Saturday, 12 October 2013

Musical Theatre West Midlands Conference

written by Toksvig

Black Box Theatre, The Performance Hub
University of Wolverhampton, Walsall
Saturday 23rd November 2013
9am to 5pm

** FREE **

There's a brand new support group for promoting the creation and development of Musical Theatre in the West Midlands, and they're holding their first conference.

Speakers will include:
American composer and MD Georgia Stitt (via Skype)
Andy Barnes from Perfect Pitch
Jenifer Toksvig from The Copenhagen Interpretation
Caroline Routh from MTN
Professor Millie Taylor from the British Musical Theatre Research Institute

This a unique and valuable opportunity for Musical Theatre makers to gather and form a supportive community in the West Midlands. Please do come along if you possibly can.

You can find out more, and book FREE tickets, via Eventbrite

Here's a little bit about MTWM:

"MTWM exists to help promote the development of the musical theatre genre in the West Midlands, through the building and supporting of a network of composers, writers, performers, organisations, theatre-makers and higher education in the region who are committed to creating and promoting musical theatre."

There's a Facebook group for the event, where you can ask for more info, and contact others who will be attending.

See you there!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Never mind our work, how are we developing ourselves?

written by Toksvig

At the recent D&D on Musical Theatre, the sessions called were posted on Twitter. Although I couldn't make it to the event, I responded to them in tweets.

Some of them were about how to break out. Here they are, with my responses:

"How does a newcomer break out?" Graft. Until they're not new. WRITING #MUSICALS IS A JOB OF WORK. #DDMTN

"New Boy. Got a musical. Staged once. Now lost in Jungle. His does a newcomer break out?" GRAFT. You learnt from that show. Move on. #DDMTN

The choice may have been mistaken; the choosing was not. How to get started? #ddmtn

By the last one, I stopped responding because I was too busy thinking about how we, as a community, address what I think is a big problem for new musicals.

Today, on Facebook, someone proposed a series of 15-minute musicals, and several people responded that a showcase of the larger shows people are already working on sounded more appealing.

As one person commented: "To write a fifteen minute musical for a showcase which which will never be seen again seems a bit of a waste of energy, when a writer could be working on a full length show that could actually see the light of day."

The thing is, you can't just go ahead and write a successful musical, any more than you can just go ahead and bake a successful cake. But you can write a more successful musical than you did last time (and bake a more successful cake).

Full, two-act shows take a long time to make, and tiered wedding cakes take a long time to bake. I don't know about you, but if I was serious about wanting to bake a successful cake that I felt I could interest someone in buying, I'd start with cupcakes.

Yet most musical theatre writers I encounter start with a two-act show, even though narrative can be really challenging across a two-act structure. And substantial casts of characters with complex relationships take some handling. By which I mean: more than three people.

So you'd think we would start with 15 minute musicals. In fact, I'm currently developing a project for shows that are smaller than that: 6 minutes or less. The plan is to gather these tiny shows into a gallery showing. A Tiny Musical Festival, if you will, of incredibly short work. Instead of a handful of writers getting the chance to showcase a bit of something, a large group of writers might get their work on its feet in full, and learn from seeing the whole process through from start to finish.


Here's the problem: we don't want to bake cupcakes because, unlike the world of baked goods, there is no perceived market for tiny shows. So our first instinct is to cry "What's the point? Why make something new and small when there's no market for that?!"

Which is to say: my first cupcakes will be perfect.

To which I say: how?

I feel the frustration of writers who work for a very long time on a very long show, and then cannot get anywhere with it. Can't break out. Can't get into the business.

One of the reasons I wanted to start The Larder was because of a desire to support writers with information. And some opportunities, yes, for learning about your own work, but it is extremely difficult to organise opportunities that provide writers with the chance to learn about their own work: much of what people ask for is opportunities to show their work.

I hear: who should we be showing our work to?

I say: yourself.

Instead of being frustrated about one or two writing long shows that don't get on anywhere, we could be joyfully making small work that costs little to put on, and collectively putting that work on. Collaboratively supporting each other with constructive critique. Exploring, learning, growing.

Or, if we feel we're not in that place with our writing, then we should be collectively experimenting, risking, liberating our writing from commercial constraints and making something small and New.

I need the right kind of support for a Tiny Shows Festival. Not in terms of funding - although always that - but in terms of the writers and composers who make musicals.

Without your support for this kind of opportunity, those of us who would like to make it happen cannot make it happen, because there is no call for it.

I'd be fine with that if I thought that the 15 minute showcase opportunities out there were making enough of a difference to enough of us. I don't think they are. A showcase looks at one show, and in a very specific way: it's purpose is to develop that show towards getting it on somewhere.

WTF? Why would it not be about that? Isn't that what musicals are for? Yes. And cakes are for eating.

Having frequent opportunities, supported opportunities, for making small work, from start to finish, isn't just about the show, it's also about the writers.

Especially, precisely because there is no commercial call for small work. It's incredibly freeing.

I think that a 15 minute piece is quite a substantial chunk of work, as it happens. I don't think it's small. 10 minutes is getting closer, but I want something even smaller, something quicker, easier to get on its feet.

And I'd like to know if there are any writers who think that writing something small would be a great / exciting / useful / fun way to take a risk / learn / discover something about your work and explore new collaborative relationships, new ways to use song, new stories to tell, without making a massive commitment.

I'd like to know if there are any writers who think a Festival of Tiny Shows would help them bake more successful cakes.

Because if we're going to do this, we need to do it ourselves, and we need to do it together.

To voice your support, get in touch by email: writers(at)acompletelossforwords(dot)com or shout on Twitter @AnotherNibble #tinyshows

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Preparing your script for a First Reading

written by Toksvig

When we do First Readings, it's really useful for us if your script is set out clearly on the page.

For some advice about how you might do this, see this blog post on How To Format Your Script.

In addition to that, it's really useful for us if you take a good look at your stage directions.

Usually, a stage direction is aimed at a director, to help them prepare a production, or at performers, to help them understand what your intentions are for their character at that moment.

They both have plenty of time to read a stage direction as they're going through a script, but in a First Reading, we won't ever have seen the script before.

So what tends to happen is that we're reading at a pace that seems to suit the scene, and then suddenly there's a big stage direction. Everyone stops reading the dialogue out loud, to scan the stage direction and see what it's telling them.

(We could ask someone to read out the stage directions, and then we have to wait while that information goes by. We don't really like asking someone to read out stage directions, because it puts another vocal character into the room, who wouldn't normally be in the show. It can change the natural pace of a scene, which is something we would much rather avoid.)

When preparing a script for a First Reading, it's incredibly helpful if you pare down the stage directions to the bare minimum. That means being extra-strict with yourself, and bearing in mind that you're only losing stage directions for the purposes of this one reading. Afterwards, you can put them all back in again if you want.

