Topics: College of Fine Arts, Immersive Learning

June 24, 2014

Ball State Discovery New Musical Theatre Festival
Three unpublished works will be performed at this year's first Discovery New Musical Theatre Festival, July 18-20. The ongoing development of "The Circus in Winter" was Ball State's impetus for launching a festival fostering new works of other emerging artists.

The next great American musical may have its start at Ball State University as one of three unpublished works submitted to the Department of Theatre and Dance's first Discovery New Musical Theatre Festival.

The ongoing development of Ball State's 2010 student-created musical, "The Circus in Winter," into a national stage production was the department's impetus for starting a national festival fostering new works by other emerging artists. "Through the 'Circus' experience, we've met a number of industry insiders, and we've learned so much about this process, we felt a festival could be an excellent way to share that expertise, making Ball State a national hub for new musical theater projects," said Beth Turcotte, a theater professor and festival producer.

Selecting the finalists

Festival producers expected 30-40 applications when they put the call out for new works last fall. They were overwhelmed by the more than 130 submissions that poured in. With the help of a team of students participating in Turcotte's new musicals immersive learning seminar, producers narrowed the field down this spring to three works to be performed by local actors as staged readings at this year's festival, taking place July 18-20. They include:

"The White City": 7:30 p.m. July 18, Muncie Civic Theatre

Based on a true story, trouble simmers beneath the façade of "The White City” created for Chicago's 1893 World's Fair as young women go missing and local doctor Henry Howard Holmes exploits the fair's innovations and technologies for his own demented purposes.

"Madworld": 2:30 p.m. July 19, Cornerstone Center for the Arts

It happened on one fateful afternoon: Charles Dodgson met little Alice Liddell, and Lewis Carroll—along with the concept of Wonderland—was born. "Madworld" explores Carroll's poetry, imagination, and pain creating one of the most beloved fantasy stories of all time.

"The Toymaker": 7:30 p.m. July 19, Muncie Civic Theatre

The childless Sarah Meeks takes a journey through time in search of a toy made by "The Toymaker" in 1942 occupied Bohemia. With help from a Czech street urchin, she uncovers the history of a mining village and its destruction during World War II, unraveling the mystery of the toy.

Festival a draw for Ball State

After the readings, community and industry professional judges will select a final winner to be staged as a full Ball State production for its 2015-16 theater season and later submitted to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. "From there, anything is possible," Turcotte said.

New York-based writers Julia Gyri and Avi Amon say it's validating to see "The White City" included as one of the musicals selected for this year's debut festival. "We know it takes a ton of work to pick up what we writers have written and bring it to life, even in a bare-bones setting," Gyri said. "So we're grateful for this opportunity to see our production come to life off the page."

Bryan Putman's "The Toymaker" was last performed off-Broadway in 2009, but the writer said he's excited to see how it will be interpreted by a new group in Muncie. "My goal has been to get the show back into production, either through a college or regional venue. Knowing this was a possibility through this festival made it a no-brainer to submit my work."

Michael Elliott, a Ball State theater professor and musical director for "Madworld," said the festival is an excellent opportunity for Ball State to partner with community sponsors Muncie Civic Theatre and Cornerstone Center for the Arts. "Not only that, but it's another way for Ball State to extend its name into the national arts scene, bringing further attention to the great work we do here, which all plays a part in attracting quality students, faculty and guest artists."

Information about tickets and schedules for all Discovery shows is available at or by calling Muncie Civic Theatre's box office at 765-288-7529. Funding for the festival is made possible by Ball State's College of Fine Arts and its Department of Theatre and Dance in association with the Discovery Group, the Ball Brothers Foundation and the university's Provost Immersive Learning Initiative.