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Our Vision

To be both a national and international leader in the development of new music theatre by connecting groundbreaking shows, writers and artists with top tier students, faculty and staff.

Our Mission

The American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University partners leading artists in music theatre with Northwestern’s faculty, staff, and students to develop new musicals, bridging the educational and professional worlds through uniquely tailored new work processes. AMTP’s goal is to nourish and invigorate American music theatre by supporting writers in their early stages of development, creating new connections between the professional and academic communities, and increasing opportunities for education and training with Northwestern’s theatre, music theatre and dance programs.

Our History

Founded in 1851, Northwestern University is one of the country’s leading private research and teaching universities. With its impressive infrastructure of facilities, faculty and students, and its progressive methods for teaching and learning, Northwestern welcomes artists and projects that benefit from a nurturing creative process and a means of introducing new work to the broader creative community. The American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) was founded by professor emeritus Dominic Missimi and Broadway producer Stuart Oken in May 2005 in Northwestern’s School of Communication. The first year of AMTP also marked the first year of a partnership with the Johnny Mercer Foundation, producing the annual Songwriters Project – a songwriting mentorship program for young and upcoming writers. In its first five years, AMTP produced full productions and developed new works by artists such as Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, Tina Landau, Andrew Lippa, Sheldon Harnick, and Michael Friedman. In the fall of 2010, David H. Bell was named the Artistic Director of AMTP when he assumed the position of Director of Music Theatre after Missimi. David brought renowned writing duos such as Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alani Boublil, Paris & Lamont Dozier, Joshua Salzman & Ryan Cunningham, and Michael Kooman & Christopher Dimond to campus to workshop their newest material. In 2016, Brannon Bowers was named Producing Director and AMTP artist Ryan Cunningham was named Associate Artistic Director of the project. That same year, AMTP established an ongoing partnership with the American Theatre Wing to bring one of the Jonathan Larson Grant recipients to campus each season, and established an international partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to commission, develop and produce two new musicals at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. With a renewed focus on early stage development, AMTP has helped develop over 30 new musicals in just the past five years and continues to be a leader in new work development.

Our Leadership

MR. DAVID H. BELL (Artistic Director) has served as Artistic Director of the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. and Associate Artistic Director to Kenny Leon at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently the Artistic Director of the American Music Theatre Project and Director of the Music Theatre Program at Northwestern University. As director, choreographer, or author, David has received 45 of Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award nominations (winning 11), 5 Carbonell nominations (Florida), as well as the Dramalogue Award (LA), the Helen Hayes Award (DC.), and numerous awards in Atlanta. His musical Hot Mikado (book, additional lyrics) was nominated for the Olivier award (London’s West End). David has written and directed Cowboys and Lawyers (Goodspeed Opera House) and The Good War (Northlight Theatre), both with Craig Carnelia; Fanny Brice (Maltz Jupiter, Asolo Rep); Matador (Coconut Grove Playhouse); The Bowery Boys (Marriott Theatre); The Rules of Love (AMTP); Don’t Stop the Carnival (Coconut Grove Playhouse); Hot Mikado (Ford’s Theatre); A Christmas Carol (Pittsburgh CLO, Alliance Theatre); The Theatre of Dreams (Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England); and Die Schone und das Biest (European Tour). He directed the world premieres of Murder for Two (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), HERO (Marriott Theatre and Asolo Rep), Elmer Gantry (Ford’s Theatre), Peggy Sue Got Married (Marriott Theatre), and many others. He has worked on original musicals with Cy Coleman, Dolly Parton, Jimmy Buffett, Herman Wouk, Joe Kinosian, Kellen Blair, Russell Baker, George Stiles, and Daniel Green. David collaborated with Northwestern University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland presenting  a pair of new musicals in 2017 titled ATLANTIC for the Edinburgh Festival and another pair in 2018 called LEGACY.

MX. BRANNON BOWERS (Producing Director) is a creative theatrical producer dedicated to new work and unexplored forms of performance, bridging genres, artistic mediums, and communities to make theatre accessible to all audiences. They joined the American Music Theatre Project in 2016 and during their tenure has developed over 35 new musicals and produced 6 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe through an ongoing partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Brannon was a co-producer on the Wirtz Center’s mainstage productions of The Battlefields of Clara Barton and Something In The Game, and is in their sixth year of producing the annual Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project. Brannon is the creative producer of Get Out Alive, an autobiographical afrogoth musical by Nikki Lynette, which premiered in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s LookOut Series in 2020, has been developed into an award-winning film, and will have an extended theatrical run at the Haven Chicago in summer 2022. Brannon has spoken on panels for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT), and the Segal Centre in Montreal, Canada. They are currently the Co-Chair of the selection committee for the NAMT Festival of New Musicals and has been a judge for the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. Prior to their time at AMTP, Brannon worked at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, under Artistic Director Emily Mann where they coordinated readings and assisted on productions of new works by Emily Mann, Christopher Durang, Ken Ludwig, Nilo Cruz, Heather Raffo, Dipika Guha, and Sharyn Rothstein.  Brannon has held internships at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and is a proud graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in Theatre, Gender & Sexuality Studies, and a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications.
MR. RYAN CUNNINGHAM (Associate Artistic Director) is a Jonathan Larson Award-winning lyricist and bookwriter, and a Drama Desk and MAC Award nominee. His Off-Broadway musical, written with composer Joshua Salzman, I Love You Because, was in the NAMT Festival of New Musicals and went on to be produced all over the world in five languages. His next musical also with Salzman, Next Thing You Know, has been produced at CAP 21 in New York, across America and in Europe. He also wrote the book and lyrics to The Legend of New York and Michael Collins (ASCAP Musical Workshop winner) both currently in development with Salzman. With award-winning writer Charles Antin he wrote the comedies Half-Married and Television’s Greatest Playwright. When he is not writing his own work, he is helping support other people’s as a Creative Director at the Broadway advertising agency AKA and as the Associate Artistic Director of the American Musical Theatre Project at Northwestern University. Ryan is a graduate of the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program and is a member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild. He teaches musical theatre writing at Northwestern and lives in Chicago with his wife and two sons.