What Does A Musical Theatre Writer Do When They Get Fed Up With Writing Musicals?
I was sitting on a beach in the Baja when it hit me. I’d had it with writing musicals. I’d been doing it for a while, and with a decent degree of semi-success, but I’d hit a wall.
They take forever to finish. And they’re so – well, so American.
I was longing for something that happened faster – something that had more impact – something that might give me an excuse to travel the world. I do love to travel.
I had no idea what to do with that longing.
Then I read about this play called Seven. Seven playwrights interviewed seven women leaders from around the world about their challenges, their triumphs – and then they wove those monologues into a play. Diane Von Furstenberg was the show’s champion, and it was touring the world, opening hearts and minds.
Cool, I thought. Could I do something similar with just – songs? Tell amazing, inspiring stories – in song? I mean, that’s kind of what we do with musicals anyway, isn’t it?
But what stories?
A few weeks later, friends at a dinner party were talking about the microfinance phenomenon – how with a small loan, a woman could change her life, her children’s lives. Buy an oven, bake and sell bread, your kids go to college. Rise, rise, rise. And voila – there were my stories (and my first song).
I approached microfinance organizations including Kiva, FINCA, and Accion, and my for-benefit business, Hope Sings, was born.
Our mission? To harness the power of song and story to help empower women and change the world.
My personal mission? To put the power of true, inspiring story back into pop song. Thinking small has never been my problem…
Over the course of the next three years, I learned how to become a music producer, song licenser, internet entrepreneur, Kickstarter fundraiser, event promoter – in fact, I did everything but write very much. But that was ok.
We focused on telling the stories of women from Latin America, and collaborated with women Latin artists to turn those stories into songs. Here’s one song we produced, from Dominican Alih Jey and Colombian Inez Gaviria, inspired by women from Haiti and Guatemala:
A few years into Hope Sings, I was getting itchy to expand our mission beyond microfinance and Latin America – and heard that the United Nations was creating a new agency, UN Women, the first new agency since UNICEF. It was a big deal. I thought, They need a theme song.
18 months and thousands of hours later, I had co-written and co-produced one. For them. Music was by Graham Lyle, the pop songwriter behind hits like “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” and I wrote the lyric. The song features 25 musical artists from around the world – including Bebel Gilberto, Angelique Kidjo, Anoushka Shankar – and was co-produced by Jerry Boys of Buena Vista Social Club fame. Here is “One Woman”:
Why do I tell you all this “backstory” in such excruciating detail?
Because you have the power to create whatever you want.
I went from being clueless on a beach in the Baja to shaking the hand of Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations. One glimmer of an idea, some listening to my heart, and a lot of working my butt off. Hard work, but wonderful work.
Now, I’m getting itchy again – and so I am coming back to the world of musical theatre. In the past few weeks, Hope Sings has been telling the stories of musicals that are Up To Something – shows like Tamar of the River and Orphan Train.
So here’s my pitch: talk to me.
Let me know what you’re writing. If your show has the goal of changing the world, somehow, in some small way – LET ME KNOW. I will write about you.
If you are a bit fed up with your musical theatre box, LET ME KNOW. We have stories you can turn into inspiring songs. You write and record them, and we’ll put them out into the world.
And if you are interested in the power of song and story to heal – our bodies and our world – LET ME KNOW. We are going there next. http://hopesings.net/blog/