musical theatre writers' resource center NEWSLETTER


UPCOMING CONTEST DEADLINES

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INSIDER TIPS AND ADVICE


July 7, 2024     How to Get NO Feedback from Elise: Vlog 82 – How is this Musical Different from All Other Musicals? Part 3 – The Idea by Erik Bork.

July 7, 2024     How to Get NO Feedback from Elise: Vlog 81 – How is this Musical Different from All Other Musicals? Part 2 – Dramatic by Chris Huntley.

May 1, 2024     How to Get NO Feedback from Elise: Vlog 80 – How is this Musical Different from All Other Musicals? (a 4-part series).

April 1, 2024     How to Get NO Feedback from Elise: Vlog 79 – The moment BEFORE and AFTER the Song

April 1, 2024     How to Get NO Feedback from Elise: Vlog 78 – ACTIVATING THE “ENSEMBLE” SONG

*** Visit the INSIDER TIPS page to see the full listing of insider tips and advice videos. ***

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SAMPLE PUBLIC DOMAIN IDEAS


The Lancer’s Wife

by Guy de Maupassant

EXCERPT:

It was after Bourbaki’s defeat in the east of France. The army, broken up, decimated, and worn out, had been obliged to retreat into Switzerland after that terrible campaign, and it was only its short duration that saved a hundred and fifty thousand men from certain death. Hunger, the terrible cold, forced marches in the snow without boots, over bad mountain roads, had caused us ‘francs-tireurs’, especially, the greatest suffering, for we were without tents, and almost without food, always in the van when we were marching toward Belfort, and in the rear when returning by the Jura. Of our little band that had numbered twelve hundred men on the first of January, there remained only twenty-two pale, thin, ragged wretches, when we at length succeeded in reaching Swiss territory.


The Donkey

by Guy de Maupassant

EXCERPT:

There was not a breath of air stirring; a heavy mist was lying over the river. It was like a layer of cotton placed on the water. The banks themselves were indistinct, hidden behind strange fogs. But day was breaking and the hill was becoming visible. In the dawning light of day the plaster houses began to appear like white spots. Cocks were crowing in the barnyard.

On the other side of the river, hidden behind the fogs, just opposite Frette, a slight noise from time to time broke the dead silence of the quiet morning. At times it was an indistinct plashing, like the cautious advance of a boat, then again a sharp noise like the rattle of an oar and then the sound of something dropping in the water. Then silence.


The Travelling Man

by Lady Gregory

EXCERPT:

Mother: (Taking up the jug and throwing the branch on the floor.) Get out of this! Get out of this I tell you! There is no shelter here for the like of you! Look at that mud on the floor! You are not fit to come into the house of any decent respectable person!

(The room begins to darken.)

Travelling Man: Indeed, I am more used to the roads than to the shelter of houses. It is often I have spent the night on the bare hills.

Mother: No wonder in that! (She begins to sweep floor.) Go out of this now to whatever company you are best used to, whatever they are. The worst of people it is likely they are, thieves and drunkards and shameless women.

Travelling Man: Maybe so. Drunkards and thieves and shameless women, stones that have fallen, that are trodden under foot, bodies that are spoiled with sores, bodies that are worn with fasting, minds that are broken with much sinning, the poor, the mad, the bad….

Mother: Get out with you! Go back to your friends, I say!


Patience

by W.S. Gilbert

EXCERPT:

The story of the opera tells of the struggle for supremacy over female hearts between an æsthetic (Bunthorne) and an idyllic poet (Grosvenor). In the opening scene lovesick maidens in clinging gowns, playing mandolins, sing plaintively of their love for Bunthorne. Patience, a healthy milkmaid, comes upon the scene, and makes fun of them, and asks them why they sit and sob and sigh. She announces to them that the Dragoon Guards will soon arrive, but although they doted upon Dragoons the year before they spurn them now and go to the door of Bunthorne to carol to him. The Guards duly arrive, and are hardly settled down when Bunthorne passes by in the act of composing a poem, followed by the twenty lovesick maidens. After finishing his poem he reads it to them, and they go off together, without paying any attention to the Dragoons, who declare they have been insulted and leave in a rage. Bunthorne, when alone, confesses to himself he is a sham, and at the close of his confession Patience comes in. He at once makes love to her, but only frightens her. She then confers with Lady Angela, who explains love to her, and tells her it is her duty to love some one. Patience declares she will not go to bed until she has fallen in love with some one, when Grosvenor, the idyllic poet and “apostle of simplicity,” enters. He and Patience had been playmates in early childhood, and she promptly falls in love with him, though he is indifferent. In the closing scene Bunthorne, twined with garlands, is led in by the maidens, and puts himself up as a prize in a lottery; but the drawing is interrupted by Patience, who snatches away the papers and offers herself as a bride to Bunthorne, who promptly accepts her. The maidens then make advances to the Dragoons, but when Grosvenor appears they all declare their love for him. Bunthorne recognizes him as a dangerous rival, and threatens “he shall meet a hideous doom.”

