About the Project
What is it? A new musical by Don Chaffer of Waterdeep and Chris Cragin-Day. Every December, a bunch of people celebrate a baby, more specifically a first-century Jewish refugee virgin’s baby. When people assemble their little nativities every year, they always also include a figurine of Mary’s Jewish refugee fiance’, Joseph, who marries Mary even though she’s pregnant with someone else’s baby. While the laws of their time and religion would have had her stoned to death, Joseph opts for matrimony. Why? Because one night, he has a dream “from God,” who explains the situation to him through an angel. Yep. And things just get crazier from there. This piece dares to take the classic story at its word. There really is a pregnant virgin. There really is just a dream interposed between her and death by stoning. There are shepherds, angels, foreign dignitaries (a.k.a. wise men), a ratty extra room/stable at an inn, and a maniacal, bloodthirsty dictator whose menacing shadow hangs over everything. And obviously, it’s a comedy.
Seriously. It is.
With four racially diverse actors, a minimal set, and an emphasis on movement as an expressive device, The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph’s Baby surprises both virgin-believing and non-virgin-believing audiences alike. When people engage this over-told story on a sincere human level, it bursts with imagination and wonder.
What are we raising money for? Two productions. First, a Firebone Theater NYC production that will be part of The New York International Fringe Festival's 20th Anniversary Festival in August of 2016. Second, a River and Rail Theater Co. production in Knoxville, TN, Christmas 2016. For this show, we have a cast of four, a band of three, director and designers, and several others who will be part of the show's team. Rehearsal periods run three weeks for each show, followed by their respective runs (five shows spread throughout the fest for FringeNYC, and around two weeks for Knoxville).
All donations are tax-deductible, and both Firebone Theatre and River + Rail are 501(c)(3) organizations.
Why do the two productions have different budgets, and is this enough money? The Fringe Festival provides theater space, some press & marketing, and some admin, all for free. They also–because shows often share stages–require that each production set up in 15 mins or less. As a result, Fringe productions are extra-simple, with minimal set/costumes/prop budgets. River & Rail, on the other hand, will not only have to pay for all their space rental, press, marketing, and admin, they will also run longer, and have more complicated technical requirements. Hence the difference in bottom lines. Hmm, you say, will this kickstarter goal actually cover all their costs? Nope. So, any additional money will greatly help in having two great productions. Let's STRETCH that goal, shall we?
What is the International Fringe Festival? FringeNYC is one of the largest multi-arts festival in North America, and this year they've invited us to be a part of their 20th anniversary. We couldn't be more honored. Each year, the festival presents nearly 200 of the world’s best emerging theatre troupes and dance companies, and has launched numerous successful shows, some of which have moved to Off-Broadway or Broadway, (e.g. Urinetown, Matt & Ben, Silence! The Musical). FringeNYC alumni include Bradley Cooper, Melissa Rauch, Mindy Kaling, Tony Award winner Diane Paulus, and Michael Urie, among countless other success stories.*
How long did it take Don and Chris to write this show? They wrote the first draft in nine days! They didn't sleep, didn't eat; they broke pencils, guitar strings, and lots of pistachios until it was done. Okay, they did eat, and sleep, actually, but still, that's amazing, if they do say so themselves. The show has undergone numerous rewrites in the three years since, but now it's ready for a production.
Production History: This musical was commissioned by Ron Reed, Artistic Director of Pacific Theater in Vancouver. It was given a staged reading by River and Rail Theater in Knoxville in summer 2015, and was then given another staged reading by Olmsted Salon and Firebone Theatre that fall 2015.
About the Team
Firebone Theatre (Producing Company for FringeNYC Production) was founded in 2005 by Steve Day and Chris Cragin-Day when they produced Chris’ play, Deadheading Roses, at The Lamb’s Little Theater in Times Square. Since then Firebone has produced and commissioned many new works including plays, musicals, and classical adaptations, including Don & Chris's first musical, Son of a Gun. Firebone Theatre produces plays that examine the space “where human meets divine.” Their stories primarily focus on juxtaposition between Fire (immortality) and Bone (mortality). Most recently, Firebone produced the world premiere of Don Nguyen’s play, Red Flamboyant, which the New York Times called “theatrical magic.” This will be Firebone’s first production at The International Fringe Festival.
River & Rail Theatre Company, based in Knoxville, TN, (Producing Company for the Knoxville Production), River & Rail was founded by former Firebone leadership, Josh & Amelia Peterson, and Logan Mahan. The company seeks to unite people from all backgrounds to experience and participate in stories that embody our shared humanity through the power and beauty of theatre. In late 2014, we sat down with a team of trusted friends to sculpt a vision for a professional theatre company with a community heart. We came up with two images: the river and the railroad. We latched onto the idea, because the river and the rail are emblematic of Knoxville’s proud, industrious past. The heart of downtown Knoxville is situated between these two modes of transit, and we owe much of our city’s identity and growth to both. Together, they are intrinsically and inseparably Knoxville. But the river and the rail also represent a sort of separation. When you look at the demographics of Knoxville, the people that live on the river and the people that live near the tracks experience Knoxville from vastly different perspectives. Our neighborhoods, churches, community groups, and social circles seem deeply divided along various lines. Some are the literal lines of the Tennessee River or the tracks of the railroad, and some are metaphorical, like the lines between races, religions, and ethnic groups or the culture lines between east, west, north, and south Knoxville. The goal of River & Rail Theatre is to not just create professional theatre accessible to all Knoxvillians, but to create theatre true to the stories of Knoxville, shared collectively by those on every side of every line.
