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About the festival

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its third year, is a new-works festival produced by Underscore Theatre company. We created CMTF for one reason: there's a wealth of musical theatre creators and performers in Chicago, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially on new authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to keep costs low by sharing resources, return half of all ticket proceeds to producers, and to showcase emerging authors from Chicago and beyond. In the last two years, we've featured 21 new musicals in various stages of development, and brought in over $40,000 in ticket revenue to producers!

2016 - The Skinny (Updated!)

This year's CMTF will run August 8th-29th, with each selected production running for 4 performances. Presented in partnership with the best musical theatre companies in Chicago, including Kokandy Productions, Bailiwick Chicago and CPA Theatricals, CMTF will run at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Much like the last two years, we're looking for new works from composing teams and production companies looking to take their new musical to the next level. DEADLINES FOR SUBMISSIONS ARE FEBRUARY 21st AND MARCH 1st, depending on your choice of category.

NEW: We've created a detailed FAQ and Timeline page for those submitting to the festival. Check it out!

Wanna stay up-to-date, whether as a producer, writer, or member of the audience? Sign up for our mailing list!


Submitting to CMTF

Choose your path

Festival Productions: SUBMISSIONS DUE MARCH 1st!

You, or your theatre/production company, have a new musical that you're ready to show the world.

These productions make up the vast majority of CMTF performances. Should you be selected, you'll pay a production fee of $800, which helps pay for the festival, and are entitled to four performances during the festival's run and 50% of all ticket revenue for your production (historically $1-4,000, max possible is ~$9,000). You'll be responsible for putting your show on its feet (including rehearsals, costumes, props, additional set pieces, etc.). CMTF provides the venue, a general light plot, sound equipment (including microphones!), audience services, and festival-wide promotion and publicity for your production.

As a producer in this year's festival, you control your exposure. You can bill your production as a workshop, as a festival try-out, or as a balls-to-the-wall world premiere that's ready to go to the next level. Through our publicist, we request that the press review accordingly, encouraging anything from full reviews to teasers to no coverage at all. Note: We will select 10 Productions for this year's festival. Your odds are about 1 in 10.

We've made a detailed list of show requirements, FAQs and a timeline for the festival. Read it before you submit!

Submit to the festival!


You wrote a musical, and now you want to put it on its feet. That said, perhaps you don't have the resources, or connections, to make that happen. That's where we come in. If you're selected, CMTF pairs your production with Kokandy Productions or CPA Theatricals to workshop your show, and, using CMTF's resources, to put on a 4 performance workshop run during the festival. That company retains the right of first-refusal to further productions for 90 days after the festival closes, after which you are free to pitch your show to other producers.

If your show is selected, composing teams pay a production fee of $1,000, which goes towards the production of your show. In return, teams receive 25% of gross ticket sales (historically $1-4,000, max possible is ~$9,000). Most importantly, though, you get to see your show brought to life with the help of dozens of artists, workshopped to hone your script and score, and presented to an audience of theatre producers, artists, industry members, and the general public. Note: Only TWO "Bridge" productions will be selected. Your odds are about 1 in 100. Submissions for Bridge productions are closed as of 2/21.

Submissions Closed


About Underscore Theatre Company

Founded in 2011, Underscore Theatre Company is a team of producing artists dedicated to exploring stories of power and resonance through a musical lens; fostering the development of new musicals; and bolstering Chicago’s role as a national leader in musical theatre. Since its creation, Underscore has produced or co-produced 28 world-premiere musicals in Chicago. In 2014, Underscore created the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. For Underscore’s 2015-16 season, Underscore will present two new full-length musicals created by Chicago composers and lyricists, as well as an expanded festival.

The composer Jean Sibelius said, “Music begins where the possibilities of language end,” and we fully embrace this mentality in our work. We believe musicals offer something more than other performing arts, with music, text, and actors’ interpretation coming together create a transcendent experience for performers and audience alike.


Full presskit coming soon!

Contact Us

For any additional questions, please send us an email!