

Rinse and repeat.

 

I’ll be taking my own advice this year and helping others do go virtual with me. Will you be one of them? Join ETC and get in on the action. We’re adding new members in September.

Get your Virtual Checklist here to use as a reminder.

Interested in learning more about The Experts Theater Company? Register for our free OPEN HOUSE on August 30th!

How to Move Your Script Forward

How to Move Your Script Forward

Moving Forward

This summer has been a time for reading scripts. It’s my favorite thing to do in the summer. It’s so exciting to discover a new play or musical that’s ready to move forward into a developmental workshop or even into a complete production.

The problem is, right now that’s harder than ever to happen.

I don’t have to tell you how the shutdown has impacted our industry – we’re all painfully aware. The good news is that audiences are slowly returning, and with various incentives from grants and subsidies more shows are being produced. What’s different is that the cost of production has never been higher.

What does that mean for your show? And how does it impact moving your show forward?

How do you strategize as a playwright right now?

  1. You must continually write new work. Build up your portfolio of new work of all types.
  2. Develop your work online and in-person, and let the world know
  3. Submit your work everywhere possible and feasible
  4. Plan readings & record them

Nothing new here, right? Well, hold on. There’s a few more insider tips I’m sharing with my writers.

Write Like a Producer

Every writer must think like a producer right now when beginning a new script. What would make this new work attractive to producers? What experience, new thoughts or new ideas could it give an audience? What’s the journey you’re asking an audience to go on with you? How can you make your script more cost-effective to produce?

After reading easily four dozen new plays and musicals so far this summer, here are some things that now stand out to me as central as reader, and as a producer.

First, I’m looking to be immersed in an interesting world, preferably one I’ve never experienced before. There’s a million and one locations over time and space that are possible, so be creative. Have fun building this world! The more delight you take in the research and conception of it the more we’re going to enjoy it later. Make us laugh! Entertain and delight your audience.

Second, by the first 15 minutes make it clear on whose journey I’m on and what your main character is after. Don’t make me wonder what’s going on 30 minutes in.

Also, make sure your script is ready to be submitted. It’s not my job to edit out scenes that go nowhere or characters who sit and talk endlessly. Ditto for typos and other poor formatting. Not sure of the proper formatting? Look it up. Make sure you look like a pro.

Writing like a producer means to think about holding to a small cast size (2-8 max, even for musicals), a single set, and limit including any unnecessary projections, props or stunts in your script. Instead, craft fully-realized characters where each action and interaction flow from their intentions.

I love it when a script is based on a story in the public domain, or based on a known person or event. My recognition of what your show is about helps me understand it at the very beginning – and that can give your play a definite advantage later when a producer can capitalize on that audience awareness.

Write, Then Promote

After your play is written, the real work of promoting it beginsYou must write AND promote. Even if you have an agent, you must continue to promote yourself consistently. There’s no way of getting around it.

The best ways to do this are:

  • Submit your work constantly. Give yourself a goal of at least 3-5 submissions a week (or month) and hold to it. Check online resources like the Dramatists Guild or Play Submissions Helper for current opportunities.
  • Research regional theaters to see which ones have produced work similar to yours. When you find them, reach out to them to ask about their submission policy (if not stated clearly on the website). Initiate a conversation – poof, you’ve made a contact.
  • Hold a reading, either in person or online. Listen to the feedback.
  • Record it and send the link to your email list. Show your fans your progress. Password-protect it on Vimeo or YouTube and send it out when requested.
  • Have the reading edited into a short sizzle reel and put it on your website, on your email signature, on your YouTube page and New Play Exchange page. I’ve seen many dynamite sizzle reels in the past year – make sure yours is one of them. (Sometimes the sizzle reel is better than the script, but that’s a different blog post.)

Get to Work on Your Next Play

Then get to work on your next play. Remember you’re playing the long game here, and if you’re a writer, you write. Consistency pays off.

But don’t neglect your other darlings. Write daily, and then promote weekly. It’s a lifestyle – one that you say you want.

Persistence is the only way to get anything done in the theater. Or anywhere.

Are Zoom Readings Still Useful?

Are Zoom Readings Still Useful?

As someone who was one of the very first producers presenting Zoom readings in 2020 and who was able to raise hundreds of dollars for smaller theaters across the country, I’ll be the first one to tell you that Zoom readings can be a cost-efficient way to develop a script. But it’s not 2020 anymore. There are a few things to think about before setting one up.