(Although you may find that you don't want. That's another great thing which can come out of a First Reading: you might find that you just don't want or need a lot of the stage directions you had put in.)

Here's an example of what this means:

You can take out anything that describes what kind of move a character makes, which is not vital to understanding their intention in the scene. For example, if your script reads:

John: Sheila, I'm not going to tell you again!

John picks up the gun and points it at Sheila, moving towards her with a menacing look in his eye.

Sheila: Don't be ridiculous, John. You're not going to shoot me.

You might want to rework it like this:

John picks up the gun.

John: Sheila, I'm not going to tell you again!

Sheila: Don't be ridiculous, John. You're not going to shoot me.

The actor can just skim the stage direction before they speak, and mime a gun as they say their line, which means there is no loss of pace and we're all very clear what's happening. (Arguably, because of Sheila's line, John's actions are clear even without the stage direction.)

You might also want to think about stage directions that do what the dialogue is already doing, or stage directions that describe location in more than a few words, and so on.

Leave us with just enough to understand, and no more. Because if the dialogue isn't making it clear what's going on in the scene, that is a really useful thing to discover from a First Reading.

Once you get the hang of editing stage directions like this, it's a very quick and easy thing to do, and it will make the reading so much easier for us, and more successful for you.

How we can help you

written by Toksvig

The Writing Process

I’ve been looking at the kind of support available to musical theatre writers, and wondering what kinds of things The Larder can offer that will best support the process of making a musical.

There are already showcase opportunities out there, and producers who want to help hook up shows with productions, but I’m talking about the fundamental process of making a show, from the very beginning.

Here are three ways in which we’re currently offering support for the earliest stages of making a musical.

Creative Counselling

Once you’ve decided on something with a realistic goal, you’ll start sketching out the story in the way you want to tell it.

This step isn’t just about outlining the show, it’s about beginning a new relationship. You might have a single process by which you create all your work, and that’s fantastic, but even then, this is still a new story.

Before you think about what the opening number should be, you might want to look more closely at the broad decisions you made at the Ideas stage.

How are you connecting with this story, how are you presenting it? What choices are you making as a storyteller?

Before you even write an outline, think about a Creative Counselling session, and spend an hour considering how you want to make this story yours to tell, bouncing ideas off someone who can be objective for you.

The First Reading

Now you’ve sketched out a rough draft. It probably feels like a massive accomplishment. And it is.

And now you have to change it.

As part of The Larder, in support of new writing, The Copenhagen Interpretation are now offering First Readings.

As a group of performers and writers, we have many years of experience ‘cold’ reading very early drafts, offering broad and supportive constructive critique on the aspects of the show that will be most useful when moving into a second draft, and avoiding the very detailed critique that isn’t helpful at an early stage.

See these blog posts to find out more:

Creative Counselling
First Readings

Have a First Reading of your show

written by Toksvig

A First Reading involves a group of performers sight-reading an early draft libretto, then offering some constructive critique.

For us, the point of a First Reading is not about seeing the show performed. It’s just about hearing the show for the first time, instead of sitting inside it as you read or write it on a screen or a piece of paper.

A First Reading is the chance to allow a little distance between yourself and the work, to see if it’s starting to have legs, and let it take a few steps on its own.

We deliberately don’t rehearse these readings, just read the script ‘cold’ off the page. The benefits of doing this are to show the script in all its glory, without having rehearsed anything to enhance it.

A First Reading is about finding out what the first draft is made of, warts and all, so you know where to go with the second draft.

We’re experienced sight-readers, so you’ll get a smooth reading. We’re all able to pitch in and play multiple parts, making clear choices and distinctions so that you get as clear a reading as possible.

A First Reading is about looking at the bigger picture of the story, the major character arcs, and the core emotional drives.

We read the lyrics out loud, as if they were dialogue. Although something is certainly lost by not hearing the lyrics with the music, other things are gained.

Hearing lyrics read aloud allows the writers to focus fully on the storytelling and character voice in the lyric. We can look at song structure, and it can also be useful in considering music choices. Logistically, not having to provide a piano or CD player frees up the kinds of places we can do a First Reading, and that can save both money and admin time. For all of these reasons, we limit our First Readings to reading all the words out loud, be they dialogue or lyric.

We’re all familiar with early work, and many of us also write or direct. Your First Reading will happen in a warm, supportive and experienced environment. We can give you general constructive critique, or you can ask us for comments on specific aspects of the show.

Most importantly, First Readings are an affordable way to get professional and experienced critique on your work at a very early stage, enabling you to make informed choices about how to move forwards.

You don’t even have to print out scripts: we prefer to read e-versions on iPads and phones, to save time, money and trees. First Readings are quick to organise, quick to do, and invaluable for developing new work.

For more information, email Jenifer on never[at]acompletelossforwords[dot]com

To find out more about the performers, visit The Copenhagen Interpretation website.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Acquiring rights for adaptations

written by Toksvig

Someone asked me about obtaining rights to something you want to adapt. Before I start, be warned that this is based solely on my own experience, and your mileage may vary enormously. Also, I'm talking about something that immediately and instantly falls under legal agreements and, as such, you're wise to ignore what I say and hire a good lawyer to advise you. I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a legal professional. This stuff can get really complicated and tricky. And expensive. Note that every situation is unique, and should be approached as such.

Here's my personal tuppence ha'penny. It's quite long, I'm afraid.

Is it in the public domain?

Films, novels, poems, paintings, comic books, cartoons, TV, plays - whatever it is, the first question you should ask yourself is whether or not it's in the public domain.

Basically, copyright protects a work for a specific length of time - usually for the creator's lifetime and then a number of years beyond their death - after which it is said to be in the public domain, and freely available for anyone to use, adapt, collaborate with, in full or in pieces.

I recommend using Google for the latest info on copyright duration, because it can differ according to what kind of property you're looking at. (Photographs differ from books, etc.) Here is a link to the government's Intellectual Property Office that worked the day I wrote this blog post.

Who owns / controls the copyright?

Once you've established that it's not in the public domain, you have to find out who owns and/or controls the copyright.

If only one creative person wrote, painted or otherwise created the source material you're looking at, then find out who represents them, and make contact. Some tips for that are below.

Bear in mind that it's often not as simple as the copyright being owned by one writer, end of story. There are often layers and layers of copyright ownership, especially in movies, which may themselves have been adapted from a novel or something else.

The Original Source Material

Do yourself a favour and find out what the original source of the story was, and then make an informed decision about whether you're interested in adapting that original source material, or adapting someone else's adaptation of it.

