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Help bring new musical "The Bully Problem" to the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival!
89 backers pledged $8,607 to help bring this project to life.

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$8,607

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Okay, so you're like, making a musical? About bullies or something?

Yes to all of the above! The Bully Problem is an original new musical aimed at the entire family — both kids and adults. (If you're an adult, you don't need to acquire a child in order to see it.) You might think of it as comparable in tone to Matilda or Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The story concerns a budding young roboticist named Kevin who wants to get out of his bully-infested school and into an elite tech academy. He realizes he can win a scholarship by using a high-tech android to defend his fellow nerdy students against the local bully population. (Things immediately get more complicated.)

From our presentation at the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop in 2018.
From our presentation at the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop in 2018.

So what's going on right now? I see you would like money.

The Bully Problem is set for its world premiere production at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June! (This is our local chapter of the performing arts festival held annually in Edinburgh. Ours lacks haggis but has nicer weather.)

And yes, it turns out that staging a musical is expensive. We need your help in order to be able to make this production happen! More about our expenses below.

Why are you doing this exactly?

[Speech mode.] I want there to be musicals for both adults and young audience members that deliver positive messages in a smart and witty way. Our show isn't preachy but it touches on a few issues that remain prominent today: the importance of standing up to bullies, and the proper role that technology should have in our lives. [End speech mode]

More immediately, the Hollywood Fringe run will be the real rubber-meets-the-road moment for this musical. It'll be the start of the show's stage history, hopefully the source of some nice reviews, and the foundation for future productions. Above all, we'll finally be able to share a musical story that's been brewing for several years!

A rehearsal of our first workshop at New Musicals Inc's 2017 STAGES festival.
A rehearsal of our first workshop at New Musicals Inc's 2017 STAGES festival.

I feel like you've been talking about this show for a while.

Definitely true if you're within shouting distance of me. The show has had several workshops (or "beta tests"). The most exciting one came in 2018, when The Bully Problem was one of just two shows accepted into the Los Angeles ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, run by Stephen Schwartz (a.k.a. the composer/lyricist of Wicked, Prince of Egypt, Pippin, and lots more.) A lot of rewriting happened between those workshops. Almost half the music in the Hollywood Fringe version is brand new.

As long as we're bragging, the show also won first prize in the 2018 Search for New Musicals held by New Musicals Inc. Our winning that award is part of why we can do this production at all; NMI is providing support as co-producers.

Is it animated?

No, it's a stage musical with real human beings. We just have a cool poster, courtesy of my friend Alen Yen. (Tip: stay in touch with talented people you went to summer camp with.)

What's the music like? Rogers and Hammerstein? Elvis? Karl Stockhausen?

It's a blend of acoustic pop with some synth-y musical elements. It tends to err on the side of peppy rhythms and melodic accessibility. Check out some of our demo recordings!

Not our preferred form of payment. (Not saying we won't take it though.)
Not our preferred form of payment. (Not saying we won't take it though.)

What do you need all this money for? Aren't you selling tickets?

Ticket sales help, but at Fringe prices they cannot, to heavily paraphrase Admiral Ackbar, sustain a production of this magnitude. Here are a few of our major expenses:

Venue rental: We'll be at the Broadwater Main Stage in Hollywood, a lovely 99-seat space. That's several hundred dollars a night right off the bat.

Personnel cost: The director, costume designer, props person, music director, and other key creative members.

Crew: Stage manager (a.k.a. person who keeps track of everything), a second stage manager for the venue, sound personnel, etc.

Costumes: Even for characters in a contemporary setting, costumes make a big difference.

Props: There aren't a lot, but the story does feature a drone. We either need to buy one or make one out of stuff.

Marketing and publicity: Business cards, online advertising, fliers. (Stretch goal: one of those old-timey trucks with megaphones on the roof.)

Camera insurance for our fundraising video: The fundraising videos you see above were done by volunteers on a micro-budget. But certain costs can't be dodged, and this was one of them.

Were you bullied as a kid?

Enough to want to write a musical on the subject and give it a happy ending. Not as much as the characters in the show. 

We don't quite understand all the costumes either.
We don't quite understand all the costumes either.

Why should I pony up my hard-earned cash?

There are lots of reasons! Maybe you're a fan of new musical theatre.  Perhaps you were bullied, or know young people dealing with this issue. You might like the idea of a musical about smart kids harnessing technology to overcome bad guys. You might like the music excerpts you heard on our web site. You may know members of the cast, or have given birth to them. If you know me personally, you might enjoy my gazing upon you with profound, adoring gratitude. 

Also, we have some pretty cool rewards. Check them out! 

Can I help spread the word?

DEAR HEAVENS YES. If you share a link to this fundraising campaign, we'll be super appreciative! If you'd like to follow us on social media, we'll be super appreciative! And if you share links to said social media sites, we'll likewise be super appreciative! (We are pretty generous when it comes to super appreciation.)

When and where is the show playing?

We'll be at the lovely Broadwater Main Stage (here's a map) on the following dates and times:

  • Thursday, June 6 at 6:30pm (preview)
  • Saturday, June 8 at 11:00am (preview)
  • Friday, June 14 at 8:00pm (opening night!! woo!)
  • Saturday, June 22 at 5pm
  • Thursday, June 27 at 6:30
  • Saturday, June 29 at 7:00pm

Anything else?

Thanks so much for your help! Hopefully we'll see you at the Hollywood Fringe. (In person or in spirit.)

This photo doubles as my Mentos ad audition.
This photo doubles as my Mentos ad audition.

Postscript: Who are you exactly?

