Chicago's American Theater Co. to Stage Yeast Nation Musical, by Writers of Urinetown

News   Chicago's American Theater Co. to Stage Yeast Nation Musical, by Writers of Urinetown
Yeast Nation: The Triumph of Life, the new musical by the creators of Urinetown, will make its Chicago premiere as part of American Theater Company's 2008-09 season, new artistic director PJ Paparelli announced.
Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman
Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman Photo by Aubrey Reuben previously reported in 2005 about the development of the musical, which has music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann, and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, both Tony winners for book and score of Urinetown. The writers are Chicagoans.

The musical had its world premiere in fall 2007 at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska. Paparelli directed.

In the show, according to ATC, "The year is 3,000,458,000 B.C., and the Earth's first life forms, salt-eating yeasts (yes, yeasts), float in the brine of the primordial soup, under the rule of a dim-witted tyrant. As resources deplete and fear prevails, the faith of one single-celled dreamer changes their society forever, and out of chaos and destruction a new world emerges. Combining '80s rock with a touch of disco, Yeast Nation can't help but be one of most non-political and slightly amusing evenings of musical theatre in America. Here come the Yeasts!"

ATC's 24th season will also include the Chicago premiere of The People's Temple, a look at the cult run by Jim Jones, written and directed by Leigh Fondakowski (a co-creator of The Laramie Project).

Also planned is Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks presented in repertory with True West by Sam Shepard, in collaboration with Congo Square Theatre. Also expect a mainstage and touring production of the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, directed by Marty Higginbotham.

Under consideration to complete the expanded season (six plays, not five) are That Night in Hialeah, a world premiere by Eduardo Machado (The Cook), featuring Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis and ATC Ensemble members Carmen Roman and Kate Buddeke attached; and Expedition 6, an "imaginative exploration of the Columbia Shuttle explosion and the events surrounding the three stranded astronauts' return to Earth from the International Space Station," created and devised by film and stage actor Bill Pullman.

The People's Temple is written by Leigh Fondakowski with Greg Pierotti, Stephen Wangh and Margo Hall. It's set in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. In it, "an interracial religious group, lead by their charismatic leader Jim Jones, move to the remote jungles of South America to build a utopian community." This "premiere production" combines "actual interviews with survivors and family members and live gospel music to tell the untold stories of a community that dreamed of a better life, and its shocking demise." It's billed as "one of the largest Ensemble projects in American Theater Company history" and "will premiere new material from recent interviews for its Chicago premiere during the 30th anniversary of Jonestown."

Production dates have not been announced. American Theater Company performs at 1909 West Byron, at the corner of Lincoln and Byron, two blocks south of Irving Park Road. For information, including production dates, call (773) 929-1031 or

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