For example:

The Princess Bride is a novel that claims to have been written by S Morgenstern. First, you'd have to discover that the name is a hoax, and it was actually written by William Goldman. This novel is the original source material.

Don't assume that it's the original source material just because it's a novel. Many novels and plays are adaptations of other stories. Shakespeare adapted history and folk tales. Even the Bible stories aren't necessarily the original source material. For Noah's flood, see also the earlier tale of the flood of Gilgamesh, and so on.

The Princess Bride was adapted into a movie, during which process, several bits of the novel got left on the cutting room floor. If you wanted to make that story into a musical, you could either choose to adapt the original novel and make your own cuts in the process, or you could say that you liked the cuts made in shaping the movie, and you could adapt the movie.

There are upsides to adapting the movie. For one, you get a story which has already been adapted into a genre that requires a more succinct narrative than a novel, so you might feel that much of the work of the adaptation has already been done for you.

Plus, the movie of the book may be a more familiar version of the story to a broader audience than the novel. If the movie differs in any way from the novel, your broad audience might feel hard done by that the scene they loved in the movie isn't in your musical because you adapted the novel, and it's not in the novel but was added for the movie.

Some of the downsides of adapting someone else's adaptation are that you might find it inhibitive being limited to choices that someone else has already made about the story, and you will certainly find that it is much more challenging to get stage adaptation rights to a movie than a novel.

If you go right back to the very original source material, you might find it more freeing to make a clean creative approach from scratch. You might also find that the movie with which you fell in love is nothing like the novel at all, and in fact, what you fell in love with was the adaptation itself.

You should choose as your source material whatever feels right to you, but it's really useful to be informed about where in the process your choice of source material stands, and who might have a claim to the rights in that material along the way, starting with the very original source. It's likely they will all have some ownership or control, from that person onwards.

The Rights Holders

To adapt the novel of The Princess Bride, you'd have to find out who William Goldman's literary agent is, and contact them. If you can't find the info on Google, which is often tricky, you can try calling the book publisher and asking them whom to contact.

If you wanted to adapt the movie - well, in this case it just so happens that William Goldman adapted his own book into a screenplay, but it could just as easily have been a screenwriter, who may have a literary agent. There might have been several screenwriters, some of whom may have been fired from the project but still retained some copyright in the work.

To get even more complicated, some or all of the screenwriters may have signed over their copyright in the work to the film company, so you might have to contact the film company that released the movie, since they may own some or all of the adaptation rights in that screenplay.

A quick Wikipedia will tell you that The Princess Bride has several distribution companies: 20th Century Fox, Vestron Pictures and MGM. You then have to go through what can feel like an endless process of Googling and calling people (abroad) to find out exactly whom you should be contacting to inquire about rights.

It can be frustrating, time consuming, expensive, and you may never reach the right person.

Here are a few tips and tricks I've discovered along the way, that have helped me get my request to the right sort of person, in the right sort of way.

Ask if, who, and how

For movie companies, ask to speak to the legal department, and then when they put you through, ask to speak to the person who deals with stage adaptation rights. See if you can actually speak to the person in question, not their assistant.

For literary agents, ask to speak to the person who represents that author. You'll often be put through to their assistant. In this case, don't ask to go further. Just start making your enquiry via them.

Once you get to the right person, ask:

a) if they are in fact the right person to approach about this work.

b) to whom you should specifically make your approach. Get a name, make sure you have the spelling right, and find out what their direct email address is. Or, if you can only get this far, at least find out who their assistant is, how they spell their name, and what their email address is.

c) how they prefer to be approached. You can helpfully suggest an email with a basic enquiry and some brief info about you. Then if they want something else, they'll tell you, but otherwise they're not having to think about it, just saying yes to you.

Always be as brief as you can. THEY DON'T CARE about your creative plans to make a masterpiece that changes the face of musical theatre for ever. They care that you know what you're talking about, won't cause them any extra work, and might make them some money.

(It's okay that they don't care. It's not their job to care. If they did care, they would interfere in your creative process, and that would be bad.)

Types of rights: exclusive and non-exclusive

Rights can be granted as exclusive or non-exclusive.

These two mean exactly what they say on the tin: being granted some kind of exclusive right to something means that no-one else will be granted that same right. Being granted a non-exclusive right means anyone else could also be granted that same right.

My personal advice is always to ask for non-exclusive rights first, for several reasons.

1. Responsibility

You don't want to give yourself a huge responsibility before you've even started addressing a project. Suddenly being the only person in the universe who is solely responsible for bringing to the stage this story which you think is the most incredible thing that might just make the best show ever - you do think that, right? - is just more responsibility than you need at the start.

2. Relationship

You're not setting out to get married to the material tomorrow. You haven't even said hello yet, let alone gone on a first date with the story. Give yourself, and the story, a little time to get to know each other before you make a big commitment. You might find you don't get on as well as you thought you would, and it's better to be in a place where you can politely say thanks, but this isn't working out, without feeling like you're going back on some big promise.

3. Riches

Non-exclusive rights tend to be cheap, or even free. Exclusive rights tend to cost money.

So you could start by saying:

"I'm interested in acquiring some non-exclusive rights in your novel…"

Some. Not even all. Just some. 

Length of rights granted

It can really help to limit the length of time for which you're asking rights to be granted. How long you need the rights for depends on your intention for the show.

If you want to do a quick adaptation of it for a charity concert next Wednesday, you don't need the rights for more than a week.

If you have longer term hopes for the show (not plans, yet - no first date yet, remember?) then you could just talk about the first stage of the process, because that might be the only stage you actually know about.

A first date with a new adaptation might be a rough first draft, culminating in an informal reading to see if you like the piece, and some friends like the piece. Or a potential collaborator likes the piece.

So you might go on to say:

"I'd like to do a musical stage adaptation, beginning with a very rough first draft culminating in a private reading in six months. This would give me the chance to explore my approach to the adaptation."

And you could invite the rights holder to the reading. Or production, or industry showcase, or you could just offer to send them something to look at.

Six months might be too long for you. Maybe you'd prefer a couple of weeks to sketch out an outline? Or write a couple of songs. It all depends on how long it takes you to see if you like something. How long you want to devote to the project. How far in advance you can be sure you'll feel that you've made the right commitment to the right show.

Or maybe the rights holder seems reluctant to let you have six months, so you suggest less time, and offer to send some material after a couple of weeks.

It's all about negotiating with them, so be very certain that your first suggestion to them is actually the best choice for you, and be prepared to compromise that if need be. It's good to know what you'd be willing to compromise whilst still reaching your goal, and what you wouldn't be able to compromise.

Of course, you might want to say that you've been commissioned by the National Theatre to adapt the latest Times Bestseller, and you're asking for exclusive rights for the next five years. In which case, get a legal professional and let them sort it out for you.


