We are the Believers: A New Works Program Transition

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By Bill Berry, Producing Artistic Director

At some point, every musical ever was simply this: an idea. Every musical began its journey as a few words on paper, poured from the hearts and souls of its creators with the support of a few critical individuals who believed in that story enough to help bring it to life.

We are the believers.

At The 5th Avenue Theatre, we believe that no other art form has the full-on visceral power to sweep audiences up and away like a great musical does. And from the page to the stage, no one creates that magical journey like we do.  We are a driving force in developing new musicals that push artistic boundaries and tell new stories that audiences want to hear. And through our New Works program, we invest in new ideas, new stories—connecting writers with actors, directors, time, space and a safe environment to flourish.

You are the believers, too. Over the years, our community has shown us time and again that they passionately embrace the new, the innovative, the cutting edge in everything they do, whether technology or musical theater. This has made Seattle a cultural hub in our nation’s theatrical landscape and established The 5th Avenue Theatre as the place where great musicals are born.

In fact, we recently played midwife to seven new musicals at NextFest, The 5th Avenue Theatre’s annual new works festival. For three incredible weeks, our rehearsal halls were alive and humming with writers, directors, musicians, actors and stage managers immersed in the thrills of collaborative creation.

NextFest was born as an opportunity to celebrate the passion and creativity it requires to bring a new musical to life. It was born as an opportunity to showcase the incredible work that we support and participate in all year. This year’s festival, in particular, was an opportunity for several local musical theater writers to see and present stories that have been in development for the better part of two years.  Some have written musicals before, some are just beginning to test these waters.

We are the believers.

We believe in giving opportunities to new musicals and new writers. We believe that art can only be truly authentic when it accurately and meaningfully represents the breadth and depth of the human experience. We believe that everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s voice is worth hearing.

That’s why NextFest is evolving into something new. First Draft: Raise Your Voice will support the creation of diverse musical theater, rich with the unique perspectives of often marginalized writers.

The inaugural cycle of First Draft (now accepting submissions) will focus on womxn (women and female-identifying) writing teams.  Each year, a new cycle begins with a focus on inviting and nurturing writing teams representing a specific community or identity.

And the process begins simply, as all musicals do, with an idea.

We are currently accepting submissions nationwide.  A writer need only submit a short bio and a brief description of the concept for her show. We plan to select 10-15 teams from the submissions that will be invited to Seattle for a week-long Story Summit. During the Summit, each team will work with musical theater industry leaders to develop their concept into a “pitch,” inclusive of a story outline and two songs. At the end of the Summit, these pitches are presented to a panel of established theater artists, theater producers and regional theater artistic directors. The panel will select 3-5 teams they recommend to The 5th for a “First Draft Commission.”

The 5th will work with each commissioned team over the following year to develop the first draft of a script and score. At the end of the year-long process, The 5th Avenue Theatre will produce a reading of each of the projects in a setting accessible to producers and industry leaders at the local and national level, indicating the completion of the cycle.

We are the believers.

We believe the art form of musical theater cannot remain a living breathing growing entity when it does not fully reflect the diversity and vitality of the human experience. We believe that, as one of the leaders in our industry, it is our responsibility to give voice to those who have been voiceless and to champion those who have struggled to make themselves heard. We believe that in order to make a difference in the way stories are told, we need to change the way opportunities are given to those who tell them.

You are the believers, too. And we thank you for believing in this journey.

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