American Theatre Magazine
"Adventures in Indie Music"

"BETH MORRISON, WHOSE EPONYMOUS PRODUCING company, Beth Morrison Projects (BMP), commissions, develops and curates what she calls “new music-theatre,” is the That Girl of today’s indie opera scene, complete with jet-black bangs. Her name has become synonymous with an imperturbable capacity for making things happen. “‘Indie’ means different things to different people,” Morrison says. “It signifies an inclusive writing style that is cross-genre. There are no longer boundaries.” For Morrison the process begins with the composer. “I’m looking for good music,” she says, immediately correcting herself: “I’m looking for great music.” She matches composers with librettists, mixes them with dramaturgs and directors, raises money, scouts venues, partners with presenters and promotes like hell.

That BMP doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar home presents continuous logistical headaches, but also a strategic advantage. With a tiny production staff that operates out of her studio apartment/global headquarters, she is not hamstrung by the fixed costs of rent and labor that a theatre and staff require. Instead, she partners with festivals, arts centers and opera companies to present. Compared to traditional companies, where contributed income outweighs earned income, her situation is reversed—fees from presenters are how she hedges her bets.

BMP’s financial exposure can be considerable, now that her entrepreneurial energy is more widely distributed. Her early days of developing one or two five-figure productions are over. Between Beth Morrison Projects, the annual PROTOTYPE Festival, which she co-presents, and a new partnership with the Los Angeles Opera, she is percolating nonstop. She is aware of the risks, but accepting of the consequences: “We put tons of fishing lines into the water. I pitch a ton of venues. I see what bites. If they bite all at once, we’re screwed.”

BMP is a founding member of the New York Opera Alliance, a consortium of smaller companies—Gotham Chamber Opera, American Lyric Theater, Chelsea Opera, Harlem Opera Theater among them—who embrace the congenital New York fixation on the new. And though Gotham will always generate a gravitational pull on the opera cosmos, there are dynamic outposts of innovation across the country."