New Horizons: Nonprofit Musical Drama

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)


Just as a Broadway-centric outlook has led to the marginalizing of West End musicals in historical narratives, so it has caused musical theatre historians to underemphasize the radical developments in American nonprofit theatres. The 1980s and 90s was the era in which the American musical became a broadly based national art form with regional theatres all over the country starting to develop and produce new works. This shift has had enormous artistic and economic ramifications for the American musical theatre and for the musical drama in particular. The new physical, economic, and aesthetic frameworks of the nonprofit theatres have resulted in an alternative set of constraints and possibilities that has enabled writers and directors to engage differently with audiences and with the art form, using musical theatre to explore complex and sometimes controversial questions about contemporary America. Most discussions of these shows to date have been in terms of the composers and lyricists (or, quite often, the composer-lyricists) as in Prece and Everett’s reference to “Adam Guettel’s Floyd Collins, Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s Violet and Jason Robert Brown’s Parade.”1 The lack of recognition for the directors and librettists as the architects of the new nonprofit musical is misleading for, as with the London musicals, this new kind of show often relied heavily on dramaturgically minded directors. Furthermore, just as writers were often doing double duty as composers and lyricists, so several of the most successful shows had directors who were also the librettists, going beyond conceptual and structural work to actually cowriting the shows.


Creative Process Nonprofit Sector Musical Theatre Musical Drama Public Theater 
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  1. 2.
    Steven Samuels, “Courage and Conviction,” American Theatre (14, no. 4, 1997) 18.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Jaan Whitehead, “To Have and Have Not,” American Theatre (18, no. 3, 2001) 25–26.Google Scholar
  3. 21.
    Michael Feingold, “Changing Tenor,” Village Voice, July 10, 1990.Google Scholar
  4. 28.
    Frank Rich, “A Musical Theatre Breakthrough,” New York Times, October 21, 1984.Google Scholar

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© Miranda Lundskaer-Nielsen 2008

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