NYPL’s “Across a Crowded Room”: Speed-Dating for New Musical Theatre Writers

Anyone who has written for the stage will tell you that finding collaborators is like dating. The writing relationship is a delicate one and requires some back and forth to see if it’s a good fit. The social media age has made this somewhat easier in terms of bridging the geographical gap, but the process is still the same. There is a period of “dating” required before writers really start to work together.

In 2013, Doug Reside and the New York Public Library launched “Across A Crowded Room” – an online program designed to create a sort of online speed-dating service for composers, lyricists and librettists to meet each other for possible collaboration. I am proud to say that my current writing partner, Rachel Dean, and I met and work together as a result of this unique and brilliant program. We wrote this song (below) during that summer, and now our new musical, The Anxiety Project, is currently being shopped to theatres.

In 2013, here is how the program worked:

  1. Each week, NYPL would post a prompt by a prominent musical theatre writer (which included the likes of Jason Robert Brown).
  2. Writers of all areas were invited to post compositions, lyrics, concepts, etc that explored the prompt. If a lyricist loved a composer or vice versa, they had the opportunity to reach out to each other and try their hand at collaborating.
  3. Select songs created as a result of this program were performed live at Lincoln Center following the summer event.

This idea is exactly what musical theatre needs right now – a place where writers from anywhere in the world can meet, collaborate and start relationships that can blossom into full-fledged musicals and lasting partnerships. The digital age meets Tin Pan Alley – brilliant.

I am happy to say that NYPL has decided to again offer this program in summer 2015. Registration unfortunately closed in May, but I encourage all aspiring writers to take a look (and keep an eye out for next year’s program!). New this year are THREE amazing workshops to enhance the experience. Look at this amazing lineup:

Lynn Ahrens on Lyrics: Saturday, June 13

Lisa Kron on Bookwriting: Saturday, June 27

Jason Robert Brown on Composition: Saturday, July 11

A program like this one is incredibly exciting and has the potential to establish, nurture, encourage, and promote not only new musicals, but also future collaborators and projects. These are truly the seeds we plant for the continuation of the art form. If you are a writer looking for other writers, looking for inspiration, or seeking proof the art form is alive and thriving, I would encourage you to check out NYPL’s program and support it any way you can.

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