Hashtags – another fun and big deal

The New York Musical Theatre Festival wants me to use their hashtag #NYMF2014 when I tweet. So of course I do. And then at our production meeting on Wednesday, our Associate Producer Mary asked me if I had thought of one for our show. I had thought of several very bad, very long hashtags. I the good sense to not use them, and wait to discuss them with other, more experienced tweeters.

So Mary came up with one: #vivaManuel . It is the perfect hashtag; easy to remember, short, fun, doesn’t give the show away but has something to do with the show.  So now I can tweet my head off about this show, and do it in style, with a unique hashtag. So be on the look out for posts that have #NYMF2014 and #vivaManuel all over them!

My brief, wonderful insurance life…

It was not brief but it was wonder-ful: I was always wondering what was going on. It took me three tries to get a quote I thought was in the ball park (for the estimate on the sample budget). First quote came back at $1,700, and my ball park was $400. Next quote rquest was rejected. So I had to get some “insurance tutoring” from NYMF staff. So patient and kind they are!

Here’s what I learned: www.NYSIF.com (New York State Insurance Fund) has really good rates. They are also cumbersome to work with – like their website only supports Internet Explorer. They warn you up front. I sat there from my Google Chrome screen and laughed, “no way, this can’t be real.” They are not kidding – there was no way for me to complete the form, so I had to start all over again. Oy.

Then I had to learn the difference between salary, stipend, and fee. I thought “money is money – I’m an artist, so any time I get paid is good.” That may be true, but on this insurance form for Workers Comp, there is a difference. My AEA actors get a stipend (that is how it is referred to in the 29 hour developmental reading contract). DQT has no employees so the salary is $0. And the Director, and musicians get fees. The Workers Comp doesn’t count stipends: lucky for me NYMF has that insurance that covers every show with every AEA actor because that is the bulk of the reading.

The problem with my first quote request was that I added all the money being paid to everyone. The problem with the second quote request was it was too much like the first, and it was rejected. The third quote was just right! (special shoutout of gratitude to D. Black, underwriter at NYSIF, for an informative phone call).

And the last thing I learned was that last season Maria Elena, the Artistic Director of DQT, did all of this for us. All by herself! It reaffirms how awesome and giving she is! And she helped me by providing all the support information I had to show NYSIF. And she provided the information fast. Really fast! So special thank you to my fellow DQT’er Maria Elena! I could not have completed this step without you.

I’m not pretending I am an expert at workers comp insurance for theatrical events, but I do know a little more now, thanks to the patience of all who answered my questions. Moral of the story – ask questions, and take notes!

 

Nothing like the dates to make it real!!

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Nothing like getting the dates to make it really real!

The dates of the developmental reading are Thursday July 10th at 4 pm and 8 pm, and Sunday July 13th at 4 pm. The reading will be at the Theatre Row Studio Theatre at 410 West 42nd Street. Tickets are free, but you do have to sign up ahead of time through http://www.nymf.org/tickets/2014-events/manuel-versus-statue-liberty.

And the auditions are coming up. I don’t have the locations yet, but I know they will be May 5th (nonAEA) and May 8th (EPAs). All actors please check BackStage and the Equity Board/Website for audition info (NYMF combined auditions). We are looking for ALL types! Especially a Manuel (character: Dominican Male, college aged)  and a Statue (character: big woman with a big voice, French accent). A comedy song would be good. We will also have some auditions/call backs later on.

 

Rewrites, and collaborators, and getting help!

statue_of_liberty_fires_lazer_by_SaturnV

 

I’ve been immersed in rewriting Act one of Manuel versus the Statue of Liberty. All the pieces were there, but they weren’t building the tension, and the story. They were wandering. So I fixed that. I clarified the big moment where Manuel challenges the Statue. All of this will make sense when you see the reading. For now, it will sound like the demented musings of a writer’s mind. That’s how we work, we writers. It’s like hearing voices in your head, and leaving the current reality for the reality you are constructing. Tuning out the real world and diving into an imaginary world. Like the “Lion. the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, except that I don’t have a cool, antique armoir to walk into for ideas.