When it comes to money, it's really useful to think about your application for rights in terms of the rights holder, who is obviously going to be interested if there's likely to be an income for them.

If you're asking for non-exclusive rights to prepare material for an informal private reading, within a very limited time frame, then there's clearly not going to be any profit in that at all. So their decision will be based on whether or not they care about, or are interested in, you adapting their work. And whether or not an adaptation by you might some day make them some money.

When you're granted non-exclusive rights to, say, a novel, the rights holder can still say yes to that big film company which suddenly wants to make it into a movie. So they're not that worried.

Exclusive rights are different. They'd have to say no to that big film company, and that will potentially lose them a lot of money. As insurance against that sort of thing happening, they may ask you for a fairly substantial chunk of money if you're asking for exclusive rights. And you (or your producer) may be willing and able to pay it, which is fine.

I would put some examples of amounts here, but there really are no ball-park examples. The amount of money might be anything from a penny to a million quid, depending on what the property is, who you're dealing with, who you are, what kind of deal you're asking for…

You simply have to weigh up the potential financial value of the whole experience, and see if the request seems fair and reasonable. And affordable.

What if they ask to see some stuff before they grant rights?

Ask them what they want to see, and send them a reasonable amount of stuff, without overloading them with material, and without overloading yourself with work that may come to nothing.

You could send them a page outlining your ideas for the adaptation. Maybe also send them an mp3 of a song, with a lyric sheet. (Not a score.) Link them to your other work online. Give them enough of an idea of you and your intentions for their property.

Mark everything you send them as very clearly your copyright, and send a copy of it to yourself, someone else - preferably a lawyer or legal professional - so that you have an independent record of having sent it.

Here are some other frequently asked questions:

Should the writer or the producer go about getting rights?

If the writer gets the rights, and then approaches the producer, what the producer does is option the work.

If the producer gets the rights, and then approaches the writer, what the producer does is commission the work.

The difference between the two is important. A commission might carry with it some expectations of future ownership for the producer in the show, even when they're no longer producing it, because they were instrumental in obtaining the rights and hiring someone to adapt the material for them.

An option is simply that: the writer (or writing team) already has the right to adapt the material, and they offer a producer the option of putting that show on. The producer didn't have the idea for the show, and didn't go about acquiring the rights.

Again, it's worth stressing that this is a very complex legal area. Getting professional legal assistance for this stuff is vital.

What about a story about a real living person? What about the copyright in work that's devised in the rehearsal room by the performers?

Ask a lawyer.

(Worth noting here that the performers who devised the original material which became A Chorus Line still receive a royalty in the show.)

Terminology you might come across

Advance: payment up front that is recoupable later on
Billing: how the original author's name is presented on all print / publicity
Commission: a request for a specific new work from a producer to a creative artist
Duration: length of time
Exclusive: no-one else can have that same agreement
High-profile: very valuable / famous / celebrated
Non-exclusive: anyone else could have that same agreement
Option: a limited opportunity to exploit a property
Property: a novel, a film, a piece of creative work
Rights: literally having the right to do something, permission
Royalty share: a percentage of profit
Territories: countries, parts of the world
Warranties: guarantees (eg: a clause in which the author warrants that they have the right to grant you these rights in this work) 

Once again: this is intended as a general guide only. It's not specific advice, and I am not responsible for anything that goes horribly wrong for you if you're just relying on this info. Really, don't listen to me. Ask a legal professional. I reserve the right to continually edit this, and encourage you to comment on it with your own experiences. Also, like all the posts on this blog, this information went out of date the moment I posted it.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

EVENT: Ideas Lab

written by Toksvig


We're not gathering on August 4th after all, since there didn't seem to be enough demand for this, and we are all about giving writers the support they want.

However! We are rethinking how to make this event work for you, so give us a shout about that if you have any thoughts.

Have a look at this blog post on why it’s okay to share your ideas, and this YouTube video on having lots of ideas.

Twitter #ideaslab

Why it’s okay to share your ideas for shows

written by Toksvig

Under English law, you cannot copyright an idea, and there’s a reason for that.

If ideas were limited under copyright, we would still be using the very first knife and fork ever conceived. Made of dinosaur bone.

Actually, to truly understand why it’s important that ideas should be free, we need to look at the concept of ‘the artist’s voice’.

Here’s an idea for a show: a story based on a fairy tale.

They’re popular stories. It’s a great place to go for solid narrative. But let’s be more specific: a story based on Cinderella. Or even more specific: a story from the point of view of the Fairy Godmother type character.

How about this: a story from the point of view of the Fairy Godmother if she were a man in his seventies who lives in a house-share in London.

That’s pretty specific. Here’s mine:

“The Fairy Godmother lives in a retirement home for Olde Magickals, with the last two generations of Tooth Fairy and the no longer quite so wicked Witch of the West. As pets, they keep a couple of aging werewolves with no teeth left. They decide to go out on one last Magickal fling which goes horribly wrong.”

And here are some great responses I got from my storytelling friends. Who got wonderfully carried away:

“Fairy godmother feels put-upon, unappreciated, tired, old and dreams of escape - Cinderella provides that escape.”

“A dance musical where the ghost of Rudolf Nureyev returns to a squat in Clapton, somehow still with access to his millions, and reinvents the dance world with random acts of kindness.”

“The Fairy Godmother plans to open a factory in a small, struggling village that promises the women of the town the makeover they've always wanted - but she dies before her idea can come to fruition , leaving the plan to her would-be successor and her adopted son, a nuclear-active orphan.”

“Cinderella's wicked stepmother Kelly-Anne had stolen Austin's memories once she found him in bed with her new husband. (It's the back story, you can fill in how the fairy godmother ended up in a house share in London.)”

"He's actually been the the fairy godmother of the prince's family for ages, has recently become concerned about inbreeding with all of the available princesses, so he's going a different direction for the happily ever after this time."

"Gerald sighed, easing out of his wig and stilettos after the third christening this week."

"The fairy godmother desperately wants to be the godfather, so by night, dons a sharp suit and sticks cotton wool in his gums then buys cannoli. Lots of cannoli. And tells Cinderella she should buy a hotel in Vegas."  

"The fairy godmother shares the 14 floor apartment with the bitter and resenting ghosts of all the wishes that went wrong. Each have a musically complicated story to tell with particular emphasis on the aesthetics of failure."

"The Fairy Godmother knows his time is coming when his magic will fade and his body will die. He's looking for a way to explain himself to posterity so sits down to write the story of Cinderella: we are soon unsure if the story is really his own memory or just a fantasy he's spinning to protect himself from remembering who he really is."

