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UPDATED 2/15/15: Deadline extended!

We have a big announcement to make, but we can't do it quite yet...which means you still have one week to submit! We have we've extended the deadline for submissions by ONE WEEK, to February 21st, 2015! Until then, check back here for more updates, or sign up for our mailing list to find out the second we announce. We've received dozens of excellent submissions already; keep 'em coming!

In the meantime, we've created this handy guide for everyone who submits.

About the festival

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its second 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 showcase Chicago's emerging musical theatre creator community, and so far, it has been a great success.

This is a juried festival, so theatre companies, as well as independent teams of playwrights and composers, submit their new works for consideration, and a select few make the cut. During last year's inaugural festival, nearly 50 companies submitted new musicals--ultimately, we chose 8, who performed in rep at the Den Theatre last June. For this year's festival, we'll be accepting 12 new works: 9 one-act productions (up to 60 min) and 3 full-length productions (up to 100 minutes, no intermission).

Think you have what it takes? Read the FAQ below, and then submit your show for consideration! Looking to attend again this year, or check us out for the first time? Never fear! Sign up for our mailing list, and you'll be the first to know our lineup, and you'll get first dibs when tickets go on sale.



How do I apply?

Easy! Just fill out the proposal form at the bottom of this page by February 15, 2015 FEBRUARY 21ST! Groups are separated into two categories:

Independent Submissions - this is for producers who have produced before and are comfortable casting, rehearsing, and marketing their own productions, while the venue, additional marketing, basic lights and sound, and front of house provided by the festival. These producers keep 50% of ticket sales to distribute as they wish, with the remainder going to cover costs of the festival. For this track, you put in more work, and get a greater reward. The festival will select 9 independent submissions to take part in this year's festival.

Mentored Submissions - these are writers and composers who haven't produced before, and would like to be paired with a director, musical director, actors and marketing personnel. For mentored productions, CMTF and Underscore Theatre produces your show. The festival's producers will help facilitate all aspects of your production, and 50% of your show's ticket revenue will be distributed evenly between all the players of the production, including actors, directors, stage managers, designers, accompanists and the submitting playwrights.

What are the costs and requirements?

There is no application fee. Selected productions will be asked to pay a production fee: one-act productions will pay $300, and full-length productions pay $500. The production fee covers the cost of venue rental, marketing, and the opening night party. This fee is the same for mentored and independent submissions.

Show requirements: Submitted productions must either be one-act (45-60 minutes) or full length (75-100 minutes) productions. These must be new (or relatively underexposed) musicals! During the run of the festival, each show will receive 10 minutes to set up and 10 minutes to strike their productions between each performance.

What do I get?

Exposure! And some money.

Productions selected to perform in the festival will be given four guaranteed performances between July 8th and August 2nd, 2015 at the Den Theatre. Productions are assigned a board op and a slot to tech before the performances begin. Each participating company will receive 50% of their production's ticket revenue, distributed as outlined above.

Historical perspective: Last year, our best-selling productions earned about 4x their production fee, while our average earned about 2x their production fee. No groups earned less than their production fee.

Any advice?

Yes. The simpler, the better.

All shows will be running in rep with 8 total productions, with limited on-site prop/set storage available. Remember, you only have 10 minutes to set up your show. We'll provide a piano and basic audio equipment, you provide the material.


Want to be considered?

Apply for #CMTF2015!


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 13 world-premiere musicals in Chicago. In 2014, Underscore created the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, which in collaboration with 8 other theatre companies produced 8 new works by Chicago artists. For Underscore’s 2014-15 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.


Press release (with a VERY special surprise!) coming soon.

Contact Us

For any additional questions, please send us an email!