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Behind the curtain

For a musical, the path to Broadway is long and winding

A scene from the workshop production of Medusa. Anton Volovsek

Behind the curtain
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A New York moment:

How does a musical make it to Broadway or to off-Broadway theaters (100-499 seats) in New York? Answer: It goes through extensive workshopping. I got a peek at one step in that process when I recently saw a workshop performance of a new musical, Medusa.

My friend Rachel Dean co-wrote the musical, which retells the Greek myth but with a more sympathetic narrative around Medusa. In the ancient myth, Medusa is raped by the Greek god Poseidon and then becomes a terrifying snake-headed villain. Dean and her co-writer Wes Braver did a remarkable job with this musical, in my unbiased opinion, combining pop, rap, and traditional Broadway melodies, somewhat in the style of Hamilton (where Dean has been a pianist).

New York University Tisch School of the Arts produced the 10-day workshop for the musical, and the actors performed in a small space with a minimalist production, including music, lighting, and costumes. The venue for performances of Medusa had waiting lists for attendees, with NYU students and professors piling in. I anxiously watched the waiting list and managed to get the last ticket.

“You, the audience, are the final collaborator as we continue to develop this new musical,” a note in the program read.

Worth your time:

A tale about a West Virginia doctor who became addicted to opioids, then over-prescribed pain pills to others with the same struggle, is sad but redemptive. The doctor, after losing everything, becomes a Christian and turns to helping other addicts find healing in his small town through a local church.

The story comes from reporter Sam Quinones, who has been on the drug trade beat for decades and wrote what I think is the best book on the opioid crisis, Dreamland.

Quinones is the rare reporter who delves into the role of faith in addiction recovery, and he does it very well.

This week I learned:

Lower Manhattan has reached an encouraging marker: It has the most people working there since before 9/11. The 2001 terror attack pushed 754 companies to leave the neighborhood; in the years since, the area has seen an economic turnaround.

A court case you might not know about:

A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals religious freedom case from 2016 is resurfacing now because the Department of the Interior is considering changing its policy as a result of the case. For decades the federal government has hounded Native Americans over their use of eagle feathers in religious ceremonies, threatening them with fines and imprisonment.

The Becket law firm successfully handled the case challenging the law against feathers for the Lipan Apaches. Now Becket attorney Luke Goodrich is pressing for that victory to apply beyond the plaintiffs in the case to Native Americans nationally.

Culture I am consuming:

I’ve been reading Alan Jacobs’ How to Think and thinking about this excerpt:

“As we’ve seen in our look at the transformation of Megan Phelps-Roper, at least one person who once carried those banners [from Westboro Baptist] pretty clearly wasn’t a monster. And it’s highly likely that the number of non-monsters holding monstrous views is greater than one. Over the years, I’ve had to acknowledge that some of the people whose views on education appall me are more devoted to their students than I am to mine; and that some of the people whose theological positions strike me as immensely damaging to the health of the church are nevertheless more prayerful and charitable, more Christlike, than I will ever be. This is immensely disconcerting, even when it doesn’t mean that those people are right about those matters we disagree on. Being around those people forces me to confront certain truths about myself that I would rather avoid; and that alone is reason to seek every means possible to constrain the energies of animus.”

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at

Emily Belz

Emily is a former senior reporter for WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and also previously reported for the New York Daily News, The Indianapolis Star, and Philanthropy magazine. Emily resides in New York City.



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