2013 IS A BIG YEAR for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. It's the 25th anniversary for the venue that nourishes, promotes and produces new works for the stage by showcasing eight or nine new and original pieces in an annual two-day festival in New York City. People come from around the country to see pieces debuted for possible production in the country's regional theatre network and, who knows, maybe eventually Broadway.
ALL PLAYS are performed off-book and with no real production value. Rehearsal times are very brief. This reflects the concept to simply present the story and the music on their own. It's a great opportunity for experienced and novice creative teams alike, and the thrill for all is that these new works are performed by some of the best talent that the New York stage has to offer. It's invigoratingly exciting.
FOR ME it's a big year, too, as this is my FIFTH year of documenting the festival from rehearsals through the performances and, of course, the after-party (which, this year, will augmented by a 25th Anniv gala of medley's & hits from past shows).
THE CATCH is that while at least everyone else has a script and music to read off of, for me it's all improvisation. I have a couple of days to run from rehearsal studio to rehearsal studio while eight or nine shows are in some stage of preparation, and document the performers and creative teams as they rush to assemble the works in limited time. I never have any idea of what I'm walking into. Is it a tragic story of immigrant workers about to be trapped in a sweatshop factory fire? Is it a totally camp saga of aging super-heroes facing a mid-life crisis with modern overtones (THE PROTAGONISTS)? Or perhaps a mad-cap, uproarious update on THE THREE LITTLE PIGS? I have no idea and it's all seat-o-the-pants. Literally -- usually the only way I can get any kind of a vantage point of performers working off a book is from the floor below the music stand -- all while trying not to be TOO distracting. Naturally.
The PAYOFF is the realization of the amazing pool of talent that is present at all times during this process. To witness the skill, hard work, professionalism and inspiration so close at hand is entirely energizing and inspiring. The icing is that it's all new work happening right before my lens in the incubator that is NAMT.
HAPPY 25TH ANNIVERSARY NAMT!