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Tuacahn New Works Festival showcases two musicals in their ‘purest form’

Sometimes in order to discover truly great theater, one has to strip away the costumes, the sets, the technology and delve into the