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Underscore Develops

Virtual Readings in Development

Underscore Theatre Company, Chicago’s home for new musicals, is excited to offer a new programmatic element to its readings and workshop development series. With a mission to continue to support writers while in-person productions are not possible, Underscore offers the opportunity to explore the development process via online resources with 3 new musicals in process. Connecting via Zoom, YouTube live and additional online platforms, writers will be offered the opportunity to present a 60 minute sampling of their show in development for a panel of 3 industry professionals who are experts and facilitators of new musical theatre. Participating panelists will be announced with series selections. 


As a participant in the program writers will:

  • Work with Underscore Artistic staff and a dedicated literary advisor to build a 60 minute sampling of their show via a virtual presentation 

  • As needed, Underscore will help connect you to a Director, Music Director and assist with casting

  • Following the 60 minute presentation, writers will participate in a 30 minute Q&A and receive written feedback from 3 industry panelists  

  • Work with writers and the feedback from panelists to assist in refining your show pitch 


Underscore will support your rehearsal and presentation process with access to technology as needed for each team. Once submissions are selected, writers will meet with Underscore staff to determine each production’s individual needs.  This process is free to all writers. All participating actors, directors, music directors and panelists will be paid a stipend. 

Thank you to all who submitted! We received an unbelievable 70 submissions. 

Show announcement coming soon!

How it works - FAQ

  • What qualifies for submission?

This process is open to all writers regardless of geographic location. At this time, Underscore is accepting any fully written musical in development. All we ask is that you have a completed draft including sheet music for all songs currently included in your draft to date. Full orchestrations are not required. Ideally, you’ve been exploring your story through a draft or two (or three or four) and are ready for some new artists and new eyes to get into the journey with you. Or perhaps you’ve seen your show on its feet but have gone through major rewrites and are looking to explore this newest version.

  • What all will Underscore provide for support?


When you apply, you will note the questions associated with support you are requesting including access/help with finding a creative team and actors or if you would prefer to come to the table with a team you have been working with. If your show is welcomed into the process, we will discuss the budget available to you and your specific needs at that time. Underscore will guide you through the technical process of the strongest way to present your material on a virtual platform as well as offering guidance as to how to cut your show to the time constraints, if needed. Each show will also be partnered with a literary team member to act as a dramaturg. If you have any specific questions, please contact Artistic Director, Whitney Rhodes at


  • Tell me more about the feedback process. 


Underscore has enlisted Artistic Directors, producers, educators and expert facilitators of the

new musical theatre process to participate as panelists. Each show’s writers will participate in a 

30-minute feedback session following the presentation with the panelists and will also receive 

compiled written feedback from all panelists and members of the Underscore Artistic Staff and 


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