The Penn State School of Theatre and School of Music present the initiative, meant to benefit emerging writers as well as student performers.
Two new (or recent) shows — Timeless by composer David Cornue and lyricist Sam Holtzapple, and The Alchemists by librettist-composer-lyricist Peter Mills and librettist Cara Reichel (already seen Off-Off-Broadway) — are being rehearsed and will then be presented in staged readings April 17-18 and April 24-25 on the Penn State Main Campus at University Park, PA.
"The purpose of the festival is to promote new works of musical theatre in a creative, educational and theatrical environment," according to Penn State. "Each musical work will have one week of rehearsal culminating in two performances (free to the public) in reading format. The composers and lyricists will be in residence at Penn State University Park working with Penn State students and faculty in this creative process."
Timeless (which begins rehearsals April 12) will be presented 7 PM April 17 and 5:05 PM April 18 at The Pavilion Theatre on the Penn State Campus.
The Alchemists (which begins rehearsals April 19) will be seen 7 PM April 24 and 5:05 PM April 25 at The Citizens Bank Theatre in State College, PA. Raymond Sage, an assistant professor of voice for musical theatre at Penn State, is the festival's artistic director. Ross Harris is assistant artistic director.
Sage told Playbill.com that the festival's main goal was to connect students with playwrights and composers and immerse the young performers in a living theatre-making process in which changes to the text may come during a week's rehearsal.
The casting pool will include students and faculty of the university. PSU is regarded as one of the top five musical theatre professional training programs in the country.
Participating PSU performers include Matt Toronto, Allyson Daniel, Lauren Weinberg, Alexis Rhoades, Matt Schmidt, Morgan Faulkner, Justin Pifer, Lia Menaker, Stephanie Martignetti, Andrew Boetcher, Dan Gleason, Brian Henry, Nathan Gardner, Lauren Nestor, Tony Neidenbach, Lindsay Gaspar, Julia Freyer, Danya Katok, Norman Spivey, Jonathon Kitt, Justin Fyala, Jeff Nunez, Melissa Chavez, Laura Mills, Jamilla Sabares-Klemm and Mike Schultz.
Writers get an honorarium and housing, and will also speak in master classes.
Directed by Rob Schneider, a second-year grad student in musical theatre direction, "Timeless is a story of two souls told over many lifetimes," according to Penn State notes. "Daniel is an aging composer in a small New England town in the late 1800s. He is in love with his young vocal student Emma, but he is afraid to tell her. When the personification of Time appears to take Daniel's life, the force of his love for Emma brings his unconscious awareness of his past to the surface."
Writers Cornue and Holtzapple met in The BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and were part of the team that created Smoking Bloomberg, a sensation in the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Set in Regency England, The Alchemists (directed by assistant professor of musical theatre performance Susan Russell) explores the idealistic pursuits and follows the romantic entanglements of a group of childhood friends: a poet, a painter, a seminarian, the heir of Foxwood Hall, and their muse — the orphaned Anne Quintrell.
Mills and Reichel are married collaborators whose work has been produced by Prospect Theater Company, where Reichel is producing artistic director. The Alchemists had a well-reviewed Off-Off-Broadway run in spring 2003.
According to its mission, "The Penn State New Musical Theatre Festival will explore, encourage, and foster new works of musical theatre by today's most progressive playwrights and composers in an educational setting giving the students of Penn State University access to the collaborative process between the artist, the art form, and the professional world of musical theatre."
Performances will take place in the Pavilion Theatre, an intimate thrust performance space; the Citizen's Bank Theatre, a state-of-the-art proscenium theatre in downtown State College; or in the Playhouse, a large proscenium theatre on campus.
For additional information and submissions for the 2008 season, visit www.psunewmusicals.org.