Fostering and Supporting New Works with NextFest


This past October, The 5th presented NextFest, its second annual Festival for New Works. Eleven new projects were introduced during the three week festival, at varying levels of evolution, from cold table reads and writing intensives to week-long workshops complete with writers, actors and creative members working together to revise and improve new musicals.

Richard Andriessen, Andrew Russell and Marya Sea Kaminski working on The Rumble Within.

Three of the works at NextFest (The Long Game, The Rumble Within and Anybody Can Do Anything) emerged from another new works initiative, our inaugural Seattle Writers Group, which is a two-year program providing six writers the opportunity to attend bi-weekly meetings to share and discuss their work in progress.

Some photos from Week 1 of NextFest.

NextFest also featured a writing intensive and table read of a new commission for The 5th’s education program, Adventure Musical Theater Touring Company (AMT). Free Boy, based on the book by Seattle historians Lorraine McConaghy and Judy Bentley, tells the true story of Charles Mitchell’s harrowing escape from Washington Territory in 1860 through the Canadian Underground Railroad. In a more immediate sense, the work completed on Free Boy during NextFest will be seen in spring 2017 when it is performed by AMT in elementary and middle schools throughout Washington State.

Planning and organizing while working on new musicals sometimes takes up an entire wall.

“The 5th is committed to making sure that future generations will be able to enjoy relevant and compelling musical theater,” said Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry. “This year’s festival celebrates the richness and breadth of storytelling that is possible in musical theater.” For The 5th, the development and initial support of new works is just as important as the end product. Without the support and freedom to fully investigate and intensively examine these new works throughout the entirety of the creation process, they would never progress to the point of being ready to present on a stage.

Our inaugural cohort of the 10-Minute Musical Project.

It’s also imperative to engage and instruct the next generation of writers and artists in all stages of musical development, which is why The 5th was proud to present the result of the inaugural 10-Minute Musical Project, a new education program. Designed for students ages 14 to 19, the program aims to empower local teens and support their future achievement by introducing them to the crafts and skills associated with songwriting, book writing, directing and the workshop process. Students participated as book writers, composers, lyricists, directors, music directors, stage managers, actors, marketing administrators and photographers/videographers. Following several months of work during the summer, these students culminated their program with a presentation of four original works at NextFest. To read more about the 10-Minute Musical Project, please visit:

All of the cast and creative team members who worked on The Crazy Ones, one of the new works presented at NextFest.

NextFest is not currently open to the general public. Festival passes are a benefit of an Artist’s Circle Membership, offering access to behind-the-scenes interviews with writers, sneak peeks, special concerts, cocktail events and panels. To learn more about Membership before next year’s NextFest, please contact Development at (206) 625-1418.

To learn more about these and other musicals, please visit:

Rising Star Project Orientation: Students From Across the State Gather!

In early December, the 2016/17 Rising Star Project cohort came together for the first time. This orientation was a chance for the teens to meet and to begin learning what it takes to put up a musical at The 5th. This year’s cohort will include over 90 students who will be mentored by 5th Avenue staff and who will also mount an all-teen production of The Pajama Game on our stage in March 2017 (after the professional production closes).

This year’s Rising Star Project brings students together from as far away as Yakima and Marysville and as near as Rainier Valley and West Seattle.


Orientation included a tour of the historic venue where the students will be working and learning in the coming months.


In addition to helping the students create theater, the Rising Star Project also aims to create future leaders and a stronger theater community.  The students spent most of the day learning about each other.  Post-Its became a primary vehicle for dialogue and collaboration!



In a cohort of close to a hundred students, participants also found opportunities to connect in smaller teams. Each team had some fun creating their own team identities and brainstorming ways to support each other and the rest of their peers in the coming months.

Since 2012, the Rising Star Project has used the resources and professional knowledge that exist at The 5th Avenue Theatre to help young people achieve a fulfilling career, a stronger sense of self and confidence in their ability to inspire positive change in the world.  With one-on-one mentorship, local teens take on all the roles of putting on a full scale musical production—from director to technical crew to hair and wardrobe, to cast and orchestra. This year’s program will culminate in four performances of The Pajama Game on March 16-18.

Rising Star Project also encompasses in-class residencies, leadership workshops, and this season, introduced the 10-Minute Musicals Project and the Empowering Young Artists Initiative, intensive musical theater training for emerging performers.

Rising Star Project is made possible by a generous grant from The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation and with additional support from The Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Charitable Foundation, Susie and Phil Stoller, The Boeing Company, Washington State Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, GM Nameplate, Jean K. Lafromboise Foundation, Seattle Rotary Service Foundation, DCG One (in-kind) and Promotion Arts (in-kind).

Click here for more information about Rising Star Project, and our other Education programs.

The 10-Minute Musical Project: THE RECAP!

By ORLANDO MORALES, Director of Rising Star Project and Internships

This fall marked the premiere of the 10-Minute Musical Project, The 5th’s newest education initiative focused on empowering Washington state students (ages 14-19) and supporting their future achievement by introducing them to the process of writing, workshopping and presenting brand new musicals.


This year involved 34 students presenting four original 10-minute musicals. Above, students rehearse Meant to Be, a new musical which explored the themes of high school romance and fire-breathing monsters.


Students were involved in a three-week workshop and rehearsal process that culminated in a presentation on October 15, during The 5th’s NextFest: A Festival of New Musicals. Above, students rehearse Superficial, a new musical which reexamined the roles of heroes and villains and the trials of being stuck on a hero’s journey.


This year’s cohort included three student directors…


…three student music directors…


…and three student stage managers.


A stadium full of screaming fans is hypnotized by the title character in KazooMan!


A focused and dedicated team of 15 student actors brought the original work of their peers to life—dealing with evolving scripts and characters until the day of the presentation. Above: The cast of The Tragic Truths.


The 10-Minute Musical Project bookwriters, composers and lyricist began meeting and developing their original ideas in June.


This year’s cohort brought together a group of students representing 23 local schools as far away as Marysville-Pilchuck High School and as close as Rainier Beach High School.


A final bow with NextFest creators Buzz and Beth Porter!

Read this post on the process and development the students in the project went through before the presentation phase.

To find out more about the 10-Minute Musical Project, visit our website.

The 10-Minute Musical Project

By ORLANDO MORALES, Director of Rising Star Project and Internships

Eight high school students and two adult mentors are seated around a large table in The 5th Avenue’s Rehearsal Studio B. Everyone has a freshly photocopied script in hand. Old scripts and well-worn notepads are strewn across the table. Otherwise, the fluorescentlylit studio is an unassuming space, furnished with some chairs, a large folding table and an upright piano waiting in the corner. Yet the room transforms as the students begin to read from the draft of a recently written scene.

Continue reading “The 10-Minute Musical Project”

Teen Writers Take Charge as 10-Minute Musical Project Takes Off

For the past month, the inaugural class of The 5th Avenue’s 10-Minute Musical Project has been meeting at the theater to learn the ins and outs of creating original musicals.  Though the musicals that they have been tasked with writing will only be about as long as an NFL halftime, the process is still intense.  Luckily they’ve found help and mentorship along the way from local theater artists including Malika Oyetimein, Brendan Milburn, and Makaela Pollock.

Continue reading “Teen Writers Take Charge as 10-Minute Musical Project Takes Off”