Since its founding in 2014, Musical Theatre Factory has been an inclusive community, wholly dedicated to the developmental process of innovative new musicals by early-career artists. MTF began in the back of a porn studio when Founding Artistic Director Shakina Nayfack was gifted 18 months of a lease. She opened the doors to any volunteer willing to put in sweat equity to build the space with her, thus providing all access entry into participating at MTF. This ethic of all-access and serving emerging musical theatre writers is evident in the formation of MTF’s signature programming of the Assembly Line™, a suite of development opportunities that offers artists a comprehensive path. Formed together with Beehive Dramaturgs and based on the understanding of the intricacies of musicals, every step of the assembly line provides valuable sharing opportunities of early work in rigorous and supportive spaces—whether it be performing a song in our Salons, sharing sections of work in our Representation Roundtables™ affinity spaces for People of Color (POC) and Women, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming (WTGNC) folx; Writers Groups facilitated by dramaturgs; staging 15 minutes in a 4×15™; or finally hearing and seeing the full musical in a Residency. Our commitment to emerging artists has increased with the Makers program, where we commit substantial resources over 18 months so that they can plan deliberately. As we have grown our operating budget and transitioned from an all-volunteer staff to a more sustainable and equitable model, we are also growing our capacity to support early-career artists more holistically with financial compensation, dedicated dramaturgs, and rejuvenating retreats.
We have been successful in creating a pipeline for makers to create bold new musical theatre, centering the development process, and amplifying the voices of artists of color in the artistic realm. Having served artists at all stages as they develop their work, we then connect and advocate for them with the people, organizations, and resources for their next steps. As we enter our 5th year, MTF has been part of the development lifecycle for 130+ new works and served over 900 writers, actors, directors, musicians, and multidisciplinary artists. Our artists are leading the charge of radical transformation in every way. Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop, which was originally developed at MTF, opened to critical acclaim at Playwrights Horizons in the Spring of 2019; Kit Yan and Melissa Li’s Interstate with queer and trans Asian characters telling uplifting human stories will open at Mixed Blood in Minneapolis in the Spring of 2020; Mark Sonnenblick (Jonathan Larson Award winner, 2018) and Sam Bolen, who met at MTF, opened Midnight at the Never Get at The York Theatre Company in Fall of 2018; Founding member Joe Iconis is now opening Be More Chill on Broadway with performers he met at MTF, and Nikko Benson premiered Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat at the Adirondack Theatre Festival 2017; Jillian Walker’s developmental residency of SKiNFoLK: An American Show garnered producers to support the production and will be premiering at the Bushwick Starr in March 2020. Further producing organizations (Rattlestick and Ars Nova) have already offered opportunities. Our artists envision and manifest the future of the field.