How I Got My Job: Lauryn Gaffney, Musical Theatre Writer

Lauryn Gaffney's musical Big Shot is headed for Hollywood and has earned a five-night slot in San Diego. We chat to her about what it takes to make it in musical theatre.

Lauryn Gaffney

Name: Lauryn Gaffney

Age: 22

From: Dublin

Job Title: Musical Theatre Writer

Studied: Music & Human Development

Twitter: @BigShotMusical

Facebook: Big Shot Musical

Tell us a bit about your job

I’m the creator of Big Shot, an original musical which has earned a five night slot in San Diego along with a few nights in Hollywood and Mexico. I’ve written, workshopped, cast and musically directed this show for the last year and a half.

What was your path into musical theatre?

I graduated from a degree in Music and Human Development.¬†Mesmerised by musicals and song writers, I was always writing melodies and lyrics. However it wasn’t until¬†I went to university that I realised I wanted to write a show.

Did you always want to work in this area?

Yes, absolutely. When I started writing Big Shot I realised that creating characters and script was what I was meant to do. It came naturally. It was all I wanted to do. I’d wake up at 5am thinking of another song to add to the story.

Did your college or your previous experience help you?

Studying musical theatre vocals, being involved in various shows and studying music in university definitely fueled my passion for music.

Both St Patrick’s College and DCU were a huge help on this journey. DCU granted me an arts bursary award and a grant to display the first show in their venue.

My lecturers in St Patrick’s were a huge help in encouraging me to put on the show in their auditorium which sits 500. I’m forever grateful to both universities for giving me the opportunity to see my initial creation go from the page to the stage.

Tell us about the process of writing a musical

I write the script and then create lyrics and a melody to suit characters and progress the story. After writing these scenes and songs I then cast the show and inform the cast about their characters, teach them their songs and collaborate together to create the best show possible. I also work with different venues to secure performances for the show.

What does a typical day look like in your job?

Every day is totally different. I liaise with the production team, cast, band and director on a day to day basis.

With the production team we work on securing venues, funding, progressing social media and logistics for our tour to San Diego. With the cast we’re always working hard on perfecting and shaping the show. We rehearse for between nine and 12 hours a day depending on what event’s approaching.

When it comes to music, I’m collaborating with the band and polishing the music to its highest standard. I talk to both the director and choreographer on a daily basis about their new ideas and artistic input to the show.

What challenges have you experienced getting to where you are now?

I guess the main challenge would be funding. You have to work to get sponsorship to put on the show.

In your experience, what’s the best way to deal with those challenges?

To not give up and to stay positive.

Tell us about some of your career highlights.

Watching the initial workshop being performed in DCU, then selling out Bewleys and St Patrick’s. And also, hearing my song being played on national radio and TV.

What’s the best bit about your job?

Seeing my writing bring joy to others. Whether it be cast members, performers or audience members.

And the drawbacks?

We’re all so positive about San Diego but I wonder where the show will go or what we’ll do after. We’d love to generate a bigger audience in Ireland. The dream is the Gaiety then transfer to Broadway.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Focus, determination and phenomenal actors, musicians and friends who make the work sound amazing and truly believe in it. Also people who are encouraging. The amount of individuals who have encouraged me to put on the show again and again is crazy.

What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to follow in your footsteps?

Write all of your ideas down, be open minded and enjoy.

What sort of career progression is there in your job?

There are so many different opportunities as a musical theatre writer! However, they’re mainly in the US. I guess the biggest progression would be to start writing for an artist or getting one of your shows on Broadway.