I’ve written nine musicals – book, music, and lyrics – and all but one have been produced. My earlier shows are respectable efforts, but I wouldn’t want anyone of them to be produced today. After all, I wrote my first show the summer before senior year in high school. It wasn’t bad for a seventeen-year-old with no training, writing his first musical, but that’s not really saying much.
But I really like my later shows, particularly three of them (Attempting the Absurd, In the Blood, and Johnny Appleweed), and I’ve often thought what a shame it is that I spend a year or two writing a show, pour my soul into it, and then it runs for four weeks and disappears forever. After all that work. But I knew none of the theatrical publishers would publish my quirky little shows which have never run in New York.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how to augment my income. It’s hard out there for a freelance artsy to pay the rent. I’ve been working on a new musical theatre analysis book (this will be my fifth of that kind), and I’m getting close to finishing, so I’ve begun thinking about getting it published. The publisher who put out my first four books isn’t adding any more theatre titles for the foreseeable future. The publisher who put out my last book was a bit of a nightmare.
And then someone pointed out to me that you can self-publish on Amazon. I looked into it, and found it’s really easy and it’s literally free! I also saw that you can choose from a dozen different sizes, which made me think… I could publish music books!
So I sat down and went through my computer files, to see what there was that I had already written that was worth publishing, and that might make me some money. I ended up deciding to publish the script and music for three of my most recent musicals, two of my non-musical scripts, a collection of my songs from all my shows, and one novelty book that I’ve been wanting to get published for several years.
But this was a bigger job than I thought. All those scripts were already in the computer, so I just had to reformat and clean them up. But only my last score was done on the computer – all my earlier scores are in pencil on music manuscript paper. So for two shows I had to input the entire scores into the computer. It was time-consuming, but I’m so glad I did it.
So here’s what I’ve put up on Amazon lately, in addition to my four analysis books, my book about Hair, and my musical theatre history book. I can’t describe the thrill of seeing my music in a published book!
Attempting the Absurd – Meta before meta was cool. This is one of the first truly postmodern meta-musicals (written 1986-1992, debuted 1992), about a young man named Jason who has figured out that he’s only a character in a musical and doesn’t actually exist; and his special knowledge has persuaded those around him that he’s off his nut. Jason is a fictional character in the real world, but all the people around him are real people in a fictional world. So he sets off on a quest to find The Answers To It All, with his musical comedy sidekick, Chaz. Along the way the two find love (both gay and straight), community theatre friends, a little jail time, and ultimately irrefutable proof that Jason is right after all. Love and a copy of the script to Attempting the Absurd conquer all, and all ends as it should, with a happy, full company reprise. Songs include “I Love You,” “Being in a Musical,” “The City,” “Waltz for Chaz,” “Worse Things,” “The Optimistic Song,” “Old-Fashioned Musicals,” “The Big Finish,” and lots more. Both the script and the vocal selections are available on Amazon now!
In the Blood – My 1995 vampire musical, part romance, part Gothic horror, part comedy. The show explores the unlikely romance between the vampire Zachary Church and Adam Graham, a hematologist with HIV, in the early years of the AIDS pandemic. If vampires are the only ones who can’t be affected by the AIDS virus, do they have some responsibility to pass on their immunity? And for someone with AIDS, what price is too high for acquiring that immunity? When Adam asks Zach to turn him to vampirism so he won’t die, Zach is torn. He has vowed never to make another vampire, never to subject anyone else to the horrific loneliness he has known for so long. Ultimately, Zach has to choose between condemning Adam to the tormented life of a vampire or watching him die, knowing he could’ve saved him. This was definitely the most serious show I’ve ever written, and the most sophisticated score. Both the script and the vocal selections are available on Amazon now!
Johnny Appleweed – My 2006 stoner political satire, the first musical ever to make a serious case for the spiritual, existential, and psychological properties of marijuana. Through the lens of this pot-friendly worldview, the show takes aim at issues like American party politics, the War on Terror, the (undeclared) war on America’s poor, the American culture of violence, gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, sexual oppression, and increasingly rabid American religious fanaticism, all through the eyes of the laid-back, neo-mythic purveyor of pot, Johnny Appleweed, an itinerant philosopher-stoner, who argues that only through the mind-expanding properties of marijuana can we truly see the Larger Truths, so that we can finally solve our problems and move our civilization forward. A heady mix of Hair, The Daily Show, the films of Kevin Smith, Waiting for Godot, and The Wizard of Oz. Songs include “The Ballad of Johnny Appleweed,” “The Scheme of Things,” “Fucking Up America,” “Cannabis Dei,” “Weird Isn’t Weird,” “Jesus On the Tube,” “I Tapped That Ass,” “What Would Jesus Do?”, “A Great Big Cloud of Smoke,” and more. Both the script and the vocal selections are available on Amazon now!
