Chicago Theatre Report: Where To Bring Your New Musical
Having just spent a weekend rediscovering my city with guests, I’d like to return to the specifics of Chicago’s musical theatre scene. Not everyone is in a position to produce for themselves, and for a city with over 100 distinct theatre companies, it can get confusing when it comes time to figure out whom to approach about putting on your original musical work. Here’s an insider’s list of the companies and programs to check out.
The American Music Theatre Project
Northwestern University runs The American Music Theatre Project, which pairs students with professional theatre artists in the interest of developing new musical theatre. Their In The Works program hosts a series of workshops and readings of new works, with student participation. They also host the Johnny Mercer Project for songwriters working on their composition skills.
The Big Theatres
Several mid-level companies also produce new musicals regularly: Porchlight, Theo Ubique Cabaret, and Bailiwick Chicago Theater.
Porchlight promises writing classes (the website says “curriculum coming soon”). They also accept full-length scripts from literary agents and professionals with whom they have a working relationship and bios, synopses, and ten pages of sample dialogue with a music CD from unrepresented writers.
Theo Ubique uses the cabaret model to create intimate performances that break the fourth wall, and Bailiwick produces contemporary as well as classical musicals, with a willingness to develop new work. They don’t have an existing submission process, at least not according to their website, but you can contact their literary departments for more information.
Storefront theatre is where you’re most likely to be able to get your foot in the door as a writer without representation.
I will admit right away to bias on behalf of Underscore Theatre Company, but not only because I am a co-founder—our mission calls specifically for the fostering of new musicals, which we do through The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival as well as through our reading series and even our mainstage season. For example, we are fully staging a new work, The Guide To Being Single, this fall, and are in talks with two other artistic teams about world premieres for next year.
Also very much present on the scene is the Music Theatre Company out in Highland Park. The Music Theatre Company explores musicals through contemporary productions, commissions of new work, and “musical experiments,” which sounds delightfully Frankensteinian to me. They have a 48-hour musical program and perform shows in concert as well as fully-staged.
Whether you’re looking to produce on your own or with the help of an established company, Chicago has options for you. In my next post I’ll get back to helping out those intrepid souls taking on the production challenge on their lonesome, but if you’d rather work through an existing channel, the companies above are a great place to start. Happy hunting!
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