The 5th Avenue Theatre is one of the nation’s leading producers and creators of new work, having premiered over 16 original musicals in the past 10 years. A musical cannot be created in a vacuum. Writers need actors, directors, producers, and ultimately an audience to inform their work. A new musical requires dynamic collaboration, time, space, and the freedom to test out radical changes in a safe environment. It can take anywhere from one to more than ten years for a musical to be ready to meet the stage and its first audience because, as Sondheim says, “Musicals aren’t written, they are rewritten.”
The New Works Program operates year-round to foster the creation of new musicals. From the smallest kernel of an idea to a main stage production, the New Works Program is committed to creating a positive and safe environment that supports the unique needs of each project.
The 5th Avenue New Works Program is dedicated to process-based development, allowing each project to take a unique development path necessary to its full realization. At the 5th Avenue, we craft a specific plan for each project that comes our way, tailored from the following opportunities (or a combination thereof).
A Writers Intensive provides writing teams with artistic support, time and space necessary to achieving their specific goals for their new musical.
An opportunity to hear work read aloud by a group of actors in order to experience and evaluate a new musical in process.
A rehearsal process that allows 29 hours of collaborative interaction between the writers, creative team and a company of actors, culminating in a read and sing through of the material.
An intense developmental process that immerses writing teams in a three-week collaboration with a creative team and company of actors. The Lab provides writers with the time, space and support to take risks and test out significant changes. The process also includes one or more presentations to gather feedback and fuel further work.
Ian Eisendrath has been passionate about new works for many years. In his tenure as The Alhadeff Family Director of New Works, he has worked with composers and lyricists including Michael Weiner, Alan Zachary, Rupert Holmes, Thomas Meehan, Brendan Milburn, Valarie Vigoda, Duane Poole, and many others. Under his leadership the New Works Program has created a formalized program for developing musicals at all stages ranging from writers retreats to three-week developmental labs. He has also overseen the creation of the Writers Group, a program committed to supporting teams of musical theater writers in the Pacific Northwest. This season, Eisendrath will act as music director for two 5th Avenue world premiere musicals – Secondhand Lions and A Room with a View – shepherding them through continued development and a mainstage run.
Ian Eisendrath began his tenure as resident music supervisor at The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2004 where he has served as musical director and conductor for many mainstage productions, including Sunday in the Park with George, West Side Story, SweeneyTodd, On the Town, Miss Saigon, Company, Into the Woods, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and A Christmas Story. Additionally, he has assembled and supervised the orchestra and music staff for all mainstage productions at The 5th Avenue during his residency.
Eisendrath graduated from the University of Michigan in 2003, with a degree in conducting musical theater and choral repertoire. His passion for new work and the development process emerged during his final years of college, when he was music director for multiple projects at the Ann Arbor Festival of New Works. This opportunity led to a relationship with the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, where he has served as a music director and dramaturge on multiple new musicals over the past years.
In addition to his work at the 5th Avenue and the Banff Centre, Eisendrath has conducted three seasons of the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker and been the music director for Cabaret at American Theatre of San Jose, Ordway Center in St. Paul, and TheatreUnder the Stars in Houston. He is currently the music director and music supervisor of the national tour of A Christmas Story, which was developed at The 5th Avenue Theatre and played Broadway this holiday season.
Makaela Pollock began working with The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2012. She has served as assistant director on main stage productions of Elf, and Hairspray in Concert, as well as working on New Works projects such as Paint Your Wagon, Cry To Heaven and Beautiful Poison. Additionally she has taught several classes with the Education program.
Pollock received her MFA in directing from the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Consortium in 2008. While studying there she thrived in collaborations with Paula Vogel’s playwriting program, which developed festivals of new plays every year. Her MFA thesis project was adapting and directing a new hybrid musical from Mozart’s & Beaumarchais’s Marriage of Figaro.
In addition to her work at the 5th Avenue, Pollock has directed locally for Seattle Shakespeare Company, Village Theatre, Book-It Repertory, Seattle Public Theatre, and New Century Theatre Company. Other artistic credits include work with Steppenwolf, Writer’s Theatre & Looking glass Theatre in Chicago, Trinity Repertory in Providence, and both Shakespeare Santa Cruz & Summer Repertory Theater in California. She is a regular director and adjunct faculty member at Cornish College of the Arts
The 5th Avenue Theatre’s NextFest is a celebration of new musicals at various stages of development—from a first read-through of new text and music to a fully staged studio presentation. NextFest is an immersive process–driven festival that draws on the resources of the Seattle theater community in order to give each musical the time and support necessary to reach its full potential. We aim for the work being developed at NextFest to be seen on stage at The 5th Avenue Theatre and beyond.
