Village Theatre’s Village Originals program is internationally recognized as one-of-a-kind. There are several phases of new musical development, and while many other theatres have cultivated new musicals in one of the phases, Village Theatre is unique for actively and consistently nurturing new musicals throughout each of the separate phases.
For most new musicals, the first phase in their development is a reading. Village Original’s Annual Festival of New Musicals holds five examples of this phase. Each script is read by actors in front of an audience; however there are no extravagant costumes, sets, or lighting techniques. This allows audiences to really pay attention to the script. Audiences at Village Originals shows are asked to share their feedback with the authors of the new musical. Bill Nabel, author of former festival musical, Take Me America, recalls how helpful it was to read about the audience’s reaction to the show. “(The audience) had many insightful things to say about the show. We added new songs, cut old ones and changed about thirty percent of the book, but that is how you develop a show and you cannot do it without an audience,” he says.
Oftentimes, the next step for a new is a workshop production. Like the present production of Cloaked, these feature partial or full costumes and sets. Plus the cast is no longer reading directly from the script as they do in readings. Because the show is still in development, the audience is again invited to share their opinions with the authors following the show. This feedback is the pathway between each phase in the developmental process, as it helps authors rewrite their work in a way that they know audiences will respond to.
Once a show has been fine-tuned (often after multiple readings, workshops, and developmental productions) it is ready to take the stage as a completed work. For the last five years, Village Theatre has been featuring two new musicals in their Mainstage season. Oftentimes, these musicals (like Take Me America and It Shoulda Been You from the upcoming 11-12 Season) were first seen as readings at the Village Original’s Festival of New Musicals.
Authors of new musicals at each stage of development at Village Theatre are intimately involved in the entire process. By being parts of each phase, the authors are able to rewrite as the musical’s production progresses, meaning that by the time the show hits the Mainstage, it has been polished.
The musicals that have been featured in Village Original’s phases of development have been successful on Village Theatre’s stage, as well as stages all around the world. Million Dollar Quartet and Next To Normal both started as reading at Village Theatre and later found success on the Broadway stage. Next to Normal even won a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for its achievements.
Village Originals memberships support the continuation of this vital program and also allow each individual member admission to Village Originals shows as a donor benefit. These members will partake in the joy of knowing that they have witnessed and assisted in the development of the future classics of musical theatre.