 

Zoom Readings Are Live

 

A Zoom Reading is a great way to get your script heard. Until you get out of your head and hear your words interpreted by someone else, you won’t really know your next step. Should you rewrite the opening with a different point of attack? Does your climax feature a secondary character instead of your protagonist? Is it clear what your script is about?

By scheduling a live Zoom reading, you’ll get feedback immediately. Listen to your audience and your actors. Did the audience react and laugh when you expected them to laugh? Were they confused about whose journey they were on? Did they “get it”? 

I always like to weigh my options when developing a new script. Zoom readings can offer advantages to both playwrights and producers in the early days.

  • Cost-Efficient – With a “Pro” subscription of only 14.99/mo, the Zoom platform is hard to beat. You can easily cast friends to gather for a cold table reading (no need to cast to type) by sending them your latest draft, and then to stay afterward to discuss.
  • Convenient – Since your goal is to get the smartest people (or the most well-connected) into the room to give you feedback, you make it easy for them to participate – all you’re asking is for them to make time to listen, from the comfort of their own home.
  • Build an Audience – The convenience of Zoom gives you the ability to also invite potential investors, producers, artistic directors, and other members of the theater community to be on board with you as you develop the script. If people are interested in you or your show, they appreciate the opportunity to become part of the creative process.
  • Build a Fan Base – Similarly, online Zoom readings give you the ability to develop and then gather a group of “raving fans” to be part your audience. One of my writers did this, and now he can depend on this dedicated group of fans to regularly show up to see his show whenever he presents it. Followers count!
  • Raising Money – The knowledge of who your target audience is not only helps you to market and promote your shows, it will also help you successfully raise money – both directly and indirectly. Potential investors or donors can be sent a recording of your reading afterward.

 

Zoom Fatigue and Technical Limitations

 

After two years some Zoom fatigue has set in. “Oh please, not another Zoom reading,” some say. But try to invite producers to an in-person reading, and many still are reluctant to attend. It’s all about safety – and we need to keep each other safe.

I know, we’re all Zoomed out. We long for the way we did things in 2019, but until covid is a thing of the past (which it still isn’t in 2022) Zoom helps to keep theater alive and moving forward safely. I know some artistic directors who would prefer to listen to a Zoom reading in their car instead of having to take the time to read a script.

There are some times when you shouldn’t plan a Zoom reading.

Zoom can be decidedly NOT helpful if your script contains a lot of action. Stage directions are a poor representation of comic moments, for example. We once tried to produce a Zoom reading for a madcap comedy dependent on hilarious mishaps. It fell flat, dependent upon a reader reading stage directions instead of watching talented actors demonstrate comic timing and physical comedy. Also, the missing laughter from other audience members enjoying the moment did not give permission for others to laugh along. (Hint: always encourage the audience to react in the chat space, also some find that irritating.

Especially when developing a musical, Zoom technology doesn’t allow us to learn as much as  we need. It is famously not set up for the overlapping of voices and the underscoring of music, unless first recorded and then edited. (Note: I believe some other platforms now do this.) The musical experience is limited in a zoom reading. Even if you play a demo track, what does your audience see onscreen? It’s disconcerting not to see the characters sing – and lip syncing is even worse. The best choice may be to see slides with lyrics written out, but that can be distancing for the audience. Some cannot integrate the binary experience of dialogue and inserted songs enough to feel a powerful catharsis.

For a successful Zoom reading to advance development you may need to do some extensive editing. In this competitive environment, potential producers or producing partners may request to see your best work visually before they can “see” it on stage. Professionally edited Zoom readings have become an acceptable way for busy artistic directors, investors and producers to experience a show on their device without needing to read an entire script and listen to demos, and can be a definite asset.

 

Use the Technology to Your Advantage

 

At CreateTheater I find Zoom to be an indispensable tool for development, no matter what stage a script is in. Since the writing process is often more “re-writing,” a company of theater professionals experienced in new play development is indispensable. When we trust the feedback and those giving it, the opportunity to present a Zoom reading, re-write and present again inexpensively is tremendously helpful.

Zoom isn’t going away anytime soon. The key is to make it work to your advantage.

 

 

 

The 2022 New Works Festival Awards

The 2022 New Works Festival Awards

It is quite a feat to produce an Off-Broadway play or musical; it is quite another to produce an entire festival of Off-Broadway showcases – during covid.

Yet that is exactly what we did with the first 2022 CreateTheater New Works Festival, in association with Prism Stage Company.

