New Musicals Workshop

Caitlin Husted

Sitting on stage, senior musical theater major Shayla Rogers waited her turn to perform. She smiled while watching her classmates perform the songs and scenes they so painstakingly worked on during the last three weeks.

When her turn approached, Rogers took her place at center stage and began. As she performed her songs and scenes, she could feel her excitement building. These pieces, these musicals that she had been a part of during the New Musicals Workshop were by people who started out just like her: a student at Millikin University. As she recited the words, Rogers was humbled by the thoughts that this was the first time some of these had been performed.

Hours of hard work, dedication, and of course some fun were put into the development of these new musicals, and now, they were finally able to see the results. As Rogers finished, a wide smile spread across her face, and she knew she had just been a part of something unlike any other.

Rogers isn’t the only one. Senior musical theater major Kristin Brintnall had a similar experience.

When asked why she decided to attend she said, “I wanted to have a hand in creating something new. The new musicals I had an opportunity to work on this year had never been staged before, so the idea of planting seeds and beginning to bring a new world to life on stage was very intriguing to me.”

Brintnall had hear of the New Musicals Workshop her sophomore year when she went to the staged reading of “The Legend of New York,” a piece worked on at that time.

This year, the workshop consisted of the musicals “The White Rose” – by Derek Hassler and Landon Braverman – and “Pirandello” – by Joshua Streeter and Ryan Laney –and the play “The Stage with Blood” – by Ryan Kragie. Three of the writers, Hassler (’10), Streeter (’06) and Kragie (’11), all attended Millikin during their undergrad.

The students involved in the immersion worked closely with the writers and Millikin professors Lori Bales and Kevin Long in order to workshop the up-and-coming musicals by these writers. This opportunity allows the chance for the writers to gain feedback on their work and see it begin to take form on stage. Not only that, but it allows the students involved with a unique experience as well.

Junior musical theater major Meghan Bryan was intrigued by the concept of working on new musicals after seeing Millikin’s performance of “String” by Adam Gwon in 2013. She quickly fell in love with the show and decided to participate in the immersion this year after finding out that “String” was worked shopped in the New Musicals Workshops in years past.

“The idea of collaborating with up and coming writers on new works seemed very appealing,” Bryan said. “I knew that this immersion would be so much different than any other show(s) I had ever worked on.”

In past workshops, Millikin worked with one show for two weeks. However, this year they decided to work on three shows for three weeks, which resulted in very long hours. But for every minute of hard work and dedication, a moment of lighthearted fun followed.

According to Brintnall, there was a night where they ran through their staged reading of “The White Rose.” It had been a really long day of rehearsals, and most were exhausted. Before being able to call it a night, they had to run through the first two songs of “The White Rose” again. Exhausted, but determined to give it their all, students mustered their energy and went back on stage to a pleasant surprise.

“I don’t know what happened, but we all just got a giant surge of slap-happy energy,” Brintnall said. “When we ran through the songs, we all just began jumping up and down, whipping our heads back and forth, and rocking out with each other. It was just such a great moment, and I think we all realized that no matter how tired we were, we loved the fact that we got to do this.”

For those involved, this New Musicals Workshop was an experience like no other. It gave students the opportunity to work on pieces still under development and allowed writers to see their work on stage, sometimes for the first time.

Bryan said, “Being in this immersion was so fun, but unbelievably exhausting…. It’s so important to just put everything out there and not be afraid to look stupid. The entire immersion is a learning process for everyone involved, so everyone is going to look silly.”

Rogers, Brintnall and Bryan all encourage students to take advantage of such an opportunity and keep their eyes out for next winter’s New Musicals Workshop.