Schulman Directs New Musical, Heartland, for WI's Madison Rep

News   Schulman Directs New Musical, Heartland, for WI's Madison Rep Madison Repertory Theatre in Wisconsin will stage the Midwest-set new musical, Heartland, to be directed by Broadway's Susan H. Schulman, Dec. 5-28, with an eye toward a commercial future.

The work, seen in workshop form on the East Coast in recent years and in productions for Goodspeed Musicals and TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA, has book and lyrics by Darrah Cloud and music by Kim D. Sherman, who penned the musical, O Pioneers!

The holiday-season staging of Heartland is created in association with producer Ben Mordecai. The work is set in Iowa and its original inspiration was Chekhov's Three Sisters. That classic was the jumping off place for the collaborators to explore "the inner lives" of the Midwestern women, Rep artistic director Richard Corley told Playbill On-Line.

In Heartland, "three sisters return to their childhood home in Iowa and to their mother, who is planning to sell the family farm," according to the Madison Rep season announcement. In the musical, which Corley said is a traditional book show, the women deal with the ideas of legacy and past choices.

Corley met Sherman and Cloud when he worked on a rewrite of O Pioneers! for The Acting Company, for which he served as an associate producer. He followed their work over the years and saw a reading of Heartland at Berkshire Theatre Festival and thought its Midwest setting was a match for Madison Rep.

The 8-actor show will play University of Wisconsin's Mitchell Theatre, a borrowed 350-seat proscenium space that the Rep sometimes uses. In 2004-05, the Rep will be homeless and working in other spaces as its new venue is built in the Overture Center, a massive performing arts complex that will be ready in time for 2005-06. Director Schulman's credits include Broadway's The Sound of Music, The Secret Garden and Off-Broadway's Violet.

Corley said that the Rep is committed to new works. In 2003-04 alone the troupe will present a new-play reading festival (Sept. 5-21) and open its season with a world premiere, Sarah Ruhl's visually-arresting, Greek-myth-inspired Eurydice, directed by Corley (Aug. 29-Sept. 21).

The 2003-04 season also includes Keith Bunin's The Credeaux Canvas, the Midwest premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher's Mercy of a Storm, which Corley previously directed for Pittsburgh's City Theatre, August Wilson's The Piano Lesson and Michael Healey's Canadian play, The Drawer Boy, which has been sweeping American regional theatres in recent seasons.

The SPT Equity Madison Rep (which will graduate to a LORT D contract in coming seasons) is run by Corley and managing director Tony Forman, with dramaturgical guidance by literary manager Lenora Brown.

In coming seasons, Madison Rep will commission works by OyamO (who penned I Am a Man) and Lynn Nottage (Crumbs From the Table of Joy). OyamO's play will be a Madison-specific work, about the 1970 bombing of the math building at the University of Wisconsin.

For more information, visit www.madisonrep.org.