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New Works: Musicals vs. Plays

September 4, 2012

I’ve worked almost exclusively on New Plays, I’m used to having the playwright in the rehearsal room and the dynamic that goes with it.  This summer I worked on my first new musical. And boy was it different!

With a new play comes constant changes to the script. This involves creating an updated schedule to allow for read-throughs, blocking, actor memorization, and deal with any new props or set pieces the rewrite requires.  My guideline for this situation is 15 minutes rehearsal time per added/changed page in the script.

When you get new pages/song in a musical, you must not only account in the updated schedule for read-throughs, blocking, actor memorization, any new props or set pieces the rewrite requires… But also for orchestrations to be written to cover new dialogue or harmonies for a new song, the choreographer must then work with the actors/dancers after the music is taught by the Musical Director and Composer.  Having finally lived the new musical rehearsal process, I would allow a minimum of an hour and a half for a new song, and 45 minutes for a new dialogue scene.

New Plays and Musicals are very different beasts to conquer.  Because of the added elements of music and choreography in a musical, it just takes longer to deal with changes.  Stage Managers be aware when working on a new musical, your cutoff for script changes must be early enough to allow for all departments to adjust to rewrites as necessary without rushing the creative process.  My favorite part of working on any new work is how every  position approaches a script very differently and how questions posed from each department help shape the script in unique ways.  What’s your favorite part of working on a World Premiere?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    September 4, 2012 4:38 pm

    This is definitely something I want to get more into!

    Last February, my department did a world premiere and we brought the playwright in for the last week of rehearsals/first week of shows (I’m assuming that he had approval of the concept design and such but as I didn’t work on that show, I can’t say for sure).

    I think the process for a new show and how much involvement that the playwright has depends on what point it’s at in the development: a read-through, for example, is a one-time deal and after the show, it goes back into the playwright’s hands but after a premiere (unless it is drastically changed) I’d saw the playwright’s work is done except for getting it produced more.


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