5 Questions with the Authors of The iTheatrics Method

5 Questions with the Authors of The iTheatrics Method

Earlier this year our friends at iTheatrics published their first book, The iTheatrics Method - The Quintesential Guide to Creating Quality Musical Theater Programsand bursting forth from its illuminating pages is all the knowledge, technique and know-how needed to create and maintain sustainable musical theater programs. Collectively, the authors have decades of experience which is now in one entertaining and informative textbook, perfect for the professional and pupil alike. So what inspired this trio to put pen to paper and share their expertise in writing? We met up with the team behind The iTheatrics Method to shine some light on what motivated their writing, who they hope this book reaches, and some surprises along the way. 

                                                                            The iTheatrics Team (© itheatrics.com)

Q1: What compelled you to write this book? 

Timothy Allen McDonald, Founder and CEO of iTheatrics:  What’s funny is it wasn’t our idea to write the book. We were approached by the owner of GIA publishing, Alec Harris whose daughter had been positively impacted by our teaching methods. Alec suggested the idea at a Junior Theater Festival (his daughter was performing with a group) and I… well… I pretty much blew him off, thinking he was some guy who printed stuff in his garage. A few weeks later Cindy Ripley and I ran into Alec at the Texas Music Educator’s conference and he once again suggested the idea of a textbook. When Alec walked away Cindy asked me how I knew Alec. I said something like “his daughter was at JTF… he wants us to write a textbook or something.” Cindy pretty much whacked me on the back of my head and said “the owner of GIA publications wants us to write a textbook?! Tim, this is a BIG deal… go talk to him now!” And when Cindy tells you to do something now, you do it. Frankly, without Alec’s “divine intervention” I doubt the book would exist. 

Cynthia A. Ripley, iTheatrics Lead Educational Consultant: Tim will have the ultimate answer, but working with teachers all over the globe, it was clear that the challenges of creating sound musical theater programs is universal.  Our best practices streamlined through hundreds of professional development workshops and the results pointed to what worked for most everyone. 

Q2: Who should read the book?

Marty Johnson, Director of Education and Resident Director at iTheatrics: Anyone who ever is going to a part of putting on a musical.  The book is as relevant for a teacher or new director doing their first musical as it is for someone doing their fortieth.  We talked to teachers and theater artists from around the country to get their insight and to hear about their best practices which we shared, so there is really something for everyone to learn from.  Also, it has gorgeous pictures throughout so even someone just looking for inspiration is sure to find something.

Q3: How did you develop the methods? 

TM: Anyone who intends to put on a musical with young people should read this book. We’ve already received tons of great feedback from the field. (It’s nice that the book sold out of its initial run on Amazon in three days.) People who have thirty years of working with kids in musical theatre have told us the book taught them new things, but also reinforced that what they are doing is right. College kids just getting into the field are thrilled because at long last they have a guide to get them through the process of producing a show with kids. We wrote it so that it would be pleasant to read and included a ton of great pictures to make sure it’s entertaining. It’s like a coffee table book, with really good information. 

Q4: What do you hope readers will take away from reading it? 

CR: I hope they will take away practices to make their jobs easier, more joyful and sustainable. If it gives teachers and directors inspiration to support creativity and the arts in our world, I am deliciously content. Forever.

MJ: A feeling of empowerment. A feeling of I can do this.  The knowledge that they can build a sustainable musical theater program in their community that puts the students in the forefront. An understanding that musicals are all about telling a story and as long as they keep that in mind, everything else will come easy.

Q5: Was their something unexpected you learned while writing the book?

TM: We all learned SO MUCH in writing this book. For me personally the section on lighting blew my mind. Did you know we use the same words to describe lights as we do water? Think about it, light seeps, floods, and washes. That said, never mix lighting and water… lol. Also we reached out to tons of people who are currently working in the field and asked them to share their “peaches and pits.” (Pits being mistakes they had made, peaches being good things they’ve learned.) Reading those was both enlightening and hysterical.  

CR: How passionate we all are about what we do.  Everyone who contributed has a special skill. The banter to prioritize what is essential for all who work with kids was eye opening, healthy and constructive.  

MJ: That putting into word what you’ve been teaching for the past ten years can be harder than it seems to be. How fortunate I’ve been to meet and work with so many great people who really care about musicals and young people. That I still really enjoy telling stories. 

Timothy Allen McDonald with iTheatric Students (© itheatrics.com)​

About the Authors

Timothy Allen McDonald

Timothy Allen McDonald is an award-winning playwright and director, founder and CEO of iTheatrics and Executive Director of the Junior Theater Festival, and he got his big break in the 7th grade musical thanks to his choir teacher, Mrs. Dolores Bowman.

Marty Johnson

Marty Johnson is a leading authority on musical theatre education, and has led professional development sessions for The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the United Federation of Teachers, and New York City’s Department of Education. Marty made his theatrical debut in the local 4H’s production of Peter Pan in the fourth grade.

Cynthia A. Ripley

Cynthia A. Ripley has 33 years of classroom teaching experience, was recognized by USA Today as a 2005 Teaching All Star, and started advocating for musical theatre in the 5th grade when she convinced her school’s administration to put on their first show.