Then back out into the practical world, where I keep asking friends for money, and fundraising support. Yeah – still time to donate to support the show (www.thedqt.org/donate/fountain-of-youth) through the internet. You can even mail in a check if you get nervous at the thought of the NSA knowing you gave money to a musical comedy about illegal immigration. Contact me for the address.

And then there is the dreaded insurance application for the show. Oy vey. I am on my third try. The first try yielded a premium 3x higher than the ball park estimate, thanks to my inexperience in filling out the forms. The second try was rejected because it was too close to the first try, and the underwriter said no to the request. The third try is a charm! I am armed with DQT’s previous insurance records, I have a better understanding of the concepts of salary, fees, and stipends (really important for the application – and silly me thought, hey, they’re getting paid, so it’s all the same…not in the wacky world of insurance). Special thanks to NYMF staff for helping me learn more about this topic.

Thank God for friends – the generosity of giving their hard earned money to support this show that takes a stand on the Dream Act, and then the friends who lend their talents and their time to help out. Special shout out to Mary McGinley who has joined us as Associate Producer! Yeah! So awesome that she is taking on some of the work in getting the word out, looking up grant information, local publicity, some fundraising.

And then there is NYMF – oh my God! I am so happy to be in this festival! Check out the great article on all the shows coming this July 2014 in the article in Playbill. The best press I’ve ever gotten! Yeah, I had to write the tag line and the marketing blurb, but NYMF gave me advice on how to do it. Look at the shows that are similar in tone to mine (like Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) and see how they describe their shows. One short cut – take a look at the “about” pages on websites of shows you’ve seen, to see how they are described in “marketing speak”. You know the show, and you see the blurb, and you can make the translation for your show.

So that’s why I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. Now off to prepare a feast for a very modern seder, and celebration of spring!

Manuel versus the Statue of Liberty – A Director !

I am happy to announce that José Zayas has joined the creative team of “Manuel versus the Statue of Liberty”!

Howard Post (Composer), myself, and José met at Repertorio Español today (where José is Artistic Director) and had a wonderful meeting where José asked some great questions that exposed places the script must be cleaned up. This is definitely shaping up to be one of the wilder, wackier musicals you may ever see.

Other good news – my anonymous donor matched the next $1,000 I raised, and then threw in an extra $500! And two colleagues donated $100 each – I was so touched by everyone’s generosity! This is great! Thank you all so much! You are part of the success! Part of the process! (if you’re reading this and you want to donate online, visit www.thedqt.org/donate/fountain-of-youth – all donations are tax deductible thanks to DQT being a 501 (c) 3 organization!)

I have some rewrites to attend to now. The first draft was fun, and was for us. The rewrites are tougher, and are for you, the audience.

Three new letters of inquiry (LOIs)

It is so easy to postpone the daunting task of creating more letters of inquiry (LOIs) for potential foundation donations. Even this blog post is sort of stalling. But in my defense I have sent out three new ones this week so far. That brings the total amount of requests up to $10,700 so far. I’m hoping to raise about $7,000 in grants for Manuel versus the Statue of Liberty. So I know that I probably have to have many more requests in, probably about $70,000 or more because of the low odds of getting a grant. Thanks to my playwriting cohorts at DQT, my LOIs are better. My fellow playwrights listened to me read the drafts out loud, and made comments, asked questions, and found that what I answered was much more interesting than my drafts. So I incorporated feedback. It’s very important to have other people preview your LOIs.

Typically, individual donations count for a huge amount of any artistic budget. You can look at statistics from places as large as Lincoln Center, or as small as DQT and my show, and it is pretty consistent. So thank you to all the individuals who have donated! I’m at the beginning of a new chapter, and you are helping me navigate it successfully!

 

Letters of Intent and other Grant applications

Why is it so hard to send out Letters of Intent (LOI) and grant applications? Why do I check the directions a hundred times, and review the letter 80 times before I send it out? Why does it take 2 hours, when I think it should only take 15 minutes?

Fear.

That’s the short answer. I am afraid of being ruled out for one little mistake. I’m afraid the recipient will flinch because the musical has some political content. I’m afraid my wording is confusing. Afraid I am too detailed, not detailed enough, boring, too inflamatory…you name it. I’m even afraid of using a comma incorrectly. Oy.

