The workshop was founded in 2010 with three objectives. Firstly, to develop and foster craft skills specific to musical theatre for emerging practitioners. Secondly, to generate a broader, more involved collaborative community of and for those practitioners. Thirdly, to be led by a professional (rather than an academic) ethos. The individual workshops offer weekly forums for practitioners to use and expand their skills through group discussion and feedback over an extended period. They are not so much 'how to' sessions but rather laboratories where all participants can feel safe to test and re-test work. They currently run for 32 weeks per year, split between Spring and Autumn terms. In 2011, the programme won a ‘New Writing Encouragement’ award from the theatre committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty are the Patrons for BML.
‘BOOK Music & Lyrics' currently consists of three separate but inter-related workshops.
FIRST YEAR COMPOSER/ LYRICIST WORKSHOP
A workshop to develop and nurture craft in the writing of songs, specifically for musical theatre. What individual songs must accomplish dramatically in the story-telling of the show, and the practical and technical needs of performers in doing this, is discussed and explored. The entire first year consists of assignments to write various types of theatre songs, all of which are presented in the workshop. Both the facilitators and the group members give and receive constructive feedback in the sessions and this is then used to inform rewrites and further development. Through the course, participants are expected to work with different collaborators on each assignment. The year’s work culminates in the writing of 10-minute musicals in collaboration with members of the librettist workshop. The aim is for the practitioner to complete the year with a broader set of techniques and skills with which to approach future projects. It is possible to apply as a composer or a lyricist or both.
SECOND YEAR COMPOSER/ LYRICIST WORKSHOP
Members of the former first year group, having paired themselves into teams (or working alone, at the discretion of the facilitators), return to spend the year working on a single project of their choice. The focus is on the challenges of building an entire score. How is such a score shaped in terms of balancing the dramatic needs of the show, different song types, and the needs of different characters? How do the practitioners develop a musical voice that is at once uniquely their own but also serves the individual project? When specific problems arise, do the practitioners have the skills to identify and find creative answers for them? At the end of the year, each team is expected to present a section of their piece in a showcase, arranged by the workshop. The focus is on skill development and creating a professionally useful folio of songs rather than the creation of entire produceable projects.
This workshop is made up of both new and more experienced members. New participants in their first term begin by focusing on the building blocks for strong story development and the dissection of ‘classic’ musical books, followed by assignments to practice basic tenets of craft. From there, members are encouraged to initiate and develop their own projects, always beginning with a one-page pitch. Is this a good, strong idea? Has an audience (no matter how small or big) been considered? Then, the project is developed through treatment, outline, and on to a full script. All participants also work during the course of the year on two projects with the first year composers and lyricists, to build interaction and collaboration between the groups.
‘BOOK Music & Lyrics’ has three further workshop programmes in the planning stages. With the addition of these BML's long-term agenda will be complete.
ADVANCED COMPOSER/ LYRICIST WORKSHOP
Participants who have successfully completed the first two years of the programme will be invited to an advance workshop, where they can develop their own work and projects at their own pace, still in a safe place, receiving feedback from their trusted peer group and facilitators. This will be introduced in 2013.
CHOREOGRAPHY WORKSHOP FOR MUSICAL THEATRE
Currently, there is no home for emerging practitioners to develop their choreographic, dramatic story-telling skills specifically for musical theatre in a safe, experimental environment. This is, again, planned as an ongoing weekly workshop where assignments will be executed and feedback given both by other participants and facilitators. This is planned for the Spring of 2013, working in partnership with The MTA throughout their term. Six choreographers will be chosen to participate. Again, we aim to foster strong collaborative ties with the other workshops as well.
DIRECTING WORKSHOP FOR MUSICAL THEATRE
Traditionally, directors are the lynchpins of musical collaborative teams; but they, too, need the opportunity develop their specific craft skills. How are book scenes and musical scenes staged and integrated into a strong whole? How are directors to lead collaborative teams to a single dramatic vision effectively? This workshop is currently in the early planning stages.