NYMF1“The three-week culture orgy.” – Katie Charles, New York Magazine

As founder and Executive Director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (, Kris Stewart has overseen 1197 performances of 133 new musicals that he commissioned, developed and/or produced, as well as 349 other events including a slate of readings, workshops, concerts, parties, special events, seminars and master classes. Kris oversees almost 20 venues each year running full-time, with more than 1000 artists, creators and staff working across the event.

“A Festival sets out to make musical theatre hip again … NYMF has something beyond the typical grandstanding: credibility” — David Kornhaber, the Village Voice

NYMF runs the theatrical gamut from hip hop and freestyle rap to dance musicals, from traditional musical comedies to edgy satires to epic dramas and has been the launching pad for more than a dozen commercial productions in its three-year history, generating off-Broadway and international runs for Altar Boyz, The Big Voice: God or Merman?, Captain Louie, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Gutenberg! the Musical!, Nerds:// A Musical Software Satire, Shout! The Mod Musical and [title of show].

“The New York Musical Theatre Festival has more than enough wattage to jolt audiences back up in their seats.  The next three weeks are a show lover’s buffet, crammed with Broadway stars, high-profile writers and buzz heavy new works” — Adam Feldman, Time Out New York

NYMF3Kris has commissioned the creation of a number of new musicals, including Common Grounds and Platforms (two new dance musicals), Wrong Number (a musical created through improvisation, in collaboration with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater), the Guerilla Musicals Project (spontaneous musicals that would interrupt events across NYC), Web Site Story (a user generated musical, created through online collaboration) and Innovative Leisure (a musical on the rise and fall of Atari, in collaboration with the Ensemble Studio Theatre).

“With so much success coming from one place, producers can’t help but prick up their ears” — Gordon Cox, Variety

NYMF2The Festival has featured premieres by Pulitzer finalists and Tony Award winners alongside the work of new unknown voices, and has featured numerous international co-productions with Australian, Canadian and English companies, and collaborations with the UCBT, ASCAP, EST, the Drama Dept., Ars Nova, BMI, 92nd St Y, Museum of TV and Radio and others.

Heralded by the New York Times as “2004’s rookie of the year in NYC theater” and Time Out New York as “the Sundance for musical theatre”, the New York Musical Theatre Festival plays to more than 90% attendance, with the 2006 festival attendance increasing by more than 65% to 40,000+ attendees.

“Having a show in the New York Musical Theatre Festival is equivalent to getting an independent film into Sundance.” – Rob Kendt, Newsday

NYMF4Kris has built a loyal and young audience base (>50% aged under 40) through an innovative programming and marketing strategy, and though still a young institution, Kris has grown the organization’s income by more than 35% each year, creating a committed donor and sponsor base (including partners such as Cadillac, Virgin, Microsoft, the Village Voice, Time Out NY, Playbill and many, many others) that has guaranteed the future viability of his organization. Kris has delivered a budget surplus for the five years of his management, and has grown the budget from <$250,000, to a core operating budget of $950,000, with additional $650,000 of inkind sponsorships and $600,000 in co-production commitments.

“Musical theater’s big break.” – Joy Goodwin, the New York Sun



  • NYMF 2007 Video Coverage. Includes videos on Austentatious, Bernice Bobs Her Mullet, Gemini, the Family Fiorelli, Emma, The Last Starfighter and more.

  • Online Video – On the Scene: Sneaking a Peek at the NYMF Festival 2005.


Variety magazine

Backstage Magazine

American Theatre Magazine

The Village Voice

  • Singing in the Dark: The New York Musical Theate Festival flirts with politics, violence, and corporate greed.
  • Sonic Youths: A festival sets out to make musical theater hip again

The New York Post

LA Times

Stage Directions Magazine



TSL_PosterAs well as those shows that I have listed here on the site (and have photos of) there are dozens of other things that I have directed across my career, from the time before I did my post-graduate study at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, through the five or six years after graduation that I worked as a director in Sydney and Melbourne, prior to relocating to NYC.


“…The Shrinking Ledge is impeccably presented and plenty of fun … Writer, director and cast seize upon the fun unleashed by the erosion of boundaries between reality and fiction. Kris Stewart’s direction is crisp and assured and is aided by excellent lead performances … ”  HELEN THOMSON (The Age), on The Shrinking Ledge.

“In The Shrinking Ledge, Nicholas Flanagan leaps into the wide blue yonder … This writers nightmare shatters the english
language and makes us look for – and find – glittering shards of meaning.  The Shrinking Ledge is bursting with puns that are grotesque and brilliant and unbelievably sick. Skilled direction by Kris Stewart keeps things consistently taut and punchy.” CHRIS BOYD (The Herald Sun) of The Shrinking Ledge.

“Those seeking entertainment with a tantalising mixture of intellectual stimulation and emotional gratification should not miss this production. The Dark Side’s Sondheim retrospective is an exhilarating demonstration of director Kris Stewart and the cast’s comprehensive understanding of this man’s work … Very, very impressive. I walked away from a night of musical theatre the type of which will hopefully be repeated soon by this company. Musicals like Me and My Girl are fine, but it is a real treat to experience something that makes you feel good and sets you thinking at the same time.” DAVID O’BRIEN (The Adelaide Advertiser) on No One Is Alone.

“The 12 talented actors are some of the strongest to step on to an Adelaide stage … Director Kris Stewart’s reputation is already high following his acclaimed, award-winning production of Merrily We Roll Along, and he has created another tremendous piece of musical theatre here. His work will be very much missed.” KRISSIE SCUDDS (Rip It Up Magazine) on No One Is Alone.

“ROLL UP, ROLL UP: IT’S A HIT! The S.A. Youth Theatre Company vividly brings to life Stephen Sondheim’s sophisticated and challenging Merrily We Roll Along. A teeming cast respond gratifyingly to the difficult task of realizing this superbly constructed, beautiful, witty and poignant show … But the real star does not appear on stage – Director Kris Stewart helms this astonishingly ambitious show, extracting extraordinary detail and credibility from his huge cast … uncompromising in his quest to realize this typically arresting and challenging show. This show deserves an audience. Merrily Roll Along!!” JAMES MULLIGHAN (The Sunday Mail) on Merrily We Roll Along.

“Any director of this show risks upsetting it’s delicate balance if staging isn’t undertaken with sufficient care. Mercifully, director Kris Stewart gets it right almost every time, making this production a little gem … The Fantasticks is an entertaining, thoughtfully directed, cunningly presented, musically satisfying treat.” PAT WILSON (The Advertiser) on The Fantasticks.



In addition to his work as the executive director of NYMF, Kris Stewart is an experienced producer, both in the commercial and non-profit realms. In 2008, his commercial production company, Red Sand Media Partners, produced the feature film Red Hook and the TONY nominated musical [title of show], and has two commercial musicals and a television drama in active development.

Kris also headed up a number of non-profit initiatives, including the Australian Ballet’s Ballet in the Park, Madison Square Garden/Radio City Entertainment’s A Christmas Carol, the Lygon Street Festa (over 300,000 attendees), the Myer Music Bowl Millennium Concert, the Waterfront Festival, the Williamstown Festival, The LIVE Youth Festival, the VIVA Cultural Diversity Festival and numerous outdoor concerts and events. Prior to NYMF, Kris was Executive Director of the National Music Theatre Network and consulting director for the Theatre for the American Musical, and a Consultant on Cultural Development for the City of Melbourne.


Written by two Australian twenty-somethings while still studying at WAAPA, Kris directed Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank’s Prodigal Son as part of the Midsumma Festival in Melbourne in 2000, where it played a successful season before returning for two sell-out runs. It was a really charming character study, a musical that spoke clearly in an Australian vernacular.

It won quite a few awards in Melbourne, and (renamed as Prodigal) went on to play at the York Theatre in NYC.


“… must-see … one of the hits of this year’s Midsumma Festival …” JOEL CROTTY (Jan 20, 2000), The Age.

“Prodigal Son is wonderful … received standing ovations … had the two people beside me sobbing into each other’s shoulders … you hurt your hands clapping …” ANDREW SHAW (Jan 25, 2000), The Melbourne Star Observer.

“impressive depth and clarity … the writing is sharp and well-observed and the production resonates long after the final bow.” DAVID CROFTS (Jan 21, 2000), The Melbourne Times


REDSANDRed Sand Media Partners was founded in 2007 by Brad Rubenstein and Kris Stewart to develop television, film, commercial theatre, and emerging media properties.

Red Sand Media Partners has a series of projects in active development; these include commercial musical theatre, TV and film projects. The first two projects to reach the market will be RED HOOK, a teen thriller that completed principal photography in NYC in August 2007, and [title of show], which opened on Broadway July 17th, 2008 at the Lyceum Theater.

You can find out more information on either projects at, or on each project’s site – and

For more at, click through to [title of show] and Red Hook.


Red Hook – Movie Trailervia Metacafe



SPOOGESoon after arriving in New York and beginning his position as the Executive Director of the National Music Theater Network, Kris directed a showcase production of the play with music, Spooge.

Spooge is a uniquely American turn of phrase that a newly-arrived Australian director wouldn’t immediately recognise …

Produced by the Riant Theatre Company at the Pantheon Theatre, it was a fantastically fun piece of work by Joshua James, one of NY’s hottest young writers and was well-received (and well performed by the large cast).



WICKEDKris recently served as Resident Director for the Australian production of Wicked, which opened at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre in July 2008. One of the most successful musicals in Australia history, more on Wicked can be found at Wicked Australia.

Though he has recently focussed primarily on directing and producing, Kris’ has had extensive experience as an assistant and associate director, and as an educator. He has been a guest speaker or panellist for Opera America, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, The 2008 UK Musical Theatre Conference, The Entertainment Industry Expo NYC, NYU/Tisch School of Drama, NY Theatre Resources, The American Theatre Wing, the League of American Theatres and Producers and the NYC Emerging Artist and Producers panel, and he has been part of the nominating and judging committees for the Macarthur Fellowship, The Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize (musical theatre) and Dance Break.

Earlier in his career, he was fortunate enough to work for two years as the assistant to the artistic director at Melbourne Theatre Company. Here, Kris assisted on productions that Roger Hodgman was staging, and restaged tours or school productions. This began with Assassins and Skylight and finished with being the Resident Director for the Melbourne Theatre Company and International Management Group production of A Little Night Music.

From there, he moved on to work with the Jacobsen Group, and acted as Resident Australian Director for the productions of Sisterella, Jekyll and Hyde, Beauty and the Beast and Chess, and conceived and directed the dance theatre piece Gaelforce Dance for New Zealand and North America.

Other assistant directing work included assisting Michael Edwards for the State Opera of SA’s production of Eugene Onegin, Warren Coleman on the State Theatre of SA’s The Venetian Twins, George Ogilvie on As You Like It, as well as Angels in America Pt. 1 and 2 (to Chris Edmund and Leith Taylor) and The Magic Flute (WA Opera – Lindy Hume).

Kris has also had experience of university teaching and leading master classes and was head of the MSA Performing Arts Department and Artistic Director of Student Theatre Activities for Monash University. This was an extension of Kris’ previous teaching experience, which had included being a staff teacher (for ages 12 – 22) with the National Theatre, convening the Queensland Music Theatre Conference, being an assessor for the WA Department of the Arts Stages new writer program, creating the syllabus for the West Australian Children’s Drama Company and managing the workshop program at the South Australian Youth Theatre Company (while acting as Artistic Director).

Kris has freelanced as a lecturer at the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, the Children’s Performing Company of Australia and Queensland University, and while in NYC have recently been an adjudicator for the New Jersey Performing Arts Association and a sessional Acting teacher for the Educational Alliance, New York City.


TSFIn 2010, Kris began as the inaugural Artistic Director of The Sydney Fringe, NSW’s key major event for the alternative and independent arts sector.

Here, he programmed 3000 artists in 700+ performances of more than 250 shows and events in 53 inner city venues, events that were seen by over 100,000 attendees.

The first year of the Fringe included 76 theatre works, 59 music acts, 30 musicals, 25 visual arts exhibitions, 16 full length comedies, 13 digital arts pieces, 11 pieces of burlesque or circus, 8 dance productions, four children’s theatre companies, two film festivals, as well as underground artspace tours, street festivals, alternative fashion parades, masquerade balls and street theatre.

For the first time, iconic Sydney venues such as CarriageWorks, the Seymour Centre, the Enmore Theatre, the Factory and the New Theatre have been all brought together under the curatorship of a single festival.

At The Sydney Fringe, he has reopened The Hub and the Newtown School of Arts, both unused for decades, and made them centres for arts programming, and co-presented the Sydney Underground Film Festival, Lunamorph Alternative Fashion Festival, the Mobile Screenfest 2010 and ST2K Urban Art Festival.

For more on the Sydney Fringe, please check out the media section of this site.


“The next big thing in Sydney … a talented outsider with big ideas … a memorable spectacle in the Inner West to say the very least.” Harriet Alexander (The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday August 19, 2010)

“Cultural smackdown (…) offering audiences ample opportunity to see the next big thing. Their work wouldn’t be seen if it wasn’t for something like this festival.” Alex Lalak (The Daily Telegraph, September 13, 2010)

“The Sydney Fringe will fill a gap in Sydney’s cultural life (…) grown from the ground up here in Newtown, it’s a vibrant part of what makes Sydney unique.” Dennis Chaplot (TimeOut Sydney, August 2010)

“An exciting, high energy, big city fringe (…) this could be one of the largest events ever seen in Sydney.” Katelyn Catanzariti (Bigpond News, Wednesday September 8, 2010)



ragsKris Stewart completed his directing studies at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, with two key productions – Rags and Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down.

Three Guys Naked is very endearing, but is rarely produced as it is certainly a product of the period in which it was written, and it is a great challenge to write a show about stand-up comedians and make it as funny as your audience is expecting. When we produced it, we took the opportunity to make some changes to libretto and play it fast and loose – which seemed to work for the show.

Rags was Kris Stewart’s thesis show while studing at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth, and the perfect thing to do in a training establishment, where we could spend a lot of time and put a lot of resources towards what is a very ambitious idea. We really tried to create a world that spoke evocatively of that moment in history – the teeming masses downtown, the new world being created around them, the oppressiveness and the hope.


“It is a heartening experience to see such a dynamic, innovative production as the WA Academy production of Rags … (visually) it is a masterpiece, with its railway pylons, smoking streetgates and forbidding corrugated iron barriers. Under Kris Stewart’s skilled direction the scenes are played with an extraordinary realism and power … Rags is a rare opportunity for Perth audiences to see a big Broadway musical that doesn’t cost an arm or a leg at the ticket office. Everyone deserves a standing ovation – not just members of the cast, but also the designers, managers and director.”  CLYDE SELBY (June 13, 1998), “The West Australian”.


TREMONISHAKris directed Treemonisha for the State Opera of SA – it is a really challenging piece, and an odd selection for an Australian company. It tells a largely African-American story set in the pre-Civil War cottonfields, and was a challenging selection considering the racial make-up of the city where it was produced, which would be 95% white.

For this production, the period was shifted from the 1880’s to the time when Joplin was writing it, and the context of the opera was changed from plantation farmers to young Jewish immigrants working in a Lower East Side sweatshop, and this decision opened it up to caucasian performers, and potentially clarified the piece for a contemporary Australian audience.


“Scott Joplin’s party autobiographical Treemonisha was actually his second opera, but the only one surviving his death in 1917. Dealing with social inequalities and injustices of the American South of his childhood, it was set in an 1880’s plantation, but still has relevance a century later. This version placed the action in New York around 1907 when Joplin composed the piece, a clever decision given the difficulty of creating an authentic picture of the slave background from which Joplin sprang … managed to condense the lengthy original down to a tight hour-long one act, which preserving the essentials of the drama … rare chance to see an important work, and it showed admirable enterprise to put it on … could certainly stimulate interest in a much wider audience than can be packed into the State Opera of SA.”  TRISTRAM CARY (Sept 17, 1999), The Australian.

“State Opera has once again put together a stimulating evening of unfamiliar music theatre in its own opera theatre in Netley. A large and predominantly young cast, a handful of committed and versatile musicians and immense energy make this an evening’s entertainment that should tour the state … musical gem … a rare opportunity to see this show, and one that should not be missed.” EWART SHAW (Sept 14, 1999), The Adelaide Advertiser