Musical Theatre, Comedy, History of American Musical Theatre


Believing that a thesis should encompass all aspects of a conservatory training program, I will write and perform--in collaboration with my classmate Patrick John Moran--a new musical entitled A 16 Bar Cut: The History of American Musical Theatre as the capstone project for my Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. A 16 Bar Cut will be a two-man show that tells the entire history of American musical theatre from the ancient Greeks to today in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The goal of the project is to pay homage to an original American art form in a night of zany silliness and hilarity. The show will feature an informative perspective on the rise and current status of American musical theatre, several new songs, complete irreverence, and grown men singing, dancing, and making utter fools of themselves. Creating my thesis show will test and stretch my knowledge base of the musical theatre art form and virtually every skill that I have developed in my course of study. Since A 16 Bar Cut centers on the historical journey of musical theatre, constructing the new work will demonstrate my understanding of musical theatre history and literature. Performing the show will also challenge my ability and craftsmanship as an actor, singer, and dancer. Not only will I create a through-line character--a heightened, silly, professorial version of myself, but I will also create approximately fifty additional characters used throughout the show. The vocal and dance requirements for my track will also be numerous and demanding. And since the show travels through the major movements of musical theatre history, I will have to dance, sing, and act in the various styles and qualities of each movement and time period. Other significant challenges will center on script development. The first obstacle will be synthesizing music theatre into a single evening while maintaining an arc, storyline, and Patrick and my specific point of view about the genre. Another complexity to the show will be accessibility to the audience--how to be respectful to and informative about musical theatre, while at the same time being entertaining and funny to a wide array of audience members who will vary in musical theatre knowledge. In addition, developing a two-man thesis will require a complete collaboration with Patrick Moran. Since musical theatre is rarely--if ever--a solo art, working as a team will expand and exercise my collaborative abilities. And producing the show with Patrick will test supplementary skills such as marketing, resourcefulness, design and technical elements, etc. The Research and Analysis portion of my monograph document will be structured according to the M.F.A. Thesis Guidelines as applicable to my specific project. The (A) Research section will consist of a biographical glossary on all of the composers and lyricists referenced in A 16 Bar Cut. Librettists' information will be included when their work is pertinent. Additionally, each composer, lyricists, and librettists will be discussed in regards to their significance in musical theatre history. The (B) Structural Analysis section will describe the show's organization and construction and how the structural problems mentioned above are solved. The (C) Role Analysis section will have three sub-sections focusing on my different roles in the production as a playwright, producer, and actor.


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Graduation Date





Bell, John


Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Length of Campus-only Access


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Masters Thesis (Open Access)