Aria Entertainment is establishing a full-time literary department for new musicals as it bolsters its commitment to commissioning and developing original work.
The independent company, led by producer Katy Lipson, is pausing its annual new musical theatre festival From Page to Stage in order to refocus efforts towards developing more original shows to full production.
Aria’s open submissions window will operate under the existing From Page to Stage banner, however writers will be able to submit work for consideration on a rolling basis rather than the limited time previously available for the festival.
Lipson and her team will then assess the work with the help of a new staff member whose role will be dedicated to reading material and attending workshops.
Writers will be required to submit three demos, three scenes and a synopsis in order to be considered, and Lipson said she intends to provide all writers with a yes or no answer within three months.
Lipson told The Stage that the creation of a full-time literary department felt like the natural progression for her company, and said she hopes the next phase of the business’ future will enable her to provide bigger trajectories for developed shows.
She said she had already begun the commissioning process for four new shows and wanted to expand this remit further, with an ambition for 75% of Aria’s output to be new work – rather than revivals – by 2021.
Lipson said the future of its producing portfolio “is definitely new work” and that the company needed to focus on the commissioning process in order to achieve this.
“As an independent producer passionate about lead producing, you do get to the point where unless you’re going to generate new product and put those wheels in motion, you might get to a point where you don’t have anything you want to tour or produce.
“We’re not having any restrictions on [the type of work] we’re looking for and want international work too. I need to find great shows and great people, and if it speaks to me it will absolutely be pursued. It’s as simple as that.” Lipson said.
Aria Entertainment’s recent productions include musicals Hair, Aspects of Love, Pippin and Rags, all of which were staged as part of its producing partnership with the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester.
She added that by publicising Aria’s new open submissions policy, she hoped to provide writers with a clearly signposted place to pitch their work.
“I think writers in this country particularly can feel a bit trapped and that they don’t know where to go. No one really advertises that they’re accepting commissions. We are one of only a few that accept unsolicited material, which I think is important. Give us some time, but we will endeavour to get through it all,” she said.
The From Page to Stage festival will not take place this year. Since it was founded in 2013 it has showcased more than 100 new musicals, and last year took Bill Russell and Janet Hood’s new musical Unexpected Joy to production at Southwark Playhouse.