STAGE NOTES: Dayton Playhouse, John Legend, Wright State updates



The Dayton Playhouse is now accepting new, unproduced scripts for its FutureFest new play festival slated for July 19-21, 2024.

Next year marks the festival’s 33rd incarnation. The Playhouse placed the festival on hiatus this year for the first time in its history to reassess programming.

Playhouse representatives read hundreds of plays each year. In a departure from previous festivals, they will select five finalists instead of six. Each will be produced as staged readings, another change in procedure. Only full-length plays are accepted. Subject matter is not limited, but the competition is not open to musicals or children’s plays.

Playwrights are brought to Dayton for FutureFest weekend. Professional adjudicators from around the country are also on hand to select the best play and give playwrights a critique in front of the festival audience. There are many opportunities to mingle and network with audience members, adjudicators and other playwrights for additional feedback.

The winning playwright will receive a $500 honorarium and will agree to have their play workshopped and presented as a fully staged production during the following Dayton Playhouse regular season (spring of 2025). Four runners-up each receive $100. All five finalists receive paid travel (within the continental U.S.) and housing for the festival weekend.

Submissions are being accepted through Oct. 31, 2023 (postmark). There is a $20 submission fee per script. This fee is waived for members of the Dramatists Guild. For complete guidelines, visit For questions, leave a message at 937-424-8477 for Tina McPhearson or Debra Strauss, FutureFest 2024 Co-Chairs. The Playhouse is located at 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton.

John Legend adapting ‘Imitation of Life’ for the stage

EGOT winner John Legend and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage (”Ruined,” “Sweat”) are writing a musical adaptation of “Imitation of Life,” an emotional saga of class, family and race based on Fannie Hurst’s novel and subsequent Universal Picture films. An industry reading was held in April in New York City featuring music by Legend, a book by Nottage and direction by Liesl Tommy, who made her feature film directorial debut with the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” starring Jennifer Hudson.

Muse Machine alum designing pre-Broadway Louis Armstrong musical

Scenic designer Adam Koch, a Muse Machine and Oakwood High School alum, is part of the creative team for “A Wonderful World,” a new musical about the life and loves of Louis Armstrong. The musical, starring “Aladdin” Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart and co-produced by Vanessa Williams, will be performed Oct. 11-29 at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace. Broadway dates have yet to be announced. Koch most recently created scenic design for the Human Race Theatre Company’s world premiere musical “Indigo.”

Wright State musical theatre professor directing in Italy

Joe Deer, distinguished professor of musical theatre at Wright State University, has traveled to Novara, Italy, located outside Milan, to direct “Guys and Dolls” with the Scuola del Teatro Musicale (STM), one of Italy’s most acclaimed professional theatre training academies. The production will feature graduating students from the school, performing at Teatro Cocchia, on Sept. 9-10. The project is part of a five-week residency that will include collaboration with a fully Italian team of designers, musical staff and choreographer, followed by a week of master classes with sophomores in the academy. The visit is part of a professional development leave from Wright State for the fall.

“I was introduced to STM when they approached me about translating my two books into Italian for their students and the broader Italian market,” said Deer in a news release. “Both books have since been published in excellent editions and the relationship grew from there. I have been so impressed with both the student talent and leadership at the academy. Their students are being so well-prepared to begin professional careers. It’s my hope that some of our students from Wright State will be able to visit and study in Milan because of this residency.”

Deer has ongoing relationships with a number of international schools through his work with Musical Theatre Educators’ Alliance, an organization of teachers from across the globe that he was founding president of when it began almost 25 years ago. His books,” Acting in Musical Theatre: a comprehensive course” (co-author Rocco Dal Vera) andDirecting in Musical Theatre: an essential guide,” have been translated into Portuguese, Korean, Italian and an upcoming Spanish edition. He has also been a guest artist or visiting master teacher across the U.S. and internationally at schools including: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London, UK), Stage School of Hamburg (Germany), Danish Academy of Musical Theatre, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Wales, UK) and many of the finest schools in the U.S., including Carnegie Mellon University, University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, and University of North Carolina School of the Arts among others.

Deer, a Broadway veteran, was the first head of Wright State’s musical theatre program and served in that role for 20 years before becoming chair of the department of theatre, dance and motion pictures for four years. He was director of The Musical Theatre Initiative at Wright State from 2013-2023, and also served as artistic director for Wright State Theatre through this spring. In addition to his work with Wright State, Deer is a resident artist with the Human Race Theatre Company and works closely with Muse Machine as director of their annual winter musical and through various other education initiatives.

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