Teaching Drama

A Masterclass with Alan Menken

I want to draw your attention to this great video courtesy of the American Theatre Wing. It’s a chat with composer Alan Menken about his career and his creative process.

He talks a bit about his background and reveals that first started writing his own music because he didn’t want to do his piano homework.

Then he talks about his early works, including Little Shop of Horrors. He plays a few excerpts from songs that were cut from the show.

The bulk of the video is a discussion of his current Broadway show Newsies. The show’s lyricist Jack Feldman provides some further insight into the creative process and Kara Lindsay sings a song from the show.

Probably the best part of the video, especially from an arts-education standpoint, is a little exercise they do towards the end of the video. They imagine that a big-name star is coming into Newsies playing what is currently an important but minor role. They brainstorm ideas for writing a new song for this character and talk about tone, lyrics, storytelling, and character. Feldman says that he likes to start writing a song with the last line of the lyric pre-written so that he has something to aim toward. Sounds like a great tip.

Alan Menken

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Craig Mason