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BIZ conference 2014 - RECAP

BIZ of the MUSICAL THEATRE BIZ Conference 2014

July 18, 19, 20

The NoHo Arts Center
11136 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA

Every other year, NMI hosts a prestigious conference on the BUSINESS side of the musical theatre business. The fifth biennial conference included award-winning writers, artistic directors, commercial producers, entertainment lawyers, agents, union reps, and social media marketing experts.

This Conference is now CLOSED.

Enjoy this RECAP of our 2014 BIZ Conference.

Friday, July 18

5:00 pm to 8:30 pm


The Conference began with a special pre-conference staged reading of the new musical Little Miss Scrooge by John Caird and Paul Gordon. Conference participants got to hear a special concert reading of this new musical - headed for Broadway this winter - and then participated in the feedback session with writers John Caird and Paul Gordon (Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs).


  • Paul Gordon (Lyricist/Composer of Daddy Long Legs, Tony nominated lyricist/composer of Jane Eyre)
  • John Caird (Director, Les Miserables (original London production); Writer Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs)

  • 8:30 pm to 9:00 pm     Opening Schmooze

    9:00 pm to 10:30 pm


    This was a lively discussion about what it takes to get a musical produced; including new models of for-profit/non-profit producing partnerships. Featuring the producing team from Little Miss Scrooge (on their way to Broadway) and the writer/director of A Night with Janis Joplin (2014 Tony nominated Broadway show) .

  • Randy Johnson (Writer/Director, A Night with Janis Joplin; Original Producer, Always, Patsy Cline)
  • Michael Jackowitz (Broadway Producer, How to Succeed…, Tuck Everlasting, The Hawaiian Goddess Project)
  • Karyl Lynn Burns (Producing Artistic Director, The Rubicon Theatre)
  • David Bryant (Broadway Producer, A Tale of Two Cities, A Time to Kill)

  • GETTING DEVELOPED: The cast of Little Miss Scrooge with writers John Caird and Paul Gordon.

    GETTING PRODUCED: Little Miss Scrooge producers David Bryant, Karyl Lynn Burns and Michael Jackowitz; and Randy Johnson.

    GETTING CONNECTED: Michael Kerker, Cate Caplin, Cheri Steinkellner, and Larry Dean Harris.

    GETTING SMART: Richard Israel, Duane Poole, Michael Shepperd, and Valerie Vigoda.

    GETTING READY: Moderator Gordon Firemark; panelists Daniel Henning, David Elzer, Dana Harrel, and John Coppola.

    GETTING SMART (2): Brendan Milburn, Robert Lee, and Richard Israel.

    Saturday, July 19

    9:00 am to 9:30 am     Breakfast Schmooze

    9:30 am to 11:00 am


    This session focused on questions such as: What makes a great collaborator? How do you find one? What’s more important: your relationship or your show? What do you do when your wonderful collaboration starts to get sour? We were treated to war stories from the musical theatre trenches, as well as advice on how to find the right partners.


  • Michael A. Kerker (ASCAP Director of Musical Theatre)
  • Larry Dean Harris (Dramatists Guild)
  • Cheri Steinkellner (Tony-nominated bookwriter of Sister Act)
  • Cate Caplin (LA Director/Choreographer)

  • 11:00 am to 11:30 am     Coffee Break Schmooze

    11:30 am to 1:00 pm


    Our panelists discussed how to approach what musical you want to write next, and whether you might consider what musical you SHOULD write next. This panel covered tricky issues such as anticipating audience’s tastes a half-decade from now, and balancing “writing from the heart” with “getting butts in seats.”

