“Students Tiede and Kuntz, and another professor, Brooke Joyce, and I are working on creating a musical theatre project called Matchgirl,” says Dintaman. “The two students are writing the musical; one is the book and lyrics writer and the other is the composer.”
Tiede serves as the lyricist and script writer. “To create lyrics, I pick apart rhyme schemes and existing librettos [the text of a musical],” he says. “I review them and consider how they can be used in our musical to make words fit together and portray what the actors should sound like. Lyrics define the characters in terms of education, motivation, or where they’re from.”
Kuntz’s main responsibility with the projects is to write the music and some of the lyrics. “Throughout the process, I work on character development or themes,” he says. “My work usually takes the form of a piano reduction and then branches out into a pit score, which encompasses several different instruments.“
Joyce views the project as mostly research and development. “Tiede and Kuntz have spent a significant amount of time reviewing, reading, and listening to other musical theatre pieces and making observations about them,” he says. “It’s helped them figure out what they can utilize, techniques in particular, and styles of music they would like to try to emulate in their own work. My role has been to guide the conversation when we talk about those aspects and they share their research.”
As Tiede’s advisor, Dintaman reads the lyrics and storylines, which will ultimately become the book for the musical. “I provide feedback about the characterizations and dramatic actions throughout the storyline along with the lyrics or style they want to create for the overall tone and the emotion,” he says.
The hope is that this project results in a full, evening-length work that would be produced with actors, musicians, a set, and costumes. “That’s the long-term goal,” Joyce says. “The short-term goal would be to do a workshop production with a smaller number of actors. They wouldn’t have all their parts memorized, but we’d get a sense of how the piece works in time and its dramatic arc.”
Tiede makes a connection with the work he’s doing on the project to his appreciation of horror books and novels. “That genre style helps readers get a better understanding of characters because you see them at their best and worst,” he says.
Kuntz found his inspiration for the project by reviewing several musicals. He says, “When I watch them, I look for little gestures, moments of little gems in the music that have worked, and see what can I extract from them.”
“It’s exciting to have students with the skills, ambition, and talent to put the effort into making a piece like this. It’s a huge undertaking, but both Kuntz and Tiede are equipped to do this project and do it well.”
“For me, this project is an example of a mentoring relationship. The students are the creators of the project. As a mentor, I tell them what I see, hear, and how I think people might respond to the musical they’re writing.”