Lisa Sniderman's Story


I gained the following opportunities and skills from my 2016 Arts and Accessibility Grant: (1) added value and offered a unique program by including an audio tech component in my 10-week original musical theater workshop for young adults and working with them to record sound cues in the studio; (2) increased my exposure as a playwright and further developed my original musical; (3) gained valuable skills and experience creating and conducting workshops, producing and directing staged reading performances; (4) grew as an artist and acted outside my comfort zone by running sound during a live performance when the sound engineer couldn’t be present.


Intro to My Musicals and NADC Project

I am Lisa Sniderman, a multi award-winning quirky folk pop artist known as Aoede, teaching artist, and playwright. I bring a unique element to musical theater in the San Francisco Bay Area: I create and record full-length fantasy musicals on audiobooks that meld mythology, magic, and music, and feature dialogue, narration, character voices, songs, sound design and full instrumental score, and adapt them to musical theater stage plays. I also create for young adults, an audience on which few artists and playwrights are focusing. I am drawn to young adult stories and adolescent struggles, as well as Greek mythology, and my musical stories reflect them. Though I have extensive experience and recognition in the music industry during the past 10 years, I am still navigating the world of musical theater and view myself as new to the scene as a Bay Area playwright. I help fill gaps in the Bay Area by introducing my original fantasy musicals to YA musical theater companies and schools that are interested in producing or licensing new works for young adults-inspiring, entertaining and connecting with young adult audiences, who are underserved musically. Since 2012, I have recorded three musicals on audiobooks and adapted two of them to the stage in the Bay Area.

In 2016, NADC provided me $1,000 in funds to engage the services of my Producer to create in the studio and deliver instrumental score/soundtracks from my audiobook recording as digital wav files, to assist me in fully producing, staging and premiering my third musical audiobook, "Do You Believe in Magic?" (MAGIC 2015), as a musical stage play (PROJECT).

I used these instrumental, sound design, and sound effects soundtracks (one hour and 47 minutes) as the basis for a ten-week original musical theater workshop for young adults, which I created and conducted in San Francisco in conjunction with San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, Dance and Theater Division, between September and December 2016. These workshops were comprised of: an audio tech workshop, an actor workshop, as well as two live staged reading performances at the culmination of the workshops. With the guidance of Digital Arts Staff, a few students interested in sound design participated in the audio tech workshop and helped create sound cues for my nine actors from the instrumental soundtracks, and helped adapt the recordings to live performance. This provided young adults interested in technology an opportunity during workshops, to use and manipulate the instrumental soundtracks, empowering and inspiring them to directly shape the sound design and soundtracks. I then directed the young adult actors in two live staged reading performances in December 2016, and directly incorporated the cues and full instrumental soundtracks. I also worked with young adult actors, giving them a unique opportunity to work directly with a playwright and help shape a developing musical. This will help me greatly, as I will continue to use these instrumental soundtracks and cues in future productions of MAGIC in youth musical theaters.

How My Disability Informs and Influences Creation of MY Art

I also have been battling a rare auto-immune progressive muscle weakness disease: Dermatomyositis since 2008, and was hospitalized in 2010 for 24 days due to a flare of the disease. I had an obsessive compulsion to get my music out into the world from the time I left the hospital. During months (and years) of rehabilitation, therapies and treatments, I have used music and art as a healing path. I was unable to do live shows for several years due to energy, stamina, treatments and muscle weakness, so I began focusing on writing, recording at home and licensing my music for film and TV. I began writing musicals that I recorded on audiobooks in 2012 as a way to keep my songwriter’s dream alive and to connect my brand of bright quirky folk pop with young adults. Living with a chronic illness, and working from home, I’ve discovered I have a need to make connections through my art and music. Music and art are my lifelines. I cannot stop creating! I create, record, and share my original musicals, art and music as a healing path and to give back; to be a light and a muse to others. Telling stories, creating recordings and turning them into theater productions makes me feel most alive and deeply connected to others. This in turn helps me heal physically. Since 2012, I have received more than 50 awards for my songwriting, audiobooks, films, screen and stage plays. I also recently completed my memoir chronicling my journey struggling and making peace with DM during the past 10 years while creating to heal, intended to inspire those battling chronic illness, disability, or dealing with difficult life challenges, entitled: “A Light in the Darkness: Transcending Chronic Illness through the Power of Art and Attitude” (September 2018 Crimson Cloak Publishing).

