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Meet The Writers: Melissa Morris

In our "Meet The Writers" series, we're learning more about the participants of the CMTWC Writers Workshop. The Toronto Writers Workshop meets every two weeks where, under the guidance of Leslie Arden, writers learn and practice the craft of composition and lyric-writing.

What was your introduction to the theatre?

I suppose it was being the matinee Mother Rabbit in Peter Rabbit in grade one (the grade two girl got the evening shows). But actually, I didn't see a play/musical until I was 13. Then I dove deep into the musical theatre canon once I discovered it existed!

When was the moment you decided to write for the theatre?

My professor talked me into it because we were doing a production of Alice in Wonderland and we thought it would be great to have original music. After that, I received many more opportunities to write music. It wasn't really a decision as much as saying yes to projects I was interested in. Then I blinked and I realize have been doing this for a long time!

Whose work do you admire and why?

Jason Robert Brown, Flaherty/Ahrens, Paul Gordon, Alan Menken, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein. Great melody writers.

How do you like to write? What is your process? Where do you find inspiration?

I like to collaborate with lyricists. I take the lyrics and make suggestions, changes and get them to a point where I feel like they're ready to be set, then I play with them. I use the piano and record long improvisations, which I go back over and mine for material that I can use. Then I expand it, make decisions. Harmonize it, develop the accompaniment. I am often surprised how my first instincts are often the best.

What do you want to see more of on stage?

Creative uses of music. Great fusion of character and music.

If you had to pick one musical cast recording to be your "desert island record" which would it be?

Jane Eyre, perhaps?

Complete this sentence: "I write because...”

I love collaboration and I love the art form.

What's a tip you have about collaboration?

Be flexible! Choose the moments that you are passionate about and stand up for them, but those moments should be few and far between. For the most part, let it go! They're just ideas. There's more where they came from :)

Why did you join the Writers Workshop?

I originally started in Composium with Leslie 2 years ago and a gig took me out of town, meaning I couldn't complete the course. It has always been something I wanted to finish and I am so glad I am doing that now. I have also grown a lot in the 2 years away, and have noticed shifts in my own musical vocabulary and style. It all worked out perfectly, actually!

What is your favourite thing about the Writers Workshop?

I like the assignments. It's wonderful having parameters and having Leslie's wealth of knowledge inform my work.

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