So I printed out the two letters of intent I am working on (one grantor doesn’t even give me instructions which is super-fear producing), and I read parts aloud at the last DQT meeting. My fellow playwrights listened to my spiel about the NYMF Developmental Reading Series, and the description of my show, and why this was an important step for me. Then we dove in and read what I actually wrote – which needless to say was somewhat scattered, and vague. So then they told me how I should write what I said before, because it was better, and clearer. They also helped me figure out what parts to cut out entirely.

The lesson learned – read this sort of stuff to other people who “get” what you are aiming for, but don’t know your project perfectly. Pick people who like you and are generous of heart – not bitter negative people who hate everything. Get their feedback. See what parts of your project generate smiles, eye twinkles, laughter. Put that in the LOIs and grant applications.

Ok – enough procrastinating for me. Time to do another LOI that will hopefully entice the foundation to ask for a full application.

What is your experience in applying for grants like?Main Entrance

Anonymous Matching Donor!!

OMG! OMG! OMG!
A good friend of mine is taking a big leap of faith in me and the developmental reading of “Manuel versus the Statue of Liberty” at the NYMF – and has promised to match all new donations, up to $1,000!! I can’t believe it!! This is awesome!! Why is it awesome you may ask? Why so many exclamation points so far?

This is why it is AWESOME!:

Many generous friends and family have already donated and gotten me close to the $1,000 mark. I just did the budget estimate for the developmental reading series and it is close to $12,000 if we use all union actors (I really do believe in equal pay for equal work, and want to give talented non-union actors what they deserve. I also want to give non-talented actors what they deserve but that’s another story for another post). The reading will have a small pit band providing a fuller version of the music, plus all the actors at music stands, doing the whole script, singing and acting. No costumes, no choreography, no special effects. Just people. Like the “radio version” of the musical. This is a great step in a musical’s development – you see if the skeleton of the piece, the words and the music and the story, all hang together. If they do, then you can start to add all the beautiful ornamentation. If not, then you fix it.

Back to AWESOME – if I get new donations, this amazing anonymous donor will match it all up to $1,000. Those of you skilled in math will realize the total at the end of this will $3,000 which is about 25% of the budget for the reading. Yeah!! This could be great!

So please join the Awesomeness-fest and double your contribution! I am so grateful to all of you who are necessary pieces in this vast puzzle!

Donation link (thank you thank you thank you!)

And of course, I must leave you with a song. This is musical theatre after all.

“Fortune Favors the Brave” sung by Manuel early in the show. And indeed – fortune does favor the brave, so go out there and be brave! Support stuff you care about!

Developmental Reading at NYMF – “Manuel” is in!

statue of lib - sunsetThis has been an amazing holiday season. I got word that our musical “Manuel versus the Statue of Liberty” was a Next Link Finalist at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (www.nymf.org). I just now heard I will be working with Dramaturg Mary Kate at the NYMF, and our show is going to be part of the developmental reading series. This is fantastic! This is just what the show needs! Some gentle, expert dramaturgical guidance! We did not get a Next Link Grant, and that is ok with me. Sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself and say “I am not ready to skip a grade/step in the process.” So this is the year that “Manuel” gets catapulted into the major leagues – and us with him…we are going to create the most kick-ass, fun, patriotic, touching musical comedy about illegal immigration the world has ever seen!!! And then in July 2014, you all get to come and hear it for FREE! And I predict in July 2015 you will come and see it for cheap (tix about $25 each) in the festival, and it will knock everyone’s socks off! And people will be humming ‘my name is mother of exiles’ in the streets. Here’s the track so you can start practicing!

I am super grateful to my friends and family who have generously donated to support this show – it takes a village to put on a musical, and I live in a really generous, inspiring village. One dear childhood friend made a big donation, she really upped the ante, and that brought my total fundraising close to $1,000. Everyone who gave me money is getting thanked in the program – every single person – even my nephew who gave me a nickel.

Thank you all! Thank you thank you thank you!! (Thank you) x 108!

If you want to donate, you can do so here.

Blessings –

N.