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Stop! Collaborate and Listen!

Written By Melvin Tunstall III and Caroline Tattersfield

The fun for me in collaboration is, one, working with other people just makes you smarter; that’s proven.

-Lin-Manuel Miranda


It may seem odd to begin a blog about collaboration with Lin-Manuel Miranda, he who famously wears all three hats when creating new musicals, but collaboration doesn’t just stop with the written page. It takes a village to raise a new work! Anyone who has heard Lin’s original demos for Hamilton will hear the brilliance of Miranda’s frequent collaborator Alex Lacamoire when comparing them to the Original Cast Recording. 

Today, I am thrilled to collaborate with TheaterMakers Studio intern Caroline Tattersfield to bring you a few tips on how to have a successful collaboration. 

Caroline, a multi-hyphenated singer-actress and soon-to-be Bucknell University graduate with her sights set on producing, has a front row seat at our monthly “Next Stage Coaching Session” and brought to our attention the numerous members in our tribe of theatermakers searching for collaborators for their new projects. Whether it is a team seeking a director to guide and shape a show, or someone looking to form a long-term partnership and create new musicals,  collaboration is the name of the game. 

So when and how do you choose the right person to collaborate with? Just keep reading, theatermaker!

Tip of the Week readers know my belief in the philosophy of “Date before you collaborate” and it turns out our founder Ken Davenport is also a big believer in the dating process, offering this advice during the pandemic:

“This is a great time to go on a FEW dates with some new collaborators.  Get on your social media and say exactly that . . . you want to go on an e-date with a new book writer, a new lyricist, a new composer, etc.  Find one and write!  But listen . . . one of the reasons why most collaborations go wrong is that they start out trying to get married first.  In other words, they say, “Let’s write a musical together.”  Don’t try that.  Write a song together.  Write a 10 Minute Musical together.  Write a one-act play together.  Write something short so you can see if you are compatible. One of the greatest ways to build a FUTURE collaboration is to have a very quick success.  The other benefit of writing something short . . . is that you can do this with several folks at once, until you find ‘the one.’”

TheaterMakers, we would be wise to heed Ken’s advice. Producers often see a red flag when writers wear too many hats. Caroline shared this final tidbit from our most recent Next Stage Coaching Session in which Fun Home producer Megan Kingery offered these words of warning for anyone not so quick to jump into a collab:

“It is a dissuader for producers if you are wearing too many hats. It shows them that you are not a team player, not open to working with other people.”

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and you can always play your Lin-Manuel card. However, if you are contemplating forming a partnership, Ken makes the following suggestion: 

“If you are missing something from your art and getting frustrated- look in the mirror first.  Ask yourself “Can I do it?” If not, then it is time to look at those around you. Before you are looking for collaborators, ask yourself what you’re looking for. Know what you expect from them in the collaboration and more importantly, what you expect from yourself.”

One perfect opportunity to hear more on collaboration and/or put yourself out there as a potential collaborator is at this year’s Theatermakers Summit! The ultimate destination for theatermakers, you won’t find a bigger or better gathering of like-minded individuals ready to bring more theater into the world. This year we are excited to to present a unique perspective on the collaboration process with 

Actors as Collaborators: Creating the World with Actors and Using Their Voices to Shape Your Story 


moderated by Broadway actor and writer J. QUINTON JOHNSON (Hamilton, Choir Boy)

You’ve written the script. You’ve found a producer. Now, who will be bringing your characters and story to life? In this panel, hear from experienced actors about how to engage your cast not only as characters, but as collaborators.


We are less than TEN DAYS away from “Places, Please!” so don’t delay reserving your spot today. This year’s summit may be the start of a beautiful new partnership!

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