TableRead: Standing in the Gap for New Musicals

TableRead: Standing in the Gap for New Musicals

Initially, Pallas Theatre Collective was formed because Tracey Elaine Chessum, Pallas’s Artistic Director, was concerned that new, original musicals were losing their place on Broadway. As a musical theatre historian, Dr. Chessum worried that the current state of American musical theatre – a genre now dominated by pre-existing film adaptations and music selections – could potentially lead to the abandonment of original works. At a time when the production of new musicals depends heavily on name and artist recognition, Dr. Chessum looked for theatres in the US that were still committed to developing this tradition, and she found it lacking. While many theatres develop new musicals, their selections often favor established creators – there are few places outside the New York City area that truly seek out new voices to expand the genre.

Pallas Theatre Collective’s TableRead Series is an outlet through which these new creative teams and musicals could gain exposure and a grassroots following, giving them the recognition they need for the possibility of a full production elsewhere.

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Tracey Elaine Chessum works with “The Fall of the House of Usher” creative team

Typically, Pallas puts out a call for submissions of new works of musical theatre each year. Each submission is then read and analyzed by a committee comprised of musical theatre scholars and professional artists. Pallas then chooses one musical to invest in over the year. Once Pallas selects a new musical, the creative team is asked to participate in Pallas Theatre’s development process. While each work is different, development the process usually includes the following:

  • One-on-one preliminary development with Artistic Director, Dr. Tracey Elaine Chessum and her chosen team (usually a university-level dramaturg, and developing music director)
  • Multiple readings throughout the year of development, typically at least one staged reading in the Washington, DC area (these readings often allow for feedback from the audience, comprised of Pallas Theatre Collective members, artists, and invited members of the community)
  • After each reading, Dr. Chessum analyzes audience feedback for creators, and suggests questions that should be addressed in the new re-write
  • Over the course of the year, Pallas works to develop a web page, social media, and comprehensive marketing plan for the musical
  • Depending on availability, Pallas will produce a public reading at one of our partner universities, giving university theatre students the opportunity to delve into and perform new work (previous readings have been held at Ball State University in Muncie, IN and Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, PA)
  • The work is given a full performance in Washington, D.C. during the summer. Creators receive a percentage of box office receipts, and each musical leaves Pallas with the following:  video recordings, marketing and fundraising information, professional production photos, and critical response from DC area theatre critics.

Previous TableRead Musicals

Rehearsal with Tracey Elaine Chessum for the 2010 reading of "The Many Women of Troy"

Rehearsal with Tracey Elaine Chessum for a reading of “The Many Women of Troy,” 2010

TableRead 2010
The Many Women of Troy by Michael John Boynton & Brian Allan Hobbs

TableRead 2012
Trophies by Michael John Boynton

TableRead 2013
Usher by Molly Fox & Sarah Hirsch
The Yellow Wallpaper by Sarah Taylor Ellis & Lane Williamson

TableRead 2014
Code Name: Cynthia by Steve Multer & Karen Multer
RUNNER-UP, Left To Our Own Devices by Stephanie Salzman & EllaRose Chary

Washington, DC reading, "The Fall of the House of Usher," 2013

Washington, DC reading, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” 2013

TableRead 2015
Oneida by Beth Blatt & Lizzie Hagstedt
Emma by Sarah Taylor Ellis & Meghan Brown
RUNNER-UP, TILL by Leo Schwartz
HONORABLE MENTION, Bailey by Kevin Finkelstein

If you have questions about our process, please contact Artistic Director Tracey Elaine Chessum at tracey@pallastheatre.org.