The process of creating a Broadway musical has been chronicled a number of times. Think A Chorus Line on Broadway, or the television show Smash.
But perhaps the most meta take on the creative process can be found in a show called (title of show), which kicks off the Stowe Theater Guild’s summer season.
Director Nick Caycedo offers this summation of (title of show): "The show is a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. So try to wrap your head around that."
And there you have it. Four cast members and a piano, telling the story of their story. Even the opening number is called Untitled Opening Number.
(title of show) was written by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, who premiered it at New York’s Musical Theater Festival in 2004. It went on to successful runs off and on Broadway.
Caycedo says (title of show) accurately captures the quest to succeed in musical theater.
"The show is about living your dream," Caycedo says. "It’s about finding your voice as an artist in New York and the landscape that is just so saturated with artists who are all trying to find their place and to find out what exactly it is they want to say and how they want to say it."
But Caycedo says that while the concept of a show about a show is not original, the (title of show) playwrights have a distinctly independent voice.
"It’s about partnership and the creative process," Caycedo says, "and trying to keep out all of your notions of what is should be based on what you’ve seen before, but also keep some of the components that you love about musicals and about storytelling and make it your own."
Kim Anderson of Charlotte plays one of the performers in title of show. She says the plot and dialog present extraordinary parallels to real life.
"It’s incredibly natural," Anderson says. "To the point where, as much as I’d like to say we’re actors, and we’re acting these characters, I feel like I’m not really acting that much."
Caycedo says that (title of show) is an ideal production to kick off Stowe Theater Guild’s summer season, because it poses the question, “How do you build a musical?”
Caycedo says, "Everyone always asks who writes [what] first, the music or the lyrics, which one comes first, how does it all unfold in the process. So this is just one telling of that very process."
The roots of the Stowe Theater Guild can be traced back over 50 years. And in fact, this summer season is unique in that three of the four directors started in the Guild as youngsters.
Nick Caycedo was 17 for his first Guild production, and has returned after studying theater in college. He says it’s no surprise that veterans return to the Guild following adventures in the world at large.
"We’re very blessed to have a really strong and tightly knit community, one that celebrates young voices coming in, young artists finding their voices as actors and then gives them the opportunity to step beyond the footlights and maybe find footing elsewhere in the creative process," he says.
Ameena Smith is a co-producer for the Stowe Theater Guild summer season. She became involved when her six-year old was in a production, and she saw how the actors and crew became an extended family.
Smith says the kids got to make new friends and interact with grown-ups.
She says, "I think for the kids coming back, it had some significance in their life and it affected them and now they want to be able to bring that back, and start that cycle over for someone else."
Kim Anderson, who was 11 when she first performed with Stowe Theater Guild, says that community theater can foster closer relationships than in the professional world, and that spirit is evoked in (title of show).
"It really is the heart of people coming all together and creating something that they love," Anderson says. "I think a lot of people don’t necessarily get that chance in life, and so that’s why its almost symbolic of what we’re doing as well."
Anderson says the fact that so many veterans return to the Stowe Theater Guild dispels the myth of small town actors escaping to bigger and better things.
She says, "I think the idea is that we actually have gotten out of here and come back, and realized how good it is."
The Stowe Theater Guild summer season will also include productions of On The Town, The Secret Garden and Kiss Me Kate.
The opener, (title of show), runs through July 5.