COMMENTS:

The object of Gilbert’s satire here, the Aesthetic Poet, seems difficult to modernize.  (Perhaps the self-inflated social media influencer?)  And without the satire, the actual plot doesn’t add up to much.

 

A word of caution: This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation. You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


Jean Monette

by Eugene Francois Vidocq

EXCERPT:

After the lapse of half an hour they were let in, when we ascended after them, and the inspector, having a duplicate key, we let ourselves gently in, standing in the passage, so as to prevent our being seen; in a few minutes we heard a loud shriek from Emma, and old Monette’s voice most vociferously crying “Murder!” and “Thieves!” On entering the rooms, we perceived that the poor girl was lying on the ground, while one of the men was endeavoring to stifle her cries by either gagging or suffocating her, though in the way he was doing it, the latter would have soon been the case.

The old man had been dragged from his bed, and Despreau stood over him with a knife, swearing that unless he showed him the place where his money and valuables were deposited, it should be the last hour of his existence.

Despreau, on seeing us, seemed inclined to make a most desperate resistance, but not being seconded by his associates, submitted to be pinioned, expressing his regret that we had not come half an hour later, when we might have been saved the trouble.

COMMENTS:

A rich geezer doubts the intentions of the dubious suitor of his only child, and goes to some lengths to expose him. The meandering events of this story have seen their day; there’s not enough plot to drive a theatre piece. On the other hand, the final sequence is fairly thrilling and packed with action, and makes you long for it to be part of a different story altogether. Perhaps that portion could be salvaged?


*** Visit the PUBLIC DOMAIN IDEAS to see the complete stories ***


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As a Musical Theatre Writers’ Resource Center subscriber, you receive this newsletter once a month.

In it, you will find a listing of videos with insiders tips and advice; a listing of upcoming contest deadlines; links to our newest featured video releases; listings for new Writer Bank Members who have joined recently; some sample public domain ideas from our library; and some fun samplings of pictures, lyrics, and musical theatre historical trivia.

Make sure to visit the RESOURCE CENTER online to see complete listings; as well as listings of theatre companies, useful links, and links to online musical theatre videos.

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The marquee of the Casino Theatre, with “Havana” on the marquee. 39th Street and Broadway. 1909. Photograph by Arthur Vitols. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York.


With you I could learn to,
With you on a new day,
But who can I turn to
If you turn away?

--Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

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MUSICAL THEATRE ARCHIVES

July 1, 1941     Twyla Tharp was born today

July 25, 1975     A Chorus Line opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre with no stars, no set, no conventional storyline. It became one of the most beloved musicals of all time.

July 2, 1987     Michael Bennett died today at the age of forty-four. He left behind a legacy of two decades worth of Broadway choreography. After five Tony noms, he finally won for Best Choreography for Follies.

July 24, 2003     Acclaimed revival of Big River opened at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway. Produced by NAMT member Deaf West Theatre with The Roundabout Theatre Company in association with NAMT member Center Theatre Group, the revival combined hearing and deaf actors.

July 14, 1918     Arthur Laurents was born. Bookwriter for West Side Story, Gypsy, Anyone Can Whistle, amongst others, and also director of such hits as La Cage aux Folles and revivals of Gypsy starring Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, and, currently running in NYC, Patti LuPone.

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June is bustin’ out all over!
All over the meadow and the hill,
Buds’re bustin outa bushes,
And the rompin’ river pushes
Ev’ry little wheel that wheels beside a mill.

--Oscar Hammerstein II


Window card for Allegro . 1947. From the Billy Rose Theater Collection, New York Public Library


It’s lucky, maybe,
That there’s a baby
Grand piano coming.

--Anne Caldwell

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