From April 15th to May 15th at NYC’s prestigious Theater Row (410 West 42nd Street), we showcased seven productions – six new musicals and one new play – from writers across the country who had developed their work in-house through CreateTheater’s resident writer company, The Expert’s Theater Company (ETC). The productions in the festival were Finding Madame Curie by David KurkowskiThe Golden Cage by Deborah Henson-Conant; Fire Island: The Musical by Jarlath Jones; Sewing the Dream by Judith Estrine, music by David Kurkowski; Ocean in a Teacup by Joel Krantz, lyrics by Neil Selden; Rewind: An 80s Pop Musical by Geoffrey and Sam Rose; and the play Retraction by David Z. Gutierrez.

CreateTheater’s mission has from the beginning been to help develop and produce new plays and musicals. Writers trust me with their new scripts and librettos as a dramaturg-producer. That’s a sacred trust. It’s my job to help them craft work that delivers over their intention to the audience, what they need to say in this time, in this space, through this story. Once I feel the script or libretto “works,” then it must be tested out in front of an audience – which is what we just did.

As an Off-Broadway producer I am known for a certain level of quality, which it was important for me to retain even at the festival level. If you look at the photos on the newworksfest.org website, you can see that each of these shows reflected our high production values. Most sophisticated NY audiences were surprised at what they saw onstage, which went far beyond what they’ve come to expect in a “festival” format.

“The New Works Festival on Theater Row, produced by Cate Cammarata, was an exhilarating display of new work by playwrights with new voices,” said Ed Levy, one of the festival adjudicators.  “From the exuberant 80’s rock and roll of Geoffrey and Sam Rose’s Rewind to the deep philosophical reflection of Joel Krantz’s Ocean in a Teacup, from the Golden-Age melodious, lyrical and comic numbers in the period musicals, Finding Madame Curie by David Kurkowski and Sewing the Dream by Estrine and Kurkowski, to the delightfully fanciful and innovative Golden Cage by Deborah Henson-Conant and the lively and beautifully choreographed Fire Island by Jacobs and Solla, the musicals were dramatic and joyful.  The one straight play, Retraction, by David Gutierrez was charged with electricity, incisive and provocative.  Coming after the drought of the shutdown, this festival of wonderful new works is a welcome shower of delights.”

“Cate Cammarata has established a most needed and important organization in the form of ETC,” said Neal Rubenstein, a veteran Broadway producer. “It is here that those aspiring to be part of the theater community, under the auspices of Ms. Cammarata, have been instructed, guided, and in many instances seen their respective projects produced for viewing.”

Rubenstein also found much of the new work promising. “For me, Finding Madame Curie was especially exciting. It was an enlightening story which should be performed in elementary and/or high schools. Kerry Conte & Kyle Yampiro’s voices soared!  The casting brings this musical to vocal heights.  Kudos to David Kurkowski for amazing music & lyrics that carry Marie Curie’s story forward under the deft direction of Stas Kimiec and musical direction of Larry Daggett.”

We had four adjudicators for the 2022 New Works Festival, all experienced theatre-makers. Steve Marsh is a playwright/director, and a member of the nominating committee for the 2014-2015 Drama Desk Awards. Neal Rubenstein is a five-time TONY-nominated Broadway producer and also a producing member of The Experts Theater Company (ETC). Two other writer members of ETC served as adjudicators: Ed Levy, a librettist-lyricist, and Chris Sherman, a playwright.

“CreateTheater’s New Works Festival on Theatre Row in NYC is one of the most hopeful theatrical events in recent years,” says Marsh. “It has given great opportunities for playwrights, composers, and librettists to have their works produced professionally, Off Broadway, in front of a true NYC crowd. This year’s festival was truly inspiring! I can’t wait to see more.”

“CreateTheatre, under the skillful and loving eye of Cate Cammarata, has produced a new festival that showcases a wide variety of top-notch plays and musicals,” added adjudicator-playwright Chris Sherman. “Calling it a festival does not do it justice.  I’ve never seen such professional and polished production values in any other festival, complete with full sets, period costumes, and scenic projections.   Future productions are sure to be on every producer’s must-see list.  A true Off-Broadway experience!”

It is always my producing goal to give writers something tangible to take away from a production, something that  captures the ephemeral moment of theater once it’s over. Awards are important “proofs” of excellence, preserving the momentous work of so many theatremakers that collaborate to make a production unique. Although I cannot begin to recognize all of the amazing talents and hard work that went into this project, I am proud to present these  2022 CreateTheater NWF Awards.

