On Writing Anagram: The Musical

By Micaela Blei

When I was in 7th grade, I was on the JV Spelling Team, and my crush was Varsity. I pined while I spelled. When I heard about musicals in Theatrix, I thought: great fiction comes from life, right? So I proposed a fast-paced love story, set in the corrupt world of middle school competitive spelling.

I met with Rachel Whorton, Theatrix curator, who gave me great advice about story structure. I spoke to my composer, Ynvgil Guttu, on the phone, about tone and style– she lives in Alaska, so our collaboration was by phone. And I got to writing.

Writing short form is rewarding– as in writing formal poetry, or a 350-word blog post for the Ed Theatre blog, every detail has to be important.

Once I had a draft and ideas for three songs, I wrote lyrics, sent them to Yngvil and
received back piano sketches of the tunes. This was an amazing moment– it’s so cool when someone has taken what you wrote and made it sound beautiful! We talked several times, refining things, and I put my script through a brutal doctoring process. (It was WAY TOO COMPLICATED for a 15 minute musical, in its first drafts.)

Theatrix hosted a fantastic workshop day, when all the directors, playwrights and composers got together for a reading of the scripts. This was nerve wracking! We got feedback from classmates which helped refine our next drafts.

Soon after that, it was time for the first read-through with the cast. Yngvil handed out music, the cast read the script, and from there it belonged to them.

I didn’t see it until opening night. It was incredible to see how much work the cast, composer and director had put into the production. This was the first musical I wrote, and also (of course) the first one I’ve seen performed. And what I saw was brilliantly talented people taking some ideas I’d had and making them smarter, funnier and more beautiful.  I’m hooked. I’ll see you at Theatrix next year.