Words and Music and Script: How to Craft a Musical with Mark Saltzman

The Lemon



This hands-on workshop is perfect for anyone working on a musical: composers, songwriters, scriptwriters, or any writer or theater professional who is curious about what makes a musical work.

For Composers/Songwriters:

Your instrument, the one you'll be playing in musical theater, is your audience. So how do you get the right responses at the right times? How do you find the perfect place in the story to put a song, and the perfect song for that place, remembering at all times you are writing a score, not just a song? How can you to avoid the trap of too many passive songs in which characters do nothing but reflect on plot events? How do you decide when a song and dialogue is the right solution, or if it's better to musicalize an entire scene or if the solution is simply using dialogue?  The answers lie in the basic principles of dramatic writing: story structure, plot points, engaging an audience, and the crucial matter of making an audience wonder what's going to happen next. The class will familiarize you with all of the above and the standard writers' device of  index cards on a corkboard.

For Both Composer/Songwriters and Scriptwriters:

Collaboration Fundamentals: For collaborators, the class will be couples counseling (or in some cases, trio counseling) for creative teams. Topics will include: Learning to communicate directly, in clear language, not jargon; making sure all collaborators are writing the same show; checking that the scriptwriting side is able to contribute knowledgeably and sensitively to the musical side, and that the songwriters are aware and respectful of the unforgiving rules of dramatic writing that can make or break a show. Also covered: how the team can advance their project from an idea on a page to a finished draft and then through the mystifying process of readings, workshops and production.


I will contact students prior to the first session to go over preparation for the first class, and to ask if you'll be bringing in a finished project, a project under construction or simply an idea.


Mark Saltzman is a multiple Emmy-winning television writer and songwriter, a Hollywood screenwriter, and a New York produced playwright.

He began his career in New York with Jim Henson, writing for the Muppets. His Sesame Street sketches and songs (including “Caribbean Amphibian” and “New Way to Walk”) earned him seven Emmy Awards. But behind Kermit's back, Mark was writing cabaret shows and musicals that played at The Ballroom, Soho Rep, 13th Street Theater, and the Village Gate, where he co-wrote the long-running revue A, My Name is Alice.

For network television, Mark wrote Mrs. Santa Claus, the CBS holiday musical starring Angela Lansbury with songs by Jerry Herman. For the movies, he wrote The Adventures of Milo and Otis and Three Ninjas Kick Back and has written screenplays for SONY, Universal, and Disney. His TV movie, The Red Sneakers, directed by and starring Gregory Hines, aired on Showtime and was nominated for a Writers Guild Award. In 2007, Mark served as writer-producer of the Disney Channel TV show< Johnny and the Sprites.

Mark's musical play, The Tin Pan Alley Rag opened at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1997 and was nominated for five Los Angeles Ovation Awards, including Best Musical. Tin Pan Alley Rag made its New York debut at the Roundabout Theater where it was nominated for an Outer Critics Award.

Mark's musical comedy, Romeo and Bernadette, played at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, where it won a Carbonell Award, and New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse. His play, Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood, based on the 1933 visit of George Bernard Shaw to the MGM studio, premiered at the Laguna Playhouse in April 2003 and has been optioned for a film. Complete bio and credits at MSaltzman.com.

Mark is a graduate of Cornell University. He serves as president of the Arnold Glassman Fund, a charitable foundation that provides grants for documentary film projects.



This eight-week series of classes meets every Tuesday, March 20th to May 1st, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm

Classes take place at:

The Village at Ed Gould Plaza
1125 N. McCadden Place
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Cost is $280.

Please email WMS.Producer@gmail.com by March 6th, to enroll.


“The musical I developed with Mark's guidance in his Words And Music class has found producers and was invited to workshop at Northwestern University's American Music Theater Project. I'll be back!”
-Paul LaVoie, author of Oh L'Amour: The Erasure Musical

“An intimate writers' room for musical theatre writers. Mark guides students through the development of their stories from initial spark to first draft and beyond. Because he has experience in the music world as well, he's just as comfortable mentoring composers as he is book writers and lyricists.”
-Roger Q. Mason, playwright and librettist

“Don't try to write a musical without taking this class. Just don't.”
-Carole Real, playwright