Chris Cragin-Day (Playwright) holds an MFA in Theater from Baylor and a BA in Theater from OBU. Most recently her play, Martin Luther on Trial, produced and commissioned by Max McLean, played at the Lansburg Theater in Washington DC. It will have a run at the Pearl Theater in NYC this December. She is an alumna of The Public Theater’s Emerging Writer’s Group (her play The River Nun, was presented in the 2009 Spotlight Series) and the O’Neill National Music Theater Conference (her musical, Son of a Gun, co-written with Don Chaffer, was workshopped and presented). Other recent NYC productions include The Selfish Giant, a musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale co-written with Michael Castillejos, Son of A Gun co-written with Don and Lori Chaffer, Emily, produced by Firebone Theatre, L&M and They Know Something We Don't and Dig at Horse Trade Theater. Son of a Gun was also presented at Joe’s Pub and Playwright’s Horizons (hosted by The Drama League), and was a finalist for the Richard Rogers Award. Chris is an Assistant Professor of English and Theater at The King's College NYC and teaches playwriting in the MFA Screenwriting program at Regent University.
Don Chaffer (Composer/Lyricist) Don also works as a recording artist, arranger/MD, record producer, and co-band leader of Waterdeep, a band he founded with his wife, Lori. His first musical SON OF A GUN (w/ Chris Cragin-Day) received a full production at Beckett Theatre in NYC. His second musical, THE SPARKLEY CLEAN FUNERAL SINGERS (w/ Lori Fischer) has had full productions at both Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany, NY, and at Cumberland County Playhouse, Crossville, TN. He created two new shows, THE HANK LEGACY and THE CASH LEGACY (both w/ Matt Logan) for Studio Tenn, Nashville TN, where both received full productions. He was commissioned to write a one act, IS THIS HEAVEN, EVAN? (w/ Lori Fischer) which was produced as part of The Bespoke Music Theater Festival, Marymount College in NYC. He was awarded the Georgia Bogardus Holof Lyricist award for his work on SON OF A GUN at it's workshop in the O'Neill National Music Theater Conference, and has been a finalist for the Richard Rogers Award twice. His music for television credits include: PRIVATE PRACTICE, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS , ONE TREE HILL, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS, RED BAND SOCIETY, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. He was awarded the ASCAP award twice for two different songs, and the Radio and Records Song of the Year award for a third. Don has a Bachelor of Arts in music from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He currently lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and two children.
Amelia Peterson (Director for both the FringeNYC Production and the Knoxville Production) is the Literary Manager and Director of New Play Development for River & Rail Theatre Co. She earned her BFA in Theatre Studies from Southern Methodist University and has spent much of her career working in new play development. In New York, she co-directed the world premier of MORBID POETRY at the Incubator Arts Project and directed/produced a folktale adaptation series LONG, LONG AGO with Firebone Theatre Company. She has also directed new works for the CalArts “Arts in the One World” conference (Valencia, CA), the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival (Washington, DC), and the Inkwell Theatre’s Showcase Reading Series (Washington, DC). She trained in silks, trapeze, three-sectional staff, quarter staff and a variety of other weapons with Professor Bill Lengfelder and is a certified yoga teacher.
Hope Chavez (Producer for FringeNYC Production) is a creative producer in New York City who worked and trained under Broadway producer, Marc Routh. Hope is on a mission to liberate artists and theater companies in NYC from the burdens of marketing, financial, and organizational responsibilities so that they may focus on the art of telling their stories. Independently, she developed and produced Grant DeArmitt's Watson: The Musical which first ran at the 4th Street Theater in the Spring of 2014, and went on to win awards for Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Direction at The West Village Musical Theatre Festival later that year. Recent: Red Flamboyant (Firebone Theatre), Lucky Chick (Fringe Encores Series), IndianapolisAlyssa1985 is Getting Married (MITF). Hope is also an alum of The 24 Hour Plays: Nationals 2015, and was an Associate Producer for The 24 Hour Plays: Broadway (2015) and The 24 Hour Musicals (2016). www.hopechavez.nyc
About the Rewards
Here's what they look like.
PRINT (5X7 original multimedia mono print in an 8 1/2x11 mat)
This one isn't matted yet, and each one will be different, but this gives you an idea. Don will upload several from which you may choose, first come first served.
Risks and challenges
Theater is HARD and EXPENSIVE to create and produce. Musical theater is even HARDER and even MORE EXPENSIVE.
Don and Chris have a well-refined process that involves lots of permanent marker and giant-size sticky notes. It also involves them staring into space for hours at a time trying to land the right dramatic question and protagonist want. (Those are theatrical terms. It's okay if you don't understand.) Sometimes they write in the same room. Sometimes they split up and don't want to look at each other for fear that the other person's face will ruin their mojo. The trouble is, they live in two different cities. (Chris in NYC and Don in Nashville). So co-writing time is ever so precious, and plane tickets are like gold.
But the challenges of creating a musical are only half of the incredible mountain a new musical must climb to survive. The second half is getting it produced. Producing new musicals is notoriously risky, ridiculously expensive, but addictively fun. Some costs include: paying actors, paying musicians, paying regular director, paying music director, paying designers, paying stage managers, paying press reps, paying insurance people, paying for set, props, costumes, lights, sound equipment...We're getting anxious just writing this.
And getting a second production is often just as difficult as the first. So, we've decided to tackle two with one blow.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (26 days)