The 2022 CreateTheater New Works Festival Award winners are:

 

Best Actor in a Play or Musical – (tie)

  • REWIND (Jason Denton)
  • GOLDEN CAGE (Chris Isolano)

 

Best Actress in a Play or Musical

  • SEWING THE DREAM (Aubrey Matalon)

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Play or Musical

  • REWIND (Nick Bernardi)

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Play or Musical

  • SEWING THE DREAM (Catherine Ariale)

 

Best Set Design & Projections

  • REWIND (Richard Oullette, David Forsee)

 

Best Lighting Design – (tie)

  • REWIND  (Zach Pizza)
  • FINDING MADAME CURIE (Michael Cole)

 

Best Costume Design

  • SEWING THE DREAM (Debbi Hobson)

 

Best Director in a Play or Musical

  • RETRACTION (Jen Wineman)

 

Best Book of a Musical

  • REWIND (Sam Rose & Geoffrey Rose)

 

Best Musical Score- (tie)

  • REWIND (Sam Rose & Geoffrey Rose)
  • GOLDEN CAGE (Deborah Henson-Conant)

 

Best Choreography

  • REWIND (Whitney G-Bowley)

 

Best Musical – (tie)

  • REWIND (Book, Music, Lyrics by Sam Rose & Geoffrey Rose)
  • SEWING THE DREAM (Book & Lyrics by Judith Estrine, Music by David Kurkowski)

 

Best Play

  • RETRACTION (David Gutierrez)

 

Most Innovative Production

  • GOLDEN CAGE (Deborah Henson-Conant)

 

To see photos of this work and for more information, go to the Festival’s homepage at www.newworksfest.org

Want to keep up with CreateTheater as we continue to develop and produce new work? Jump on our email list here.

Why Are You in Theater?

Why Are You in Theater?

I know it’s not for the money.

So… what’s your why?

Part of the privilege of teaching theater on a college level is the constant re-evaluation of the art form as it shape-shifts through human history. For the Greeks it was an integral part of the social experiment to foster loyalty to and identify with the Athenian ethos. Likewise, part of the success of the Elizabethan theater was in response to and encouragement of the burst of patriotic spirit in England following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Throughout the twentieth century, theater was used to express the larger need for social change, to interpret and reinterpret the human conditions in which they found themselves.

Artists make art in response to the culture that surrounds them – and use it to collectively create the social change they desire.

My students often comment on how even a cursory study of theatre history helps them to understand social movements over different time periods, and what life was like “back then” for “real people.” I explain that is because theatre can be seen as a “mirror” on the human experience from one participant’s perspective of life (the playwright) as he saw it. It gives voice to a period that no longer exists.

What needs to be voiced now, at the beginning of the 21st century? What is your interpretation of the human experience?

What’s the Story Only You Can Write?

We live in some amazing times. Collectively I feel that paradigm shift is occurring in our lifetime.

Do you see it?

  • Political division in our country
  • A potential global conflict in the making
  • Little sense of the collective “we,” a loss of community spirit that unites us
  • Economic uncertainty
  • Tribal mentalities that are exclusive rather than inclusive
  • A loss of trust in our leaders and institutions
  • Shifts in attitudes regarding work and labor
  • A pervasive sense of grief for what was and is no more
  • Plus so many others – fill in your own blanks.

In every area, we are experiencing a tectonic change. A profound shift that is breaking our sense of personal continuity with “the way things are.” Referring to 2019 right now feels like a different time and place.

These feelings, both on the collective and individual level, are the 21st century artists’ canvas.

Envision Change

Artists, especially theatre artists, have always said, “Look at yourself. What do you see? Do you like it? Do you really want it to be this way?”

My dear artist friend – what is your message? How do you see life today?

Artists are cultural changemakers, people who stand up and force us to look at who we are, in hopes of creating change.

  • Henrik Ibsen saw the powerlessness of women in their own homes. His play A Doll’s House sparked the women’s movement.
  • George Bernard Shaw saw the degradation of poverty and the exploitation of the poor around him and wrote social plays that led to the improvement of social conditions everywhere.
  • Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank saw the unjust conviction of prisoners on Death Row and interviewed many who were jailed for crimes they didn’t even commit. Their Off-Broadway play The Exonerated led to the overturning of the death penalty in Illinois in 2003.

There are so many more examples that illustrate that when artists’ voices are heard, social and cultural change begins to happen.

How Are You Contributing to the Cultural Conversation?

What’s the story only YOU can write, based on where you are in the world and what you are feeling right now?

What truths do you hold to be “self-evident?” What is not being said that needs to be understood?

What will future academics teach about YOU?

CreateTheater was formed help you launch the plays that need to be told right now. Create theater that makes a difference. Write the play YOU NEED TO WRITE.

I’m looking for new plays and musicals to develop.

Follow us for more information coming soon.