Into the Woods You Go Again...

Back in February 1992, just a few months into New Line Theatre's existence, I wrote this column in our second newsletter. For those who don't remember the pre-internet world, New Line used to send out bi-monthly paper newsletters, called The Bottom Line, from our founding in 1991 through early 2000, when we created the St. Louis Theatre Discussion Group.

The Bottom Line included news about upcoming New Line shows and other musicals in town, musical theatre news from New York and London, reviews of new books, news about CD and video releases, brief background and analysis pieces (the precursors to my books) about musicals opening in St. Louis, anything having to do with musicals. And also a column by me (the analog precursor to this blog). It was a pretty cool newsletter, if I do say so myself. I'm going to try to scan all the issues and get them online at some point. It's really fun to read about The Early Days.

I re-read some of these newsletters the other night and this one really struck me, from Volume I, number 2. It amazed me how much it sounds like New Line today. Which is reassuring. We haven't lost our way...

So here it is...

February 1992

Well, New Line Theatre is a reality. We're a legal not-far-profit corporation and we have a bank account filling quickly with contributions from loyal friends and supporters. It seems so long ago that I first considered starting a new company and leaving the group I co-founded eight years ago, but it's really only been ten weeks.

As with any big decision, there are a few who don't think I should've done it, who don't understand or trust my motivations, who want to see more "intrigue" than really exists. But thankfully, I have been blessed by many friends and others who believe in adventures, in human beings' need for them and ability to conquer them, and in the need to "move on" to new and better experiences with the knowledge gained from experiences gone by.

New Line Theatre will be our greatest creation yet, precisely because it is our latest And what we create ten years down the road will be greater still. As long as we can always learn from what is past and not repeat our mistakes, the future will always look bright. In Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim wrote:

Into the woods you go again,
You have to, every now and then.
Into the woods, no telling when,
Be ready for the journey.

The way is dark, the light is dim,
But now there's you, me, her, and him.
The chances looks small, the chances look grim,
But everything you learn there
Will help when you return there.

Into the woods, you have to grope,
But that's the way you learn to cope.
Into the woods to find there's hope
Of getting through the journey.
Into the woods --
Each time you go,
There's more to learn
Of what you know.

The turnout at auditions, the well-wishing notes and phone calls, the steady stream of generous contributions all prove to me that when you try your best to do what you believe in, others will believe too, and nothing can stop you.

My deepest thanks to those who helped me launch this new enterprise and who stood beside me when the road was rocky; and to all the wonderful people who join us now as New Line shifts into gear to become the only company of its kind in the area, probably in the whole midwest...

Thank you.

Back here in 2012, I want to say thank you again, to all those people who helped get New Line up and running, who believed in the idea behind our company, of aggressive, intelligent, provocative, adult musical theatre, and to the thousands of people in the 20 years since then who have supported and shared our work with us, and also to the exceptional musical theatre artists who keep our art form evolving at such a thrilling pace, giving us amazing opportunity after amazing opportunity to work on some of the greatest pieces our art form has ever seen.

It's impossible for me to look at the shows we've produced over the years and not see that we are, right here, right now, in a new Golden Age of Musical Theatre, more so than any other period before, certainly more so than during the Rodgers and Hammerstein era. At our founding, we didn't know New Line was at the vanguard of a new, non-commercial musical theatre movement, but we were. And it's been an incredible ride.

It's interesting to me that I quoted that particular lyric from Into the Woods back in 1992, because it takes on a theme that has permeated so many of our shows recently, the idea of staying on the path, that the journey is more important than the destination, in other words, the classic hero story that is everyone's life. It seems Sondheim was always grappling with that. I gotta say, it's a little weird going back inside my own head twenty years ago, but it's also enlightening and more reassuring than I expected.

I predicted our future pretty accurately those twenty-plus years ago. As far as we know, we're the only alternative musical theatre company in the whole country, though that may not be true for long. I see some very cool new companies being born in the last few years, often doing the kind of alternative musical theatre we produce. Ten years after I wrote that newsletter we were doing really incredible work, like Hair, Anyone Can Whistle, A New Brain, Floyd Collins, and The Cradle Will Rock. And still today, more than twenty years out, we're doing the best, most adventurous work we've ever done -- Love Kills, The Wild Party, bare, Passing Strange, and so many other thrilling shows.

What a privilege it is to share our work with the amazing audiences of our region.

Thank you.

And long live the Musical!