"The Fairy Godmother has withdrawn from the wish granting business because he feels he has been contributing to the endless cycle of consumerism driven by media-inflamed wanting and wishing; he has broken his wand and follows a meditative practice of non-attachment. But he discovers that he has unwittingly caused the death of hope - the universe slides toward its end in lukewarm entropy because there are no wishes to push anyone forward. He realizes he must take up his wand once more and start putting girls in pretty dresses and glass shoes, or the advancement of humankind and all of creation will cease."

The existence of the artist’s voice means that no two stories will ever be told in the same way.

It’s the reason Shakespeare’s plays have endured: they’ve been reinterpreted by thousands of unique artists.

So the first reason why it’s okay to share your idea for a show is this: no-one else could possibly write the same show you would write.

In the 1999-2000 season on Broadway, two different adaptations of Joseph Moncure March’s poem The Wild Party were produced simultaneously, one on- and one off-Broadway.

Adapted by Michael John LaChiusa and Andrew Lippa respectively, the shows differ in style, plot, character, book and score to a great extent.

As shows, they are only rivals to one another in the eyes of musical theatre aficionados who are forced to choose their favourite, in the same way that any pair of musicals with some common element might be compared: Funny Girl and Hello Dolly for being Barbra Streisand vehicles, or Oklahoma! and Carousel for being Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.

When I was commissioned to write a musical about Horatio Nelson, I realised that I knew absolutely nothing about what it might be like to be a late 18th century naval war hero. I went to a bookshop and stared at a shelf of twenty books on Nelson, and to this day it fascinates me that if every storyteller in the world, in any media or genre, were to be limited to writing stories inspired only by something in the life of Horatio Nelson, we would still never want for source material.

The potential for every world is in every story, and the potential for every story is in every world.

So there really is no way that anyone can actually steal your idea for a show. They might be inspired by something you say, but they will immediately form it into their own show, through their own creative approach.

Obviously, there are going to be moments that feel like an appropriate exception. If you happen to know that the rights for a high-profile property like, say, Harry Potter have just become available, and you’re thinking of applying for it, I would understand if you felt it prudent to keep that information to yourself.

(Although you know, the same thing about creative voice does still apply: if your creative voice is what J K Rowling wants for the stage adaptation, nothing and no-one can take that opportunity away from you. Likewise, if your creative voice is not the one she wants, then nothing and no-one can get you that opportunity.)

Not only is it okay to share your ideas for shows, there are some really fantastic benefits to sharing your ideas for shows.

For a start, it’s a much more comfortable conversation to have. People can engage with you if you tell them what you’re working on, and that’s incredibly useful in terms of exploring and developing your idea.

If you keep it all to yourself for months and years until you’ve written a draft you’re happy to share, you might find that there are some major structural issues you just didn’t notice – it happens to the best of us – and you might have saved yourself a lot of work just by having a ten minute conversation with someone over a pint.

Talking things out loud is the first step towards detaching yourself from them sufficiently to be able to consider them. It’s not a permanent detachment. You can always step back inside when you’re ready.

More than allowing you to hear your own creative voice, conversations about your ideas for shows allows other people to hear your creative voice. That’s a great way to start building new collaborative relationships, with writers, composers, producers, directors, designers, anyone.

It’s sort of a ‘soft pitch’. Instead of presenting a specific show to someone, which may already have gone quite a way down the road of development in your head, you’re simply opening up a dialogue about the kinds of things you like to write, the stories you’re drawn to telling, the styles and approaches you take creatively.

Those kinds of discussions can often lead to a mutual respect between creatives, and may well lead to a much more organic chat about possible projects you might pursue together, which you can then start developing together from scratch.

Talking about your ideas can not only help you develop them, but also be a great advertisement for you as a creative artist.

And finally, just in case you’re still a little bit worried about the ownership of your ideas...

Talking about them identifies them as your ideas. Even in this less than chivalrous day and age, it takes balls to steal ideas once someone has proclaimed them as their own in front of a group of their peers.

So instead of worrying about losing control of your ideas, set them free a little, let them roam around, see if they make friends. They’ll probably come back to you a little happier, a little wiser, and maybe bearing unexpected gifts…

*Big thanks to all the people who sketched out a story for this!

Monday, 17 June 2013


written by Toksvig

Somebody asked me about writing treatments the other day, so here is my experience with that.

There are no rules.

(This is always true in musical theatre, but bears repeating often.)

A 'treatment' might be:

- a PITCH, which might be an A4 page describing the show. It might not even outline the story, just give a basic feel of what the show is about, and some other details that are useful for a producer to know when considering a project. (More of this below.) A pitch doesn't usually involve any money.

- an OUTLINE, which might be an actual outline of the story, from start to finish. Plot, characters, main journeys, subplot. This can also contain other useful info. This might involve some payment for the writer/s, because there is work in preparing an outline.

- a TREATMENT, which might be a couple of scenes and a couple of songs. This definitely involves payment for the writer/s. (See below for more info.)

If you're not sure what someone is looking for, just ask them. If you get an ambiguous answer, here are some helpful hints.

Do they want to know if the show might fit their venue / remit?

That useful info about your show could include:

- the size and type of venue you have in mind

- the kind of audience, and audience engagement, you're aiming at

- the style of show

- the size, and type, of cast

- the size, and type, of orchestra

- any special or noteworthy requirements

Being specific helps them know straight away if it might be logistically right: "This is a small-scale, one-act musical for 3 actor-musicians, with minimal set requirements, aimed at young audiences."

That stuff is the most important info you can give them, right up front, because it allows them to say yes or no immediately. It doesn't matter whether the show is any good. If you're offering a three-act opera for a cast of hundreds to a fringe theatre, they're very likely to say no without even looking at the material.

If you're making the approach, the first thing to do is actually not send anything. Just get in touch, and find out:

- if they welcome unsolicited material
- to whom you should send it
- what you should send

You can, and probably should, offer to send a one-page pitch. A pitch is a great way to open a dialogue with a producer. It won't take them long to scan one page of info, and it should give them all the stuff they need to know in order to decide whether or not to ask for more.

Don't start by sending a full script, links to all the songs online, and instructions on how best to listen to a new show - "It's best if you listen to the songs as you go through the script..."

You're talking to seasoned professionals. Perhaps best not to tell them how to do their job.

If invited, you can send something else. Ask what they'd like, and think about what info they're looking for.

Do they want to know more about what kind of show this is?

They might ask for an outline, just a couple of pages, which tells more about the show, if there are specific things they need to know more about. Like how much audience interaction there is, for example: "The show opens with the characters encouraging the audience to sing Happy Birthday to the main character..."

Do they want to know what your writing style might be?

They might like to see a sample of other work you've done: a scene from something similar, or a song.

Do they want to see some of this actual show?

If they ask you to write a proper treatment of the show in question, then you have to do some actual writing, and you should be paid for doing actual writing.

