What is MTG?
MTG is the Musical Theater Guild at MIT. It is a student run organization that puts on four musical productions each year. You can read more about MTG at http://web.mit.edu/mtg/www/AboutMTG.html
MTG has a proud tradition of producing works created by MIT students and other members of the MIT community, continuing the “Tech Show” tradition that began in 1899. You can read more about Tech Shows at http://web.mit.edu/mtg/www/TS-History.html.
Where did the idea for the show come from?
The show came out of a one-off comment dRachel made after a performance of the MTG IAP (that’s like a winter break) show, a steam-punk version of “Jekyll and Hyde” : “Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a musical about MIT?” She happened to be near Julie, who commented, “I’ve always wanted to write a musical…” From there, the conversation grew from just a crazy idea to a this-is-actually-going-to-happen crazy idea.
How did the writing process get started?
The writing process actually began with lengthy discussions about plot and characters. We spent hours trying to flesh out each person (and inhuman-creature). A lot of the characters ended up changing as the process went on, of course, but the process helped us get oriented with the world we were going to create.
As we discussed, since nothing was nailed down yet, if anyone had an idea, we would write it down — we dealt with the organization later and any idea was a good idea.
In terms of the actual writing, we wrote what we knew first: the last line, the beginning, a scene in the middle, an idea for a song here or there. Then we went on to fill in the blanks.
Which came first, music or lyrics?
We found that there was no single pattern to how the songs were written… sometimes we started with music, and sometimes with lyrics, but every song went back and forth between music and lyrics.
What was your writing process?
Our writing process can be summed up in one word: “vomit.” Vomiting is a writing technique in which the writer spills out as much content as possible, all internal filters turned off, and then goes back to clean up and pick out the gems. This allowed us to produce more content in the hopes of coming across something we really liked. We had these vomit-writing sessions about once or twice a week before producing the first draft, and then spent nearly every night over the summer doing some sort of vomiting or revising.
Our writing was also collaborative — we used Google docs to compose the script and we used a highlighting system to tell our writing apart. Whenever we wrote, we would highlight our writing in our color, and when a section was deemed acceptable by all, we would “white it” (remove the highlighting). We also were very careful to never delete anything. Instead of deleting, we “redded” pieces of the script. Then we would make a new draft with the red removed, keeping an old version just in case. There are about 24 numbered versions of the script, though there are also some numbers between (5.5, 7.23, etc), many of which are divided into acts, not to mention the various drafts we made of particular scenes or bits of lyrics that gave us trouble. Total, we easily have order 10^2 Google docs floating around.
In order to test the effectiveness of our script, we often read aloud portions of the script to each other, being sure that no one writer read too many times for the same character (though each of us did have our own particular favorites to read). We also had workshop readings of the script, after which we asked for feedback from the audience. Having “fresh eyes” on the script was invaluable, and the feedback from these workshops was a critical component of evolving the script to the quality of storytelling that we wanted.
What was the most ridiculous scene or song that never made it to the final draft?
In a very, very early draft of the script, we had a scene where the hackers were just hanging around causally in a dorm space. Some of this dialog inspired character traits and conversations that are shown in the final script (right before and after Our Target: the Dome). Kepler, the traitorous upperclassmen, was a complete lady killer (I’ll you decide if this is still true).
We also had a super crufty (old alum) character with the nick-name “Aesop, the fabled” who helped Billy in a time of need. This character became combined with another character in later drafts of the script.
What was the most ridiculous scene or song that made it to the final draft?
We’ll let you judge for yourself. (I think you will find that you have a lot to choose from)
You guys wrote an entire musical while studying at MIT: Are you insane?
Possibly, but such a thing is not entirely unheard of. MTG was formed in part from Tech Show, an organization that did a yearly student-produced musical. Often, these were also student-written shows. Nowadays, we’re not crazy enough to do this every year, but original shows do get done occasionally.
What were some of your favorite or most often used inspirations?
We drew inspiration for the show by both listening to shows we loved and shows we hated. It was important to identify why we liked the shows we did, what worked well, and what we disliked about the shows we disliked. Admittedly no show was perfect, and we were able to find things we liked in shows we hated. Below are just a few of the shows we used for inspiration, these are some of our favorites/ shows we feel reflect the flavor of what we’ve produced:
Bare: A Pop Opera
The Book of Mormon
Children of Eden
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Into the Woods
Jekyll and Hyde (Broadway, concept album, and resurrection)
Jesus Christ Superstar
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Scott Pilgrim (comic series)
[title of show]
West Side Story
2010: Our Hideous Future