Hi, I’m Mike Shapiro. Most of the time I write scores for film, games, and similar commercial projects. But I also have a deep passion for musical theater, which results in projects like this one. My theater creations tend to be for younger audiences. I didn’t intend to focus that way, but that seems to be the direction in which my spirit leans, and you never want to get into a fight with your own creative spirit. Along with Gregory Crafts I co-wrote Super Sidekick: The Musical, which is lovingly handled by the great folks at Samuel French. I’ve also written a number of short musicals which have been performed around the world. The most popular are Climb the Smallest Mountain, HMS Headwind, and The Charmed LIfe (co-written with Mark Harvey Levine). I glommed several of these shorts into an anthology musical called A Feast of Snacks, which has been performed in such exotic locations as London, Wales, and Abilene, Texas. 

My hobbies include hiking and feeling gratitude towards donors.

Postscript 2: Who are the other people working on this project?

I'm still waiting for them to send me bios. It's like pulling teeth from a stone.

Risks and challenges

The biggest risk concerns the cast. We're a small indy musical with only two understudies, and if half the cast gets sick before opening night, it's over before it begins. Fortunately this is fairly unlikely!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 5 or more About US$ 5

    Anti-Bullying Nanobot

    A shout-out on our social media pages — including a (tasteful) personalized compliment! If we don't know you personally, we may have to get creative.

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
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    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    Anti-Bullying Micro Robot

    The same quality expression of thanks as is offered at the Nanobot level, AND voucher for one song demo download!

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
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    10 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

    Anti-Bullying Scout Robot

    Everything from the Nanobot level AND three (3) song demo download vouchers, and a voucher for download of the entire (future) THE BULLY PROBLEM cast album!

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
    • Voucher for download of entire (future) cast album!
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    Anti-Bullying Robot

    Everything from the $25 level plus a ticket for opening night! Red carpet and paparazzi not included.

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
    • Voucher for download of entire (future) cast album!
    • A ticket for opening night (or a preview) of The Bully Problem!
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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    Anti-Bullying Mega Robot

    Just like the $50 donation level except that you get two tickets, and a handwritten thank-you message on a postcard purchased in Hollywood! (Merely receiving it will make you glamorous.)

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
    • Voucher for download of entire (future) cast album!
    • A postcard from Hollywood with a handwritten thank-you message!
    • A ticket for opening night (or a preview) of The Bully Problem!
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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    Anti-Bullying ULTRA Robot

    Just like the $100 reward level, except that a member of our cast will record a video thanking you personally! Normally you have to be the Academy to have this experience.

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
    • Voucher for download of entire (future) cast album!
    • A postcard from Hollywood with a handwritten thank-you message!
    • A ticket for opening night (or a preview) of The Bully Problem!
    • A personalized thank-you video from one of our cast members!
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    Limited 2 backers
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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    Aesthetic Android

    In addition to the other $250-donation-level rewards, artist Cleve Nettles will create an original painting (up to 3 feet x 3 feet in size!) of the family-friendly subject of your choice. This can be based on photographs or just a general description or idea. The style will be comparable to the paintings here: http://tinyurl.com/y5cne3uq . A collapsable frame and shipping is included.

    A unique way to immortalize yourself or perhaps a great gift for a friend or family member. (Or your cat. We don't judge.)

    This is a one-time reward will go to the first person who claims it. Grab it now if you're interested!

    Includes:
    • An original painting!
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 1 backer
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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    Member of the Gang

    A custom edition of our show logo with a cartoon image of YOU (or the non-copyrighted person of your choice) added to the ranks characters! Hand-drawn by Alen Yen, artist of the show's logo. We'll give you a digital version AND a color print signed by the cast!

    (For an idea what this would look like, check out http://tinyurl.com/y5vmqldr )

    Includes:
    • Digital show logo with a cartoon image of YOU
    • Print of aforementioned custom logo
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    Reward no longer available 3 backers
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    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    Anti-Bullying DOUBLE ULTRA Robot

    Just like the $100 reward level except that we will also send you a video of the entire cast and creative team (or as many of them as we can round up) thanking you personally! You will drown in gratitude!

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
    • Voucher for download of entire (future) cast album!
    • A postcard from Hollywood with a handwritten thank-you message!
    • A ticket for opening night (or a preview) of The Bully Problem!
    • A personalized thank-you video from the entire cast & creatives!
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    Limited 1 backer
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    Anti-Bullying Robot SQUADRON

    Everything from the $500 reward level, plus: Mike Shapiro will write an ORIGINAL SONG ABOUT YOU! (Or the family-friendly topic of your choice.) It will be fully produced, recorded, and sung by your choice of Mike (brace your ears) or a member of the cast (recommended).

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
    • Voucher for download of entire (future) cast album!
    • A postcard from Hollywood with a handwritten thank-you message!
    • A ticket for opening night (or a preview) of The Bully Problem!
    • A personalized thank-you video from the entire cast & creatives!
    • An original song written about YOU (or your topic)!
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    Limited 1 backer
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    Pledge US$ 5,000 or more About US$ 5,000

    Anti-Bullying Robot Mega Ultra ARMADA!!!

    Everything from the $500 reward level, plus: Mike Shapiro will write an ORIGINAL MINI-MUSICAL ABOUT YOU! (Or the family-friendly topic of your choice.) It will be at least five minutes long, contain at least two original songs, and be fully produced (dialogue and music) as an audio production. You will get the final production, song recordings, and the script! Guaranteed good for your ego.

    Includes:
    • Expression of eternal gratitude on social media!
    • Song demo download voucher!
    • Voucher for download of entire (future) cast album!
    • A postcard from Hollywood with a handwritten thank-you message!
    • A ticket for opening night (or a preview) of The Bully Problem!
    • A personalized thank-you video from the entire cast & creatives!
    • An original short musical written about YOU (or your topic)!
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    Limited 0 backers
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Funding period

- (29 days)