NextFest will not be open to the general public. However, festival passes are a benefit of an Artist’s Circle Membership. To learn more about becoming an Artist’s Circle Member, please call 206-625-1418 and ask for the Circles Office.
Paint Your Wagon
By Lerner & Loewe
New Book by Jon Marans
4-Week Development Lab
The 5th Avenue Theatre is creating a brand new script for Lerner and Loewe’s incredible score, which features the original songs including “They Call the Wind Mariah,” “A Wandrin’ Star” and “I Talk To The Trees.” Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Jon Marans has been commissioned to write the book for this fresh, gritty adventure about a group of disparate people from all over the world who leave everything they know and risk their lives to strike it rich in the great California Gold Rush.
Persuasion (Writers Group)
Adaption from Jane Austen
Book by Harold Taw
Music by Chris Jeffries
Can a second chance at love be sweeter than the first? Persuasion is an adult Cinderella story about a fairy tale that went horribly wrong and Anne Elliot’s fight to earn an even happier ending. One of the world's greatest love stories, Jane Austen's final novel, soars to life in this ravishing new musical.
Fixing Einstein (Writers Group)
Book by Lauren Goldman Marshall
Music by Ian Williams
Have you ever wished you could split yourself in two? In Fixing Einstein, Victoria, a cutting-edge neuroscientist facing a degenerative illness, clones herself, intending that her clone will do a better job of carrying on her work and caring for her unsuspecting husband Michael and autistic 12-year-old twin boys, Xander and Drew, while she goes off on one last travel adventure. Her clone, Vicki, has her own ideas about how to live her new life, but finds the family resistant to change. Just when it seems to be working, Victoria unexpectedly returns.
Fourth Estate (Writers Group)
Book by Andrew Russell
Music by Richard Gray
The Fourth Estate unpacks government secrets, questions American history, and celebrates the power of the press by bringing onto the same stage Dorothy Kilgallen, Jack Ruby, Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden.
Book by Glen Slater
Music and Lyrics by Wendy Wilf
Beatsville, a bebop-influenced musical, takes place in Greenwich Village, 1959—playground of goateed artists, turtle-necked poets, and bongo-playing jazzbos. When hopelessly square Walter Paisley accidentally kills a cat and hides it in a lump of clay, the beatniks declare “Dead Cat” a masterpiece, and Walter a genius. More “sculptures” bring more acclaim—but will the world discover that Walter’s body of work consists of actual bodies?
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Book by Brian Hill
Music by Neil Bartram
Retreat & Table Read
In this musical adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic cult favorite, Charles Halloway is a 54-year-old librarian struggling to raise his 13-year-old son Will in Depression-era rural Illinois. When a malevolent carnival rolls into town and threatens the souls of the town’s population, Will and his thrill-seeking friend Jim try to expose carnival owner Mr. Dark’s sinister plans. But the town is quickly seduced by the charismatic Mr. Dark and the boys have to turn to the only one who will believe their seemingly tall tales about the carnival—Charles. Together, this unlikely trio fights and thwarts Mr. Dark, creating a bond between father and son that was never there before.
Single Girl’s Guide
Book by Gordon Greenberg
Music by Tommy Newman
Retreat & Table Read
Jane Austen meets Helen Gurley Brown in a new musical that celebrates love and the joys of living on your own terms. Filled with the buoyant sounds and bright spirit of the mid-1960s, The Single Girls Guide is a fizzy riff on Sex and The Single Girl that echoes the questions we continue to ask about marriage, sex and being single.
Throughout the festival we will be hosting special concerts, cocktail events, panels, and even a first glimpse at two projects so fresh that their titles aren’t set. Look for behind the scenes interviews with writers, sneak peaks at material from our festival creative teams, and a pitch session from the people behind Cirqu du Soleil’s La Reve.
At The 5th Avenue, we believe in supporting work from idea through to completion. To that end, we take every chance we can to fully support the pieces we believe in. We are proud to have multiple works under commission:
Book by Duane Poole
Music by Brendan Milburn
Lyrics by Valerie Vigoda
Cry To Heaven
Book by Debrah Neal & Roy Freirich
Music & Lyrics by Matthew Wilder
Book by Marc Acito
Music & Lyrics by Jeffrey Stock
The 5th Avenue Theatre continues its ongoing commitment to the support and development of our rich community of Northwest musical theater writers through the 5th Avenue Seattle Writers Group.
The Writers Group is a two-year program providing six writers the opportunity to attend bi-weekly meetings to share and discuss their work in progress. They also receive staff-level access to 5th Avenue projects, space and equipment, along with a small stipend and a showcase of their work each year.
At the end of the first year, the 5th Avenue New Works Program produces an industry showcase of new material written by teams formed from within the group.
At the end of the second year, the 5th Avenue New Works Program will deepen the collaboration of the writing partnerships formed within the group and will produce a reading of a full-length musical written by each team