The droning, half-century dirge for musical theater — lamenting its decline from peculiarly American art form to merely peculiar niche luxury good — reaches a shrill pitch whenever Broadway has a bad year. It so happens we're in the middle of one now: The Tony awards couldn't even scrounge up four new scores to nominate. I've already had my little say on causes and effects, so now it's time to turn the discussion over to the people who do it for a living, often against tall odds. This is, after all, a craft that demands massive amounts of money, discouraging, roulette-like ratios of risk-to-reward, and five to ten years of development, on average, to achieve even a failed result. As you thumb through these meditations on the state of the art, consider a saying of the prophet: "What's hard is simple / What's natural comes hard." Here — in many more words — are some informed ideas from four generations of composers and producers about why that is, and how what's hard might be made (a little) easier.