British musical theatre is to receive a major boost with the launch of a new partnership between Theatre Royal Stratford East and New Musical Development Collective (NMDC), an organisation set up to develop homegrown musicals and genre artists.
Joining forces with the prestigious London venue, NMDC will launch its inaugural Musical Theatre Lab (MT-Lab) on 7 March and will be in residence at Theatre Royal Stratford East for a full year, culminating with a public sharing of work on 9 March 2018.
Founded and run by Sevan Tavoukdjian, Adam Lenson and Aaron Rogers, NMDC’s stated aims are to foster and develop new contemporary British musicals.
The residency at Stratford East is planned as the first in a series of annual partnerships with organisations that have an interest in new musical theatre, allowing companies to utilise their expertise to support the development of new musicals and nurture the talents of composers, songwriters., lyricists and playwrights from all backgrounds.
The MT-Lab writers will receive: a £1,000 stipend; year-long dramaturgy and development; industry and skills masterclasses and workshops; a work-in-progress sharing at The Other Palace; an excerpt sharing at Theatre Royal Stratford East; a 12-month membership to Mercury Musical Developments; free tickets to Theatre Royal Stratford East productions; and access to hot desks and rehearsal rooms.
The inaugural 2017 NMDC MT-Lab writers, chosen from an open call for applications, will include Zara McFarlane, Amber Hsu, Stu Barter, Firdos Ali, Nikki Burnhope, Shireen Mula, Joe Von Malachowski, and David Austin Grey.
As part of its residency at Theatre Royal Stratford East, NMDC will be producing two EMERGE concerts, showcasing the talent of new/emerging acting and writing talent, as well a ‘Think Tank Roundtable’ series focusing on diversity in British musical theatre.
Commenting on the project, Theatre Royal Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael said:
“Musical theatre is a key priority for Theatre Royal Stratford East, being an art form that has the power to bridge gaps across cultures and develop new audiences. We are excited to support and mentor the New Musical Development Collective with our shared vision to break new ground with British musicals. As an organisation that has always had musical theatre development as its core, we are excited to share our knowledge and expertise with the NMDC as they respond with us to the rallying call for new British musicals.”
Tavoukdjian, NMDC co-founder, said: “What started as an idea in the back of my head a year ago, has grown into something I didn’t think possible. I was lucky to meet Adam and Aaron who then agreed to jump on board with me. I feel we’ve created something really special. I couldn’t be more thrilled that Theatre Royal Stratford East agreed to be our first host organisation. They have much to teach us and we’re ready to learn. We hope to play a part in the growing wave of new British musicals in the UK.”
Lenson, NMDC co-founder, added: “I am thrilled to be working with a group of artists from such diverse creative practices and am looking forward to forming a unified collective that can debate, argue and learn together and who can form challenging, innovative and well-crafted new British musicals. As artists, we saw the gaps and the needs and wanted to respond to them in a way that supported the artists and the industry.”
Rogers, NMDC co-founder, concluded: “With the incredible support of the Arts Council England we are able to offer a creative working environment for these eight writers. Theatre Royal Stratford East as our host theatre and MTN, MMD and The Other Palace as our supporters, gives us the ability to support our artists as they write four brand new British musicals. Our sole aim as a company is to offer platforms where we hope to encourage writers to be bold and brave with their storytelling.”
The NMDC is supported by Arts Council England, Mercury Musical Developments, Musical Theatre Network and The Other Palace and will be mentored and supported by Theatre Royal Stratford East during its year-long residency.