  • Richard Israel (Director)
  • Valerie Vigoda (Composer: Striking 12 and Sleeping Beauty Wakes)
  • Brendan Milburn (Composer: Striking 12 and Sleeping Beauty Wakes)
  • Duane Poole (Bookwriter, Beautiful Poison)
  • Michael A. Shepperd (Artistic Director, Celebration Theatre)

  • 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm     Lunch Schmooze

    2:30 pm to 4:00 pm


    You know you’ve written a fantastic musical, right? But is it truly ready to show to producers? This panel discussed a checklist of things every writer needs to consider: demos, graphics, website, graphics; formatting, sufficient workshopping, audience feedback, market research, orchestrations, etc. Moderated by Gordon P. Firemark.

  • Daniel Henning (Founding Artistic Director/Producer, The Blank Theatre Company)
  • David Elzer (DemandPR)
  • Dana Harrel (Producing Director, La Jolla Playhouse)
  • John Coppola (Artistic Director, Studio C Artists)

  • 4:00 pm to 4:30 pm     Coffee Break Schmooze

    4:30 pm to 6:00 pm


    A frank, insiders’-only Q&A with entertainment attorneys. Participants were able to ask whatever was on their minds: copyright; obtaining rights to musicalize movies or books or people’s lives; collaboration agreements; licensing agreements; posting your work on the internet, etc. As usual - this panel was one of our most popular (and…at attorneys’ fees pushing $500-$800 an hour…worth the price of the conference all by itself!).

  • Gordon P. Firemark (Entertainment Lawyer & Producer)
  • Michael R. Blaha (Entertainment Lawyer, Producer)

  • Sunday, July 20

    10:00 am to 1:30 pm


    A taste of NMI’s feedback process. The NMI staff provided feedback and advice on selected conference participants’ musicals. Selections from 4 musicals were read, sung, and critiqued.

    1:30 pm to 3:00 pm     Lunch Schmooze

    3:00 pm to 4:30 pm


    Marketing! How do you get your work read and seen? This panel discussed traditional options like festivals, prizes, and submissions, but also innovative tricks of the trade, social media, creating websites and internet calling cards, and what other tools are available to get your work out there.


  • Noelle Donfeld (Writer, Puritanical!,Powder Puff Pilots, Miss Vulcan, Mita the Magnificent)
  • Alan Zachary (Writer, First Date, Second Hand Lions)
  • Michael Weiner (Writer, First Date, Second Hand Lions)
  • Kevin Saunders Hayes (Creator of Vox Lumiere; composer, songwriter, producer)

  • 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm     Coffee Break Schmooze

    5:00 pm to 6:30 pm


    Participants heard directly from producers and artistic directors. What are they looking for? How should you approach them? More importantly perhaps, how should you NOT approach them? NOTE: Writers enrolled in the conference were given the opportunity to submit a short pitch about a musical, which were forwarded to the producers in advance. The producers then candidly shared their thoughts about which musicals caught their attention…and why.

  • Ken Davenport (Tony Award-winning Producer of Kinky Boots)
  • Sheldon Epps (Artistic Director, Pasadena Playhouse)
  • Heather Provost (Broadway Producer)
  • Murphy Cross (Tony Award and Ovation Award-winning Producer, Wetrock Entertainment, Inc.)
  • Tim Kashani (Producer, Apples and Oranges Entertainment)
    BONUS: Everyone registered for the conference (at LEAST for the Sunday session), was entitled to be part of a pitch email being sent to a long list of producers of new musicals who agreed to receive an email pitch of two paragraphs — one about the writing team and one about the project.

  • 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm     Final Schmooze

    The conference registrants get ready for another information-packed day at the NoHo Arts Center.

    GETTING HEARD: Kevin Saunders Hayes, Michael Weiner, Alan Zachary, and Noelle Donfeld.

    GETTING REAL: Sheldon Epps, Tim Kashani, Ken Davenport, Murphy Cross, and Heather Provost (with the conference registrant’s pitches in hand).

    The NoHo Arts Center
    11136 Magnolia Blvd.
    North Hollywood, CA

    The 2014 BIZ Conference took place at the elegant NoHo Arts Center in the heart of the North Hollywood Arts District.