Either the Writers Guild of Great Britain, or the Musicians Union, whichever you belong to, can advise you about that.

(You have joined, yes?)

There are no rules about what constitutes a treatment, but you want to deliver something that gives them enough of an idea of the show, without being asked to write half an act.

In my experience: two scenes, at least one of which has a song in, plus another song, is adequate to demonstrate your style, and the style of the show. The songs should show different styles that you're using in the show, eg: an up-tempo and a ballad.

Does it need to be a professional recording?

No. You're showing your work to people who know how to tell from a very basic recording. Just make sure the recording is clear, lyrics audible, singing on pitch. It can be you at a piano, recorded on your phone, as long as it's clear.

In summary...

- Ask if you can send something, and whom to send it to.

- Ask them what they want you to send.

- Also ask them what info they're looking for, from that stuff. This will help you know what to send, and what not to send.

- Send the minimum amount of stuff for them to look at. Minimum. MINIMUM.

- If you're being asked to do some actual writing, you should get paid for that. Speak to your union.

It bears repeating that there are no rules. This is just in my experience. When in doubt:

1. Ask
2. Send the minimum

And a final question to ask yourself: are you trying to get this show put on, or are you trying to make work as a writer?

Pitches are fast. It's one page, and you can send lots of them to lots of people in a very short space of time. You'll get a faster, more accurate response from a pitch, and it offers you the opportunity to start a relationship.

Because that's what you are: a writer. You're not a marketing executive trying to sell a one-show product. You're a writer, looking for people to collaborate with.

You're not pitching a product to someone. You're pitching a person to someone. That one show you initially talk about may not be the thing you end up making with that producer, so start by just saying hello.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Who is 'we'?

written by Toksvig

We're about to send out a proper newsletter, all pretty and MailChimp'd.

In it, there's a lot of reference to 'we'. So, here's who 'we' is.

The Copenhagen Interpretation consists of Jenifer Toksvig (who makes stuff, often out of words or wool) and a core group of creatives that includes performers, producers and composers who all have multiple disciplines. There's more about the core group here.

It's not really a partnership, or anything official like that. It's just a group of people who like to work together whenever we can. Most things that Jen does fall under the Copenhagen umbrella, and everyone else joins in when they fancy it.

So 'we' often just means Jen, who is currently running The Larder, which we've recently realised is a sort of 'activism' hub for writers and composers of musicals. And independent producers. And probably everyone, actually. Everyone who makes new musicals and feels that they need some, er, active. - ism. 

'We' also means Jen and anyone she's collaborating with on a project: the unions, support groups, or co-creators, or people who tag along because Jen persisted until they did.

And sometimes, 'we' means all of us. All writers, all composers, musical-makers, supporters. So if we seem to be referring to all of us, and we seem to speak out of turn, let us know.

We're always looking for new ways to support and nurture new musicals, particularly in ways that encourage diversity of the form itself. If you have thoughts about that, come and say hello on Twitter @AnotherNibble - and keep an eye out for guest Twitter hosts.

Our emailed newsletters will be predominantly Larder stuff, but occasionally they'll contain performance projects that The Copenhagen Interpretation are doing. We are a theatre company who is doing some active -ism, rather than vice versa.

(We're also not lawyers or legal experts. So don't actually take our word for anything.)

('Activism' feels really political, as a word. 'Active -ism' feels altogether more approachable. As a thing.

Which it isn't.

Paragraph breaks within parentheses are awesome.)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

I Am British Theatre - a response

written by Toksvig

This post is a response to Fin Kennedy's blog post here:

I am British Theatre

I think the video project is a great idea.

I think this problem is massively widespread, and affects us in ways we don't often think about.

I write musicals, and every time a cab driver asks me what I do for a living, the conversation goes like this:

"I write musicals."

"Do you?! Anything I'd have heard of? Got anything on in London?"

The implication being that everyone who writes musicals must either have something massive on in the West End or, if not, be aiming for that.

I often hear myself saying "Yes, I really do. It's a ridiculous way to make a living" as if I somehow need to apologise for the fact that I do not have anything on in London, and I have not written anything with global renown.

For me, this is about some major misconceptions.

1. The misconception that the public has about who we are and what we do.
As in Fin's blog, and as in every conversation I've had with cab drivers, hairdressers, new neighbours, people at parties: the focus is invariably on the commercial paths of theatre - and this is especially true and especially inhibitive in the world of musical theatre.

"Two Act American Book Musicals for Proscenium Arch Fourth Wall Presentation" - catalogues, revivals and new work alike - is the most dominant path, and it has a commercial goal, the continuing perpetuation of which we, as an industry, must admit some responsibly for.

Yes, people must be paid. No, this should not be the only creative path upon which they are able to be paid.

2. The misconception about what we do: that it is somehow only entertainment, and therefore only to be judged as creatively successful if it achieves a broadly visible commercial success in an entertainment forum.

Most of my work has been for young people. I get emails from schools thanking me for my work, and telling me how much of a difference it has made to the kids who performed it. How much difference to their self-confidence, their collaboration and communication skills, the nurturing of their imagination, and more.

Theatre is not just entertainment.

It is a collective experience, and we have so few of those left.

It is an accessible way to communicate about vital issues.

It is an opener of dialogue, for each and every audience member, who will take their experience away with them and start conversations about it.

All of these things, and more, need to illustrated in order for people to notice them. Alongside the wonderful and vital subjectivity in our experience of theatre, wouldn't it also be great for us to have some objective awareness of the process? Audience and maker alike. Then we could start to use it as a social tool, which we are clearly not doing as well as we could right now, precisely because of these misconceptions.

3. The misconception for us as creative artists, that our success should be measured that way precisely because that is the popular conception of how it should be measured.

It is terrifying how many conversations I have with writers where I suggest that the show they're describing might be amazing in community theatre, and they react as if that would somehow be 'settling'.

There are massive opportunities to develop your writing craft in this country, and they all lie in youth and community theatre projects, yet of all the hundreds of writers I have ever said that to, only a handful pursued that option. Because it is seen as some kind of 'lesser' writing. Or different writing.

(It's not different. And in many cases, it's much, much greater.)

The longer we continue with this social attitude towards theatre, the more writers will succumb to the commercial path in order to pay bills - and who can blame them? - and the more our desire and our *ability* to take risks will atrophy.

It is not our fault, and all that, etc. The government, the recession, etc. None of those things will change. We need to make some change happen. And we can. We're very creative :-)

4. The misconception of many opportunity-makers within the theatre industry that the opportunities we need are ones which will take our work down that commercial path.

And by 'opportunity-makers', I mean all those of us, from producers to writers, who have the ability and the drive to push our own work forwards, to keep learning more about this stuff we do, and to co-nurture not only our own community and industry, but the broader social engagement with, and valuation of, theatre.