Astro Turf – This is a twenty-minute one-act musical I wrote as a special project for a history of astronomy class at Harvard University in 1984. Five major astronomers, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler, come together and present in song their views on the nature of motion and the creation of the heavens. Both my professors loved it. Owen Gingrich (professor emeritus of astronomy and the history of science, Harvard University), wrote, “This is really quite super! There is obviously a lot of research and thought here, and a lot of very subtle points! Bravo!” My other prof, D.W. Latham (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), wrote, “A magnificent survey of the history of astronomy, so detailed, so insightful. They’re all excellent, but the Kepler piece is simply brilliant!” All five songs are in the vocal selections, now available on Amazon!
Songs from the Musicals of Scott Miller – Even though a lot of my early shows aren’t strong enough to be produced again, some of the songs in those shows are pretty good! So here’s a fun collection of songs from all nine of my musicals, Adam’s Apple (1981), Musical (1983), Topsiders (1984), Astro Turf (1984), The Line (1985), Attempting the Absurd (1992), Breaking Out in Harmony (1994), In the Blood (1995), and Johnny Appleweed (2006). Songs include “Give Me My Cap’n Crunch,” “The Children of Izod,” “Pushers and Dealers Are People Too,” “Zit,” “Cupcakes at Seven,” “Get Screwed,” “Aristotle,” “Married or Gay,” “Cannabis Dei,” “Fucking Up America,” “I Tapped That Ass,” “Crime is Beauty,” “The Christmas Tree Fell Over and Our House is Burning Down,” and lots more. This piano-vocal collection is now available on Amazon!
Head Games – This was my first foray into writing a non-musical play, but it turned out pretty well. It’s been produced here in St. Louis, in Los Angeles, in London, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. In the show, it’s Michael’s thirty-fifth birthday, and his friends are coming over to celebrate, for better or worse, as he grieves over his advancing age in a youth-obsessed culture, and also over his inability to find a smart gay comedy with nudity to fill his small theatre company’s bank account. And his late-arriving surprise birthday present will just make it all worse. Much worse. Head Games takes pot shots at pop culture at the turn of the new century and at itself, and it doubles back on itself structurally, playing the story out of chronology – so that as Act II opens, you realize that much of what you thought happened in Act I isn’t what it appeared… The script is available now on Amazon!
A Hot Cup of Murder – Back in 2000, Harrah’s Casino asked us to create a murder mystery show to perform in their banquet hall, as an extra incentive to get groups to come to the casino. I created a political family, the Seaborns, holding their first political fundraising dinner, when the candidate drops dead in his dinner about ten minutes into the show. And hilarity ensues. We ended up doing only one performance, for complicated reasons, but the audience loved it, and now I’m finally able to share my script, which is now on Amazon!
It’s so cool that all this stuff has now been published. I don’t know that I’ll make much money on this, but I love that it’s out there. And who knows, maybe it will lead to further productions of one or more of these shows.
Beyond all this, there was still one more project I had been thinking about for several years, a musical theatre novelty book – something none of the established theatre publishers was interested in. Now, as part of my adventure in self-publishing, this project is finally real.
It’s a Musical!: 400 Questions to Ponder, Discuss, and Fight About – This quiz book is filled with 400 questions designed to make the serious musical theatre fan think about musicals, on Broadway and across the country, how they operate, how they interact with each other and with the Real World, how they are related, how they have and haven’t changed over the years, what they have been and what they are becoming in this new Golden Age of the American Musical Theatre. Por ejemplo…
What theatre song always puts you in a good mood?
Name a strong black leading character in a musical.
Quote one dialogue line from a musical that totally encapsulates that show.
What’s your favorite Act II opener?
Name a theatre song in which the singer is lying.
What musical would be hardest to explain to someone who knew nothing about it?
What’s your favorite Kander & Ebb vamp?
You can flip through this book, land on any page, read a question, and test yourself on your knowledge, insights, and opinions about musicals. Or you can make it a game with your similarly obsessed friends. Or you can use it to humiliate posers who only pretend to know our beloved art form. Your choice. But wield your power carefully. The primary purpose here is just for serious, hardcore, musical theatre fans to have lots of musical theatre fun with other serious, hardcore, musical theatre fans. Or with themselves. But remember – alone is alone, not alive.
It has also occurred to me that this book would be a useful teaching aid for theatre teachers, to get their students thinking more substantively about our art form. It’s a Musical! is now available on Amazon too!
I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to know my work won’t die, that my songs will have some further life. It’s a real gift Amazon has given me. They’ve taken away the gatekeepers, and they’re allowing me to tap into a fast-growing market of musical theatre freaks, in a way that most regular publishers would consider not worth the risk.
I realized a long time ago that the true joy of making theatre is the act of sharing, connecting to an audience and telling them a great story. Now my sharing can expand beyond the walls of the Marcelle Theater, and beyond the local fans of New Line Theatre. Amazon has super-charged my sharing power and I am very grateful.
So stop my Author Page on Amazon (remember, go to smile.Amazon.com, and New Line gets donations off your purchases!) and take a look at all my books. If you love musicals, there’s lots there you’ll be happy you found…
Long Live the Musical! (And Amazon!)
from The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre http://newlinetheatre.blogspot.com/2018/07/nothings-as-amazing-as-musical.html