Stew Stewart

Undergraduate Discipline

Theatre

Graduate Program

MFA Theatre Program

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021

Theatre

Songwriting for a New Musical Theatre

Open , Component—Year

This course grew out of the final months of last semester’s New Musical Theatre Lab during its transition to remote learning and has been designed to work as well in person as it has remotely. The course teaches a unique approach to musical theatre making forged during the making of the Obie- and Tony-award winning musical, Passing Strange. Stew’s method treats the song, not the story, as the seed for all that follows in a show. Students are taught to conjure stories that will emerge out of their songs rather than tacking songs onto a preexisting story. The significance of personal biography as source material vs. invented fictions is also emphasized, along with the incorporation of solo performance and the use of video. Emphasis on in-the-moment creating via a demystification of the songwriting process keeps students inspired and motivated, with more time spent creating than staring at a screen. Students are regularly given songwriting prompts and invited to take time away from the screen to compose anything from one verse to a full-blown song, along with solo-performance fragments or video. Students will work toward building, at semester’s end, a final show from all of the songs that they’ve written. Students will learn techniques that transform the “magic” of songwriting into a reflexive act of communication, available to anyone, with or without songwriting experience. The fundamentals of songwriting are taught, along with an introduction to various music software apps, video editing, and DIY methods of turning bedrooms and basements into performance spaces. 

Faculty

Graduate Courses

MFA Theatre 2020-2021

Songwriting for A New Musical Theatre

Open , Component—Year

This course grew out of the final months of last semester’s New Musical Theatre Lab during its transition to remote learning and has been designed to work as well in person as it has remotely. The course teaches a unique approach to musical theatre-making forged during the making of the Obie- and Tony-award winning musical, Passing Strange. Stew’s method treats the song, not the story, as the seed for all that follows in a show. Students are taught to conjure stories that will emerge out of their songs rather than tacking songs onto a pre-existing story. The significance of personal biography as source material vs. invented fictions is also emphasized, along with the incorporation of solo performance and the use of video. Emphasis on in-the-moment creating via a demystification of the songwriting process keeps students inspired and motivated, with more time spent creating than staring at a screen. Students are regularly given songwriting prompts and invited to take time away from the screen to compose anything from one verse to a full-blown song, along with solo-performance fragments or video. Students will work toward building, at semester’s end, a final show from all of the songs that they've written. Students will learn techniques that transform the “magic” of songwriting into a reflexive act of communication, available to anyone, with or without songwriting experience. The fundamentals of songwriting are taught, along with an introduction to various music software apps, video editing, and DIY methods of turning bedrooms and basements into performance spaces. 

Faculty

Previous Courses

Music as Theatre Lab

Component—Year

This class meets once a week for four hours.

This lab is open to any artists committed to exploring a variety of music-driven, song-centric, spirit-derived approaches to music-theatre creation. Music as Theatre Lab invites students into an investigation of the work of prophets, faith healers, and wild politicians—as well as blues, gospel, and old-school rock-and-roll artists. Commitment to risk-as-truth, with an eye toward creating pieces and performances that conjure transcendence, is a founding principle of the Lab. Students will work in evershifting teams to create and perform short pieces; e.g., scenes, sermons, songs, or situations that include set and costume designs, choreography, and video. This lab will also feature an ongoing “compare and contrast” investigation of rock music and show tunes, with an emphasis on what we have to learn about acting and singing effectively from those differences.

Faculty