Two adjunct instructors at Stephens College are taking their original musical to the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival at the Underscore Theatre Company in June.
With music by Audra Sergel, who teaches voice and piano and provides accompaniment at Stephens, and book by Trent Rash, who gives private voice lessons at Stephens, teaches Performance Techniques and performs in theatre productions, “Starting With My Voice” was one of just eight musicals out of 40 submissions selected to be part of the event.
The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival is a new project from the Underscore Theatre Company created to showcase emerging creators of musical theatre, according to the company’s website.
Sergel’s music was originally composed for a revue, “Now is the Time,” which debuted at The Bridge in Columbia last fall. Hearing all of the pieces together at that event, Sergel said, made her realize she had something special—a collection of songs with a unifying theme.
“They are all about making a decision, a choice moment,” she said. “They’re individual stories about being who we are and how we decide to advocate for change.”
Sergel reached out to Rash to help write the book and direct the production, and professional actors have since joined the cast. They submitted it to the festival somewhat on a whim, unsure of what to expect.
Although outside of the realm of their teaching duties, Sergel and Rash agreed having their work accepted to the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival will benefit students. The musical could be performed in the future using students in the cast, Rash said. On a broader level, it shows how making one decision—in this case submitting the music to the festival—can have significant results.
“As an artist, when you feed yourself, you share,” Sergel said. “It shows students you have to stay open. Stephens women are courageous, they put themselves out there, and that’s contagious. This is about taking the next step and being bold.”
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