Living with a chronic illness, DM, for nearly 10 years, I have been creating art and music primarily to express and as a healing path. However, I've discovered a yearning to be part of something bigger... a desire to engage and advocate as a disabled artist to help young adults wrestle with and communicate about their life, chronic illness, and disability challenges, through music and performance. That's a big "aha" for me, and it came to in 2017 when I discovered a unique and influential drama therapy program in Virginia called "The Same Sky Project." I instantly was inspired and compelled to find, adapt or create a similar program in the San Francisco Bay Area. Due to this spark, an integral part of my artistic practice now is to promote and create original musical theater in high schools. I seek to use my gifts and experience to be a light and a muse by inspiring, engaging, empowering, and supporting young adults and kids at heart of all ages, challenges, and abilities.

My story is persevering through this darkness called DM for more than 10 years by obsessively creating to heal. But my story and my life’s purpose is also becoming a light in the darkness and a muse, offering support, compassion, inspiration, connection, and encouragement to those who need it most-especially those experiencing transformations: illness, disability, or unexpected life challenges. Helping others navigate their own personal darkness continues to be an important part of my own recovery. When I was completing my memoir, I considered how I wanted to share my story and realized I most wanted to collaborate with other artists who are also creating to heal. In May 2018, I put out a call to passionate musicians and artists who have turned to creativity to help them heal to collaborate to produce a special “Lights in the Darkness” event in December 2018, focused on shining our lights and the art of healing. I didn't expect to receive such a high response of folks eager to participate and share their stories. The outcome is “Lights in the Darkness-Creating to Heal,” a unique collaboration with more than 50 artists from around the world, and an online community of more than 185. Because of such strong interest, I interviewed via Zoom video conferences (funded in part by a 2018 NADC grant), 45 artists, musicians and authors from around the world who use creativity to heal and shared their videos in an online video showcase: “Lights in the Darkness-Conversations on Creating to Heal” (December 2018). I also produced a live/streamed multi-media performance December 16, 2018 featuring nine mostly San Francisco Bay Area performers and 60 minutes of video highlights, where I also shared my story.

Career Related Needs, Opportunities and Challenges Addressed Through My NADC Funded Project

My primary artistic goal is to work with an established youth theater arts program to fully produce, stage and premiere MAGIC as a musical stage play. My PROJECT provided an opportunity to further develop the musical by incorporating instrumental audio soundtracks and developing sound cues, needed before I can mount a full production. The challenges for me were that I was eager to teach workshops, but wore too many hats, and served as instructor, producer, director, and musical director, without giving too much thought as to my energy limitations and stamina issues. For me to commute two times a week (nearly an hour each way), prep, and teach for two hours at a time, was exhausting and difficult, though rewarding. If I were to do this again, I would insist on owning and asserting my needs and being mindful of my abilities, and asking for additional staff to help. For example, fifth and sixth graders have a ton of energy and little focus. Not all students were needed on stage at the same time, and I couldn’t monitor or engage everyone. My lesson plan also included modules on musical theater, such as acting, scenes, monologues, songwriting, etc. I discovered there wasn’t enough time to teach, build trust, run improv games, do vocal warm ups, and rehearse! It was ambitious, and I needed to scale back.

