Musicals don't spring into the world fully-formed. In fact, most musicals you see on Broadway or at regional theatres have undergone years of development, including readings, workshops, developmental performances, and out-of-town tryouts.
At Underscore, new musicals don't make it to the mainstage until we've worked to help develop them. Some shows we develop, through readings, workshops, and CMTF participation go into our mainstage programming, whereas others are destined for other stages in other cities. Regardless of their destination, our mission is to develop musicals, and not to own them, so Underscore takes no ownership stake or future production rights of any show we produce or develop.
Here's a look at our development process, which we call The Pipeline.
Getting on our Radar
We only know about your musical if you tell us about it! We take submissions directly from artists and agents via our submissions page. We also solicit work from artists whom we've featured in the Tiny Storefront Concert Series, as well as showrunners from The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. Once we've identified a work we'd like to develop, we get in touch with the writers to make a plan.
Probably the most useful service we provide to artists is also the simplest: giving them an opportunity to hear their musical. For our readings series, we put together a cast, band, and director, and they learn the music and text over the course of about a week, culminating in a public performance. Each reading is followed by an audience talk-back, and a private feedback session with the Underscore artistic team to discuss next stages of development.
Our workshops are similar to the "previews" process of a traditional musical. We put together a cast and band, pair them with a director, and put the show on its feet over the course of week one. For week two, we alternate between performances, rehearsals, and time off to write, so that authors can make changes to their show between each public showing. Like our readings, each public performance is followed by an audience talk-back and a closed session with the Underscore team.
Our mainstage performances are fully-produced and open to the press and public. This is the whole nine yards: costumes, lights, sound, a full band, and professional actors, directors and designers. Our mainstage season is selected by Underscore's ensemble, and to be eligible for consideration, shows need to have taken part in a reading or workshop with Underscore.