Know Your Rights
Peter Filichia talks to the powers behind Theatrical Rights Worldwide, a recently formed company that licenses Go-Go Beach and other new musicals.
Indeed, many members of the new generation of musical theater writers are finding a home at TRW. The company has signed up 23 shows, including Peter Mills and Cara Reichel's Illyria, Ryan Cunningham and Joshua Salzman's I Love You Because, and Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor's Ace, which was recently seen at the Rep in St. Louis and will soon be on stage at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. "In the past, a show that didn't have a New York production or didn't get a cast album had a tough time getting noticed," says Sean Patrick Flahaven, the company's director of music and materials -- "and those shows that were acquired by a licensing house with a huge catalogue found they were buried in the back of the book. We'll make an effort to promote all of our shows."
Steven Spiegel, TRW's president and CEO, says that even if a writer has written a musical that has yet to be produced, he'll lend it his ear and eye. "What we're looking for is a musical that would be ideal for the 11th grade, one that can go up to community and professional theater and down to middle schools, too. If you write with that sensitivity and subject matter range, we can put it in all levels of our marketplace: elementary schools up to colleges, civic light operas, summer camps, and religious organizations." The company's tagline, "musicals for every audience," is not an idle boast.
What's more, groups will have the ability to produce the most up-to-date versions of these shows. "Because the scripts and the scores are in electronic format, we can easily accommodate any changes an author wants to make," says Flahaven. Adds Siegel, "We print on demand. I don't have 72,000 pre-printed, pre-glued, pre-stitched books in a back room. We're aware that the world changes. Something written 15 years ago may not work in a new political, economic, social, or cultural environment. Rather than having a musical crossed off the list, we're allowing writers to easily revisit it."
Spiegel once headed licensing giant Music Theatre International and was there during the creation of RehearScore, the computerized rehearsal pianist/musical director substitute. Now he's working on MusicStaff, which will offer both a rehearsal score as well as orchestral tracks to sweeten your theater's piano or pit band. It will take care of transposition, tempo control, and vamps. It will even be able to be used on laptops!
What's more, TRW will offer some sort of CD of the score for every show. If a show hasn't yet been professionally recorded, TRW will make sure that some if not all of it is. How will that happen? "We're going to go to the best musical theater schools and some high schools, too, to get the best possible talent to record them," says Tiffani Gavin, director of professional licensing. "For musicians, we'll use orchestras from the finest musical theater colleges."
Spiegel also has another innovation in mind -- one that will be appreciated by anyone who's worked on a musical and remembers having to erase all those notes he or she made in the script before sending them back to the licensing company. "Keep the books; we're not renting them to you," he says. "I used to dread the refundable-deposit scenario, where 50 percent of the books weren't coming back, anyway. I'd hear, 'But we did return them. Check again!' If I complained about the marks, they'd say, 'We erased them; what are you talking about? You're confusing us with someone else.' So we want a 12-year-old to be able to mark up the book and not have to worry about erasing. In fact, we want him to keep those notes in the margins so that, years from now, he can look back on those days by looking through the script."