Creating the instrumental soundtracks and cues is an important step in my professional growth and development and has helped me implement my artistic goals. In particular, having the digital soundtracks means I can move forward on staging my latest original musical, which will help inspire, entertain and connect with young adults and “kids at heart” who resonate with the fantasy genre. Implementing this PROJECT also helped me move forward towards another goal and interest, combining multi-media and live theater to attract and connect with young adults and fans of the fantasy/ comic/gaming genre. I seek to incorporate multi-media sound recordings, sound design and interactive elements into live theater performances, to provide the audience with an engaging, innovative theater experience. Including the instrumental score, sound beds, and sound effects during the entire live performance, was a big step. A local theater is now interested in working with me to teach a class in Spring 2019 on how to get from the page to stage, using MAGIC as the production.

How I Have Grown as An Artist Due to This NADC Funding

Completing the PROJECT helped me move closer to my big dream and artistic goal of fully producing and staging MAGIC, and is a crucial step in my professional growth and development. I gained valuable skills and experience creating and conducting musical theater and audio tech workshops, producing, and directing staged reading performances. I was able to further develop and shape my original musical. Conducting workshops and directing staged reading performances that incorporated instrumental soundtracks helped me gain notoriety and exposure as an emerging San Francisco Bay Area playwright. Having the soundtracks means I can help fill gaps in the Bay Area by introducing my original fantasy musical to Young Adult musical theater companies and schools that are interested in producing or licensing new works for teens and tweens. This may help me to gain additional notoriety as a playwright as well as to connect with others and heal physically. I am now including the instrumental soundtracks as part of a package (MAGIC script, full instrumental score and soundtrack as digital files, and full piano/vocal score with lyrics), and providing it to youth musical theaters seeking to produce or stage new original works locally and across the nation. Providing a full package is advantageous, and could help my musical be selected for production, as well as position me well for future commissions. Revisiting the music from MAGIC also inspired me to seek additional dramaturgy and revise the stage play, including adding two new songs and providing some new scenes. I also began work on my next musical: “Underworld!”

Further, having the instrumental soundtracks helped me grow as an artist and redefine success. On the night of the second performance, one hour before we were due to start, I received a call that our sound engineer would be unable to come to the performance, due to an unforeseeable tragedy and emergency related to the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire. Though my Coordinator suggested I cancel, I decided I wanted to give my kids, who had worked so hard for 10 weeks, their performance. I asked my husband to drive back home, and he arrived with my laptop minutes before the performance was supposed to start. I quickly found the latest version I had of instrumental soundtracks that we created, and I didn’t have the software to trigger sounds live. The kids relied on each other on stage without me there to cue them as Musical Director, and I did the best I could in my impromptu role as Sound Engineer, using the tracks to transport the audience to the magical Kingdom of Wonderhaven, and to give my actors their cues. Success was also the parents’ support and understanding, hiccups and all, and telling me the cast was even better than the first performance. I discovered it isn't always about the pitch perfect, flawless performances; it's about how we come together, and about what we are capable of doing when we need to be. I now have had another lesson in "The Show Must Go On" (for my last staged reading of MAGIC, my lead had a concussion the morning of the performance, and I stepped in to play Aoede!)

Accomplishments RE: Networking, Reviews or Exposure Gained in Community, New Grants, Scholarships, Earned Income, Employment or Sales

In part because of the PROJECT, I was successfully awarded a $1,500 NADC grant for 2017 and worked with a composer to create a full piano/vocal score for MAGIC, which I have included in my theater package to be used during future workshops, rehearsals, staged readings and productions in youth musical theaters. I also gained exposure in San Francisco as an emerging Bay Area playwright. Further, I was able to submit my musical theater package (including instrumental soundtracks) to local and national theaters seeking new musical YA works. I am currently in discussions with both national and local theaters interested in producing MAGIC. I also used some of the instrumentals created as a sound bed for a portrait video I created as a companion piece to my memoir. Lastly, I have been working with a company to help me create a pitch video of my musicals to help attract funders and collaborators interested in adapting the works to animated films. The soundtracks will likely be part of this pitch project.