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From Gabriella in Albany, NY:
My name is Gabriella and I am 14 years old and I am huge fan of you and Frank and Linda. My question is who came up with the idea for Camille? You or Frank? And how do you compromise about what songs to put in a musical? Do you have any advice you can give on how to start to write a musical? One more thing (sorry I'm such a pain in the butt) I am going to see Camille on August 17th are you going to be there and will I get a chance to talk to Linda? Thanks for your time!

Thursday, 10 July 2003

Dear Gabriella,

First of all, you are not a pain in the butt. And I'm delighted you'll be coming to see Camille. I have no idea at this point whether you'll be able to talk to me or Linda or Frank- we'll all be around, but most performances end with note sessions between members of the creative team and the cast. - As for who came up with the idea of Camille (-it was Frank & Linda-), you'll find a much more fulsome answer to that in my answer to Judi's question.

You ask how one compromises about what songs end up in a musical. "Compromise" is really the key word here- and the key word, in general, for collaboration in the musical theatre. There are always those songs that you can't stand to cut, but you cut them anyway. I will usually fight for a song as long as I still believe 100% that I'm right about its inclusion in the show. But the moment that others' arguments start to make sense to me (others being usually the composer & director- Frank and Gabe here), I will start to back down. Sometimes you love a song just as it exists in limbo, but you know deep down inside that it doesn't belong in the show, or it's making the momentum dip, or a different sort of song would be much more effective in its place. Generally, it's a case of "majority rules," but as I said- I will fight very stubbornly for a song that I know is right, and in these cases, I usually end up persuading the others.

As for giving advice on how to start a musical, I would say that if the idea and the impetus aren't already inside you (pushing to get out), then you're just not ready to start one yet. However, having said that, you are only fourteen, so give yourself a break. I didn't start writing musicals until I was a whole lot older. For right now, I'd suggest that you try writing a few song lyrics- use tunes you make up in your head, or try writing a new lyric to some already established song. Then you could fool around a little with writing dialogue that leads in and out of the song, maybe try writing a ten-minute musical, which is a form that actually pops up a lot. Don't worry right now about finding a composer (maybe you are one yourself!) But if you have a friend who wants to compose, you could try a small collaboration on a ten-minute musical. Start small and just practice your craft. - Of course, the most important thing is to have a great idea that inspires you. It can be something that moves you emotionally, something you find incredibly funny, something you're angry about that you feel should be rectified- whatever. But you'll never get a good song out if you're just putting words together. What makes a great song is the impetus underneath, the thing inside you that insists on being said.

Thanks for writing, Gabriella, and good luck to you- Nan

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