I mean me.

I mean you.

I mean us.

I am absolutely on board with your videos, Fin. I will support the project, engage with it, help you make it happen.

I suggest that we might find some support from within the world of film, where it's possible that everyone finds it hard to take risks in a culture of Hollywood Hits. If that's true, how about a collaboration that serves all of us? How about we all work on something collectively?

There is the potential for funding in this, from the Arts Council. Maybe from some kind of film fund? Maybe this isn't a kickstart: instead of asking for each other's money, maybe we ask for in-kind support, make it with a collective of co-creators, see if we can get some funding for the stuff that has to cost money.

We could co-create it in open space, gather a big group of volunteers together, let people come and go as much as they feel they can commit to it, with a few people committing to holding the space open?

Please do engage on Fin's blog if you want to comment or get involved, so he can keep track of responses.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Creative Counselling

written by Toksvig

One-on-one sessions with writer / maker Jenifer Toksvig, for makers of new musicals: writers, composers, indie producers, experienced or aspiring.

For clarity and development of career, process, project, story, character, song moment.

Especially useful in early development stages.

Central London, face to face.

More about The Copenhagen Interpretation: or @AnotherNibble 

More about Jen at 

Email writers(at)acompletelossforwords(dot)com for more info

Friday, 24 May 2013

London Gathering for Independent Producers

written by Toksvig

As part of a continuing mission to be less lonely and eat more cake, The Copenhagen Interpretation have decided it would be fun to have a gathering of…

Independent Producers of New Musicals!

(Which we’re hashtagging #IndieProds on our Twitter feed @AnotherNibble)

It's happening on

Sunday June 30th at 4pm (teatime)

at a lovely place in Covent Garden. It might go on for a few hours, I guess.

In order to come along, there are three things you must do:

  1. Be available and willing
  2. Email your name and, if you like, a very brief bit about you / your company. Which I will email out beforehand, to make introductions faster on the day. 
  3. Bring cake*
Get in touch for the rest of the info, and to be added to the list:

indieprods (at)

*Cake is optional. But recommended.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Now what?

written by Toksvig

(If you'd rather listen to this post than read it, here it is as a short video on YouTube

The event on Thursday was brilliant, for so many reasons.

It is always amazing to be in the room with so many people who write and compose musicals. I will never stop loving that, and needing more of it in my life.

And you, the people who came? You were supportive, warm, collaborative, very present in the room, full of passion for this thing we do.

It felt to me like we have been waiting for something that truly represents us, and I think maybe we found that something on Thursday, and I suspect that something is a collaboration between the Writers Guild, the MU, and us ourselves.

So now what? I want three things:

First, I want that sense of community to happen more.

Second, I want to keep the sharing of information going.

Third, I want us to make more connections.

Community - WGGB and MU

After Thursday, discussions are already being held about future collaborative events between the Guild and the MU, aimed at supporting the development and production of new musicals.

I'll keep talking to them, and I encourage you to share your wishes for specific events.

Heads up: they might be members-only events. I'll keep you posted on what they say about who you should join if you feel like you fall between both unions equally, but if you feel more drawn to the Writers Guild or the MU, please do join, and do it now!

Join the Writers Guild here if you feel more drawn to words

Join the MU here if you feel more drawn to music

Know that they do and will continue to work together brilliantly, and with BASCA. (About whom I will put up a separate post, so we can find out more about them.)

Community - us

I encourage you to engage online.

If you don't use Twitter, please start using Twitter.

It's a fantastic resource for stuff like this. It's simple to use. You don't have to follow anyone except @AnotherNibble (unless you want to). You don't have to engage with anything else but this, it won't take over your life, it's easy to use, please do it!

You can also engage here on the blog, and subscribe to an RSS feed that will show you these blog posts via email.

You can engage by emailing me - although I strongly encourage you to use the other methods of engagement, rather than emailing me. If you email me, I can't guarantee when I'll be able to respond.

Online, I'm much faster, and online, we can all respond to each other.

Online, we are far more open and transparent.

Online, other people will see you asking a question, and it will make them feel more confident to ask their own question.


What we need to really make this online resource work is questions. The best contribution you can make is to engage with the stuff you want to know more about.

The more questions we're asking, the more everyone can know what kind of info we need. And the more we can start sharing the stuff we already know with other people.

Twitter keeps it bite-sized.

The blog will be for longer stuff, and not just from me. Anyone is welcome to write something up and I will post it here.

This is a dynamic resource: info goes out of date as soon as it's posted, so let's keep asking and answering the same questions as well as new ones. I think that's how we keep the genre dynamic.


The more open our communication, the more we invite dialogue from our collaborators who aren't writers, the better for all of us.

The more we share our work, especially work in progress, the more visible we are as creative artists, the better it is for ourselves and our work, the more connections we will make, the more the genre will diversify and grow.

When there is very little opportunity for making musicals, it can seem very contradictory, and maybe even self-defeating, to suggest that we should be transparent and open in our process, sharing our ideas for shows and talking about our projects.

In my experience, it is we as creative artists who make the connections we make, much more so than any specific project we're working on.

It's also been my experience that the sharing of ideas doesn't lead to the theft of them. It might inspire another artist to respond to something you're also responding to, but they'll do it in their own, unique way.

Inspiring each other will also make for great connections.

So join your union, come and ask your questions online, spread the word, throw stuff at me if you think it would make a good blog post, and let's get musical theatre moving and changing, growing and exploring...


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Being present...

written by Toksvig

This evening, a rather large group of musical theatre writers and composers are going to gather in a room with some representatives of the Writers Guild and the Musicians Union. Also in the room, we might find people from the Arts Council, some of the major new musical support groups, maybe some agents who represent writers, some academics, maybe a theatre critic or two... but predominantly writers and composers.

This event is about writers and composers. It's not for us, but about us.

It's certainly not for us to ask the people on the panel about the specific nuances of the business of writing musicals.

Mostly because none of them are musical theatre writers, but also because they already have all that information right there on the Writers Guild website, for anyone (even non-members) to download and read.

See the Musical Theatre section on the Rates and Agreements page for more info:

If you didn't know that, and if you don't have the chance to read through all the info today, then feel free to throw your specific questions @AnotherNibble on Twitter. Either myself or someone else will probably have some pretty quick recall skills when it comes to what's in those documents.

Tonight's event certainly is about how we can broaden the business of writing musicals, to provide more of us with more opportunity to need specific answers about the business.

It's also about how we can empower the unions and support groups to do more of the supporting that they exist to do, to ensure that we're being treated fairly and equally, and to help us make more work, better.

I hope you've had the chance to watch some of the videos I've been putting online in The Larder's YouTube channel.

