In an exciting development the prestigious S&S Award has turned producer to become S&S Theatre Productions, dedicated to producing radical new musical theatre with partnerships between the UK and the USA.
Literary agent Caroline Underwood and writer Warner Brown (who originally co-founded the Award in 2011) have joined forces with London-based, multiple Offie-nominated Mercurius Theatre and Kent Nicholson, doyen of new musical theatre writing in the States, to form the new company which has already hit the ground running with the live-streaming of Stay Awake, Jake from Southwark Playhouse.
Highly-acclaimed one-man, one-act musical Stay Awake, Jake won composer/lyricist Tim Gilvin the S&S Award in 2014. The show also went on to win the VAULT Festival Origins Award in 2016 after its run there and a cast album is due to be released soon.
Following the launch of S&S Theatre Productions, Tim chats to My Theatre Mates about the difference winning the S&S Award has made to his writing career and why he believes the creation of the new production company seems a logical next time in the founders’ promotion of new and radical musical theatre.
Your musical Stay Awake, Jake won The S&S Award in 2014. Could you describe what winning the prize meant to you?
It was a big moment for me; up to that point all projects I had worked on I had had to self-produce or at least drive forward myself. It was amazing to have the validation that other people could hear enough potential in my work to give it space and time to develop, and to share it with an audience.
How did the award influence the development and success of the show moving forward. Did the experience open doors to you when it came to future projects?
Absolutely. The key thing that the S&S Award did was introduce me to a whole host of incredibly talented people, not least Matt Ryan (director), Jamie Muscato (actor) Jo Cichonska (musical director) and Rachel Kraftman (producer). As a direct result of the Award, Stay Awake, Jake had a very successful run at the Vaults with this team, and an album of the show will be released soon. It’s always difficult to pinpoint which events opened which doors, but I would say with confidence that every single one of the projects I’ve been involved with since was made possible by the S&S Award.
What made The S&S Award unique in your eyes?
The thing that all musicals need is time to develop. The S&S Award was structured to support this; the script that I submitted to the award was version three, and the script that was performed at the Vaults two years later was version ten!
Writer Warner Brown and literary agent Caroline Underwood (who you continue to work with) believe that the S&S Theatre Productions is a natural evolution for the S&S Awards, what are your thoughts on that?
The Awards provided a great framework to develop my musical to a performance-ready point, and so this seems like the natural extension!
In addition, the wish is to nurture and develop new and radical musical theatre projects (in the UK and the US), to not regard musical theatre as a formula and to encourage breaking the rules. I believe Warner and Caroline would place your work in this area, how would you define ‘radical musical theatre’?
I think that – in this country especially – there is a very narrow set of expectations of what musical theatre is or should be. I definitely wouldn’t classify my work as “radical” but I can see that if it were judged against that specific set of expectations, it would seem relatively radical! The most important thing for musicals, I think, is that we use music and lyrics to tell great stories. Often, that may mean following conventional structures and forms, but often it means deviating from them, and I think that should always be encouraged.
The theatre industry has been in something of a crisis but Warner and Caroline think that makes it a perfect time to spread some good news, the formation of S&S Theatre Productions. Do you agree?
It has been difficult to even envisage being in a rehearsal room working on a show, so any good news we can get is a little glimmer of hope!
Could you fill me in a little on your projects since winning The S&S Award and what you are working on at the moment?
At the minute I’m developing a new musical called Cable Street with 10to4 Productions, with a book by Alex Kanefsky. I shared songs from this at Adam Lenson’s SIGNAL events throughout lockdown, and it’s a show I’m really excited about. Also in the pipeline is a nostalgic show about early 2000s rap which I’m writing with Jonny Wright (book and lyrics) and developing with Perfect Pitch. Finally, I’m working on a really interesting project which is developing a musical out of songs by several composers (sort of in the model of Stephen Schwartz’s Working) on a theme of Random Acts of Kindness. This is a collaboration with Amy Draper and 10to4 Productions. I’m hoping for a 2021 that is full of exciting workshops and shows, and hopefully we can get Stay Awake, Jake back in front of a live audience as well.
Amidst the excitement of celebrating S&S Theatre Productions let’s recognise the S&S Award’s impressive legacy @TimGilvin won for @SAJTheMusical & has oodles of other projects on the boil. He says: ‘Everything always leads back to the S&S Award’ #SandSTP #featured #theatrenews pic.twitter.com/f97EJXmjhy
— MyTheatreMates (@MyTheatreMates) April 22, 2021