The American Center for New Works Development (ACNWD) at Seagle Music Colony was officially introduced to the public in 2017 with the piano-vocal premiere of Herschel Garfein’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and the workshop of Zach Redler and Jerre Dye’s chamber opera The Falling and the Rising. (We originally mentioned it back in October with our Summer 2017 Season recap.)
Members of the US Army Field Band Soldiers’ Chorus in The Falling and the Rising workshop
Part of the inspiration for this project came from a desire within SMC leadership to utilize the Colony property and resources during the months before and after the summer season, as well as to contribute significantly to the expanding world of new compositions. American opera companies are introducing more new works each season, but each new work had to start somewhere – and that’s where SMC spotted its niche.
“So what is a workshop?”
After a new work has been conceived and composed, its creators need to hear and see what they’ve written down onstage. This process allows them to fine-tune music and text, solve dramatic plot holes, and streamline the overall project with the observation and advice of artistic experts not associated with the project’s inception, including stage directors, opera company administrators, conductors, and of course, singers. A workshop is just that – a place where a work can be observed, refined, and burnished into a finished product that is ready to be shared with an eager public. Seagle Music Colony, with its multiple performance and rehearsal spaces and rustic natural location far from the disruption of city life, is uniquely suited to host these workshops.
The long-term goals of the ACNWD are threefold:
- Host workshops of newly-commissioned works created by outside opera & musical theater producers and companies, with a mind to utilizing SMC facilities and employing SMC artists and alumni
- Perform new works or recently premiered works that need a reworking as part of the SMC summer season to promote sustained growth of the art form
- Hold residency programs for opera creators (composers, librettists, and dramaturgs) privately funded or underwritten by granting organizations
Just a few of the projects SMC will undertake or has proposed for 2018 include:
- The Great Gatsby: Although this summer SMC is not producing a brand new opera like Roscoe or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead during its mainstage season, this year’s main season does include a relatively new opera that will receive fresh perspective. John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1999. While the music was very well received, the production was criticized for being a bit too big – even for the Met. The challenge for all SMC productions is finding a way to properly tell the story, while creating productions that fit on our small stage – something that we excel at doing. The publishers of this opera were excited at the prospect of a Seagle Music Colony production to help other companies understand that the show can be done successfully in a smaller setting.
- The Falling and the Rising on Tour: With production underway at Texas Christian University for its world premiere this April, SMC is planning a performance tour for Fall 2018. As the one of the original concepts of this specific production was for it to be toured around by a small group of artists, upon completion of SMC’s tour the original production will be made available for rental, especially to the co-commissioning companies (Arizona Opera, Memphis Opera, San Diego Opera, Seattle Opera, and the US Army Field Band & Soldiers’ Chorus).
- The Ghosts of Gatsby Workshop: The dream team of Evan Mack (composer) and Joshua McGuire (librettist)
return to SMC in August 2018 for a self-produced workshop of their newest opera. SMC audiences may remember the success of their collaboration Roscoe, which SMC workshopped in 2015 and premiered to great acclaim in July 2016. The Ghosts of Gatsby workshop is currently awaiting grant funding approval from the National Endowment for the Arts.
- LEGENDARY Workshop: Written by Joseph Rubinstein & Jason Kim, this ACNWD self-produced workshop has been proposed pending approval from private investment funding.
- Pooch – The Musical Workshop: A new musical by Scott Eyerle will be self-produced through ACNWD this fall pending private investment funding.
You may notice a trend in these projects in that several are awaiting some form of funding. New projects are exciting endeavors, but they require some upfront investment before they can delight and entertain the public through live production. It is a challenge that many of our artists may recognize: one needs to be established to gain the confidence of investors or employers, but this establishment is primarily achieved through producing work that can be shown as evidence of a project’s worth and/or benefit. To that end, self-production has been the name of the game for the young ACNWD’s initial projects. There is a lower net income from this approach, but it demonstrates the project’s track record. Meanwhile, Darren Woods has been tireless in his efforts to plumb his new music connections in getting the word out about ACNWD. He attended the New Works Forum in New York this January, where he spoke with numerous potential participants and distributed the ACNWD Brochure. He continues to meet with investors, grantors, and opera creators to drum up interest and support.
We can’t overstate how energized we are about seeing the Colony grow into an intrepid, innovative presence within the greater artistic community. To see how you can contribute, or to request additional information, reach out to Darren or Tony directly. In the meantime, stay warm out there, and consider going out and enjoying new works in your area. Every classic we now know and love was once a “new work” – wouldn’t it be an incredible part of your personal legacy to support these future classics from the get-go? And if you happen to see a good one, tell us about it on Facebook or Instagram!