This month we chatted with Lori Bales, an Associate Professor at Millikin University and the director of the school’s New Musical Workshop. Millikin is currently in rehearsal for their 10th Annual New Musical Workshop, featuring works by Sam Carner and Derek Gregor, as well as songs by Festival alumni Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond (Fest ’11, Dani Girl; Fest ’14, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes).
This year Millikin University is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of producing new works—can you tell us about the history of your program?
We’d like to send out a big thank you to Scott Guy, Elise Dewsberry, and John Sparks for their support in our start-up year. In 2007 we piloted our program in collaboration with New Musicals Inc. (formerly ANMT) followed by a collaboration with Theatre Building Chicago in 2008. My initial inspiration for this program was in a breakout group at the 2004 NAMT Conference, moderated by John Sparks. In 2009 we began working with solo writing teams Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond, and Jeff Thompson and Jordan Mann. We’ve had the privilege of collaborating with many other truly gifted writers: Adam Gwon and Sarah Hammond, Andrew Lippa, Marissa Michaelson, Amy Engelhardt and Marc Acito, Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, and Millikin alums Derek Hassler and his partner Landon Braverman, and Joshua Streeter and his partner Ryan Laney. We are currently workshopping two shows with Sam Carner and Derek Gregor. In celebration of our ten-year anniversary, Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond will join us for a retrospective cabaret celebrating their canon of work. In addition to developmental workshops/residencies we also provide fully realized developmental productions on our mainstage season. To date we’ve produced Golden Gate by Kooman and Dimond and String by Gwon and Hammond.