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_________"Stories 1.0"__________
   
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A Revolutionary Conception in the Stage Musical

Early History

The Ten-Minute Musicals Project was born out of a one-shot effort made by Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival in the late 1980’s. Mr Papp and his resident director Wilford Leach recognized the success of Actors Theater of Louisville’s annual ten-minute play competition in enticing writers to take a stab at creating plays for the stage, and wondered if new musical theater creators couldn’t also be incubated through a similar such call for short musicals. They were seeking to create full-length shows, however—the short was presumably to be either a pilot or a demonstration of what might be accomplished in a longer effort. The National Endowment for the Arts shot them a quick $25,000 to finance the notion, and a somewhat ill-organized search was initiated. Around sixty-five submissions were received.

Reportedly, the only piece submitted to the NYSF which they felt strong enough to warrant any further work was a “seventeen-minute, five-character cabaret piece” called The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Rupert Holmes. As anyone familiar with American musical theater history knows, this did indeed become a very successful full-length Broadway show. But everything else submitted simply started to gather dust in the NYSF literary department; they really had no idea at all what to do with any of it, and so the idea effectively atrophied.

Serious Interest from the Other Coast

Meanwhile, working in West Hollywood, director Michael Koppy was intrigued by the intrinsic merits of the form. He produced and directed stage musicals, as well as concerts and other events. One of those other shows he annually presented in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles were screenings of the year’s Clio Award winning television commercials. While 99.9% percent of all television commercials are absolute crap, the best work in the medium can in fact be quite compelling and charged. And in those rare top-of-the-line creative efforts, economy and efficiency are achieved to such degree that whole experiences, indeed whole stories, can be conveyed in just thirty or sixty seconds—still having room for the requisite mundane product shot at the end.

Could not the stage musical also allow for such elegance and economy? After all, and of necessity, characterizations in musical theater—like those in commercials—tend to be less faceted than in straight drama. The digital age—and the pace and sophistication of contemporary life in general—have enabled us all to share in a “dramatic shorthand” that wasn’t ubiquitously available to previous generations.

The Annual Competition Begins

Working in loose affiliation with the Public Theater, Mr Koppy created The Ten-Minute Musicals Project, announcing an open call for submissions which was publicized around the English-speaking world. Over 150 works were received in that first round. This included just about everything that had been previously sent to the New York Shakespeare Festival, which had retained no rights in the material. By then the Public Theater was in profound disorganization and disarray, Mr Leach having died and Mr Papp fatally ill as well, and so it was agreed that Mr Koppy would continue without the burden of association with the then-floundering Public.

First-Ever Short Musicals Workshop

To “plant the flag,” Mr. Koppy directed a one-month workshop production in San Francisco of six of the works submitted. Using non-Equity, university, and community theater performers, the workshop was nonetheless opened to the public and the press, to establish whether the nascent idea of an evening of complete individual short musicals merited further exploration. The reception could not have been more welcoming and enthusiastic. While individual critics and audience members debated and compared likes and dislikes among the pieces presented, the overwhelming majority agreed the evening itself truly worked, even in this very rough and sketchy frame.

Enthusiasm Builds

Subsequent workshops in Nashville, New York, and Miami further developed the first “product” of The Ten-Minute Musicals Project, a full-length show comprised of 12 complete short musicals, or “segments,” entitled Stories 1.0. Via the annual international competition sponsored by The Ten-Minute Musicals Project, intriguing new works of creative musical theater arrive and are investigated each year. A loose “research team” of musical theater, musical film and television musical historians and critics also helps to ferret out lost, long-forgotten efforts that fit into the project. As of October, 2014, twenty works have been selected for inclusion and development in the program.

                                                  The Ten-Minute Musicals Project    PO Box 461194    West Hollywood, CA 90046  USA      Email us