Not to worry if you haven't: I'm going to bring the main questions into the room and summarise, as an introduction to the event.

Don't forget that you can bring any question or discussion to the Twitter feed, and you can comment on these blog posts, and on the videos.

The only way to find out what kind of information you need is if you ask for it - on social media, or by email: the sooner you get the questions out there, the sooner someone can give you an answer. Or several possible answers, which I think is better: the more informed you are, the easier for you to choose what is right for you and your work.

Here is today's video.

Thanks for engaging in this series of videos and blog posts. After the event this evening, there will be more, so keep an eye out.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Thank you for your kind support...

written by Toksvig

In the video, I talk about the Arts Council and their Grants for the Arts. At the event on Thursday (which is, I'm afraid, now sold out) the wonderfully supportive James Hadley from ACE will be in the room to chat informally with writers and composers about applying to the Arts Council for support.

I urge you to bring questions about your applications to him, and if you don't currently have an application in progress or in mind... why not? What could you apply for? Maybe that's your question for him, actually...

Recently whenever I approach a potential production partner, the very first thing they say, before I've even asked, is "We don't have any money". It makes me crazy, because actually, I don't need money.

I mean, I do, obviously. But I can and do apply to ACE, and other places that really do have money. The other thing I need, though, is in-kind support.

The ACE GFA application form has a whole section for you to fill in on the in-kind support you're getting, and they will take into account the financial value of that support. Not to mention that collaboration is a great thing, and the more I have good and wise people supporting my projects, the better the work, the more fun it is to make.

So my current quest is to discover in what ways companies can offer in-kind support which isn't a huge drain on their resources, but which is truly, actively helpful to me in making work.

Here's some stuff I think might fall under that umbrella:

- Box office support for ticket sales

- Use of an empty space like a bar or something, out of hours, for a rehearsal or reading

- Marketing support in the form of advice, or the use of mailing lists, or even the printing/photocopying of posters or leaflets

- Advertising in their programmes / venue

- Dramaturgical support

- Set, costume, props, lighting/sound equipment from the in-house stores

- Script photocopying

- Desk space / use of a phone line for a day

Here's my particular favourite, which I can't imagine anyone saying yes to, but I really, really want it to happen. Everywhere. What if we could have the stage for a few minutes before each performance, to do a live trailer of our work for the audience?

Live theatre trailers. It's the future.

Here's today's video.

Don't forget to come and chat with us on Twitter @AnotherNibble

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

How to Format Your Script

written by Toksvig

Someone asked me today if there's an industry standard way to format a musical theatre libretto, in the same way that I understand there are expectations for TV and film scripts.

To my knowledge, there isn't an industry standard. Having said that, there are certain things you can do to make sure your libretto is easily and clearly read.

Here's a PDF with an example.

Although your script doesn't have to look exactly like this, here are a few details of this layout that make it easy to follow:

The font used is Arial. It's a similar font to Helvetica, fairly common, and easy to read because it's very plain. Unlike such fonts as Times New Roman, there are no extra decorative parts to any of the letters. (Which font you like reading is, of course, a personal choice.)
There is a wide margin to the left and the right of the text. The wide left margin allows for holes to be punched in the pages without risk of punching through the text. The wide right margin allows actors/directors to make notes beside the text.

The character names are centred on the page. This allows for the eye to travel straight down the page, and for the actor to see who is speaking before they get to the actual line. This is a very common form of layout in the USA, but in the UK, formats often put character names to the left of the dialogue. Either is fine, depending on personal preference. 

Note that stage directions, lyrics and dialogue are easy to distinguish. This is achieved in two ways:

The left-alignment of each differs slightly. Stage directions are furthest from the left margin, lyrics are slightly closer to the left margin, and dialogue closer still. This allows the eye to distinguish the difference without having to focus on the content of the text.

Stage directions are in italics. LYRICS ARE IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Dialogue is in normal text. Again, the eye has to work less hard to distinguish between the three.

There is a line of space between each different 'section' of the text. 

It can also be useful to put a header or footer on every page of the libretto, containing the title of the show, the mark of copyright and the page number. The latter, in particular, is incredibly useful in readings and workshops.

Show me the money...

written by Toksvig

So, is it okay to ask people to work for nothing?

Here's what I think about that: I think if you're asking people to work for no money, that's not the same thing as asking them to work for nothing, and it's a really important distinction.

I hope that the people who come and do one-off readings or workshops with me are there because they're getting something out of it, just like I am.

For me, doing a workshop or a reading is a much better way to get to know a potential collaborator than auditioning. I hate auditioning. It makes me nervous, so gods only know how the performers feel.

Also, making some work together lets performers get to know me and the company, and seems a much more equal way to try out working together, and see if we both like it.

We are making work,and there is no money, but it seems to me that everyone is getting something out of it: mainly, to know whether or not we might have a fruitful creative relationship.

I can't understand auditions, really. It's like a date night in which one person mostly says nothing, and the other one talks and talks about themselves, and then the silent person says thanks, goodbye, and maybe calls a few weeks later.

Doesn't call the person who auditioned, though. Calls their representative. Like calling their mother.

I don't get it. How can they know if they like you?

I like everyone to get on. Those who know and love me do tend to tease me about the fact that I wish I was living in a travelling circus of the mythical 'gypsy caravan' kind, where we're all one big extended family of creative misfits who stitch their wealth to their clothing and cook on a campfire.

Shakespeare had it good, you know. He worked with the same actors, over and over. He got to know them, got to learn their foibles and feats, got to learn them so well that he could write for them, and also write beyond them. Look past the stuff about getting to know another person which distracts you from the work you're both making, and really start to focus on making the work.

The question of casting is also an interesting one for me: I'm not very good at 'perfect casting' in terms of having an idea of the character in my head, and looking for the performer who can get closest to that.

I'm very good at knowing the people who bring me joy as collaborators, and I'm very interested in whom they think they would like to have a go at playing, and I'm very happy to take their choices and shape the storytelling around that.

The question for me is not so much "Am I too old to play Juliet?" but rather "What happens to the story if Juliet is your age when she meets Romeo?"

When I say "I made a theatre company", actually what I mean is that I discovered some things. I realised that the way I'm interested in working can broadly be described as The Copenhagen Interpretation, and I discovered that I'm happier working with certain people and I want to work with them as much as possible.

So I put up a website with the name on it, and our pictures. Some of our pictures. There are some who come and work with me more often, because they can, and others who cannot do that so often, but are just as much part of my circus troupe in my head.

That's my sort of collective: informal, bound only by joy in making work as and when we can, and want to.

If and when there is money, we spend it on ourselves and make work with money attached to it.

How about you? How do you like to work? What do you do about the money?

Here is today's video.

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