A Musical MBA

Most people see an MBA as a way to start or enhance a career in business, giving one the ability to make sense of data or predict trends in the marketplace. For others, an MBA can lead to a road less traveled. After Shannon McDonald '14, graduated from the Full-time MBA program, she used her business education and experience to write her first musical comedy, “Right, Wrong or Bomb!” The subject matter - the trials, tribulations and joys of online dating - is something audiences can relate to no matter what their career aspirations may be.

We caught up with McDonald before the show's premiere to find out more about her experience and how her MBA helped her take her musical from the page to the stage.

What inspired your interest in this project?

Through my elementary, middle and high school education I was involved in theater and I met one of the members of our musical team, Brittany Shrimpton, in high school. She was involved in theater and dance and we became fast friends. Fast forward 10 years, Brittany and I decided to be roommates in St. Paul as she continued her work at Twin Cities Public Television and I started my MBA at St. Thomas. This is when Brittany suggested we write a musical comedy about online dating.


Rosie Sauvageau (l.), Brittany Shrimpton (c.) and Shannon McDonald '14 (r.) wrote the musical "Right, Wrong, or Bomb," premiering this month at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. Photo by Tessie Jones Photography.

Where did the material come from? What role has your MBA played in the development process?

For the first year, we held a number of workshops with friends to discuss dating disasters and the ups and downs of finding boyfriends and girlfriends online. Then we started putting the script together around the time I took a project management class with Mary Slack at St. Thomas.

Many of the classes I took during my MBA helped make this creative project a reality, but project management was definitely the most helpful. Project management was key to both the creative process and also the production process. My final project was a project plan for the musical which guided us as we put together the first full-length draft of the script. Then Rosie Sauvageau, our lyricist and composer, joined the team and we started turning the script into a musical.

The other class that was so helpful was interactive marketing because it introduced me to website design. I manage the show’s website and taking that class allowed me to produce a website that was both professional and catchy to our audience. We produced a promotional video for our fundraising campaign and raised more than $16,500 to produce the show. We are now in full production mode, recently announced our cast, and hired our crew and director. It’s a really exciting time for the show as we look forward to its premiere January 28-31 at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis.

Did you always know you wanted to write a musical?

I have always had a passion for creative writing and definitely dreamed of producing or publishing an original work at some point in my life. The idea for this musical came from Brittany Shrimpton and when she shared her idea to write and produce a musical comedy about online dating, I thought this would be a great way to turn my passion for creative writing into a tangible project that would reach an audience someday. And now it's happening!

How do you balance a full-time job and your passion for this project?

In project management, we learned that the three parts of any project are cost, quality and schedule. The scheduling aspect of this project has been the most challenging. We all have full-time jobs and so our creative development and project management meetings take place in the evening (usually running from 6:30 to 10 p.m. but we worked on the most recent draft of the script until well after midnight) and a significant chunk of time on weekends. I think one of the many ways our team works well together is that we all strive to be successful in our day jobs as well, so there is agreement that our creative schedules have to revolve around our full-time positions. We make it work, but it will definitely be odd to have our evenings and weekends back when the show is done!

What’s next? Do you think you will write another musical?

First I will catch up on sleep!  If there are opportunities to produce a show again, I'm sure we would be very interested. And of course, the dream is to get to Broadway someday. Always best to dream big!

“Right, Wrong or Bomb!” runs January 28-31 at The Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. Tickets are available online.