New Work in Progress: OCTOBER SKY

This month, we check in with Aaron Thielen (Fest ’10, The Bowery Boys), Artistic Director of the Marriott Theatre outside Chicago, and his showOctober Sky, that he has written with fellow Fest Alumnus Michael Mahler (Fest ’09, How Can You Run With a Shell on Your Back?), as they prepare for the premiere this August. 
The beloved Universal Pictures film October Sky is now a new musical. It was 1957, and Sputnik lights up the October sky over the small Appalachian mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia. Homer Hickam, the teenage son of a coal miner, is determined not to end up like generations before him. Inspired by the world’s race to space, Homer and his buddies begin to light up the starry skies with their homemade rockets and dreams of glory. This rich and emotional story is for anyone who ever dreamed of something better and reached for the stars. 
October Sky was highlighted in our Songwriters Showcase at last year’s Festival.  What was the response to the show like after the showcase? 
There was an immediate attraction to not only Michael’s music, but to the title and project as a whole.  The film really resonated with so many people.  The era.  The basic American dream of reaching for the stars, and making it.  Literally!
October Sky is being presented at Marriott in conjunction with Universal Stage Productions. What has the experience been like working with Universal on their property? Universal, who’ve produced many new works including Wicked and Billy Elliott, is a very gracious and involved collaborator. From the beginning it was made clear that they were interested in us, as writers, bringing our own voices to the project.


You are preparing to present the world premiere of October Sky this fall at Marriott Theatre.  What has the development process been like up to this point?
Michael Mahler (music, lyrics) and I have really followed much of the path that worked so well for Hero.  There have been multiple readings, workshops and labs.  All leading up to this fall’s production at The Marriott Theatre.


What are you hoping to learn from the full production?
Each step of the development process is important, but nothing compares to putting your work in front of an audience.  That is the eventual goal for all new works.  Obviously an audience can be immediate in their feedback.  The large subscription base at Marriott guarantees us the type of exposure that proves invaluable when you’re looking at how an audience embraces a specific story, how they react to story-telling and the tools used to tell it.


Why should people head to Chicagoland to catch October Sky this fall?  
I think the NAMT membership should come see October Sky because… frankly, I think it’s really good. Plus, we’re all  interested in fostering and nurturing new musical works.  Whether we are producing, presenting or offering our support, it is essential in order to maintain a healthy musical theatre future.


For more information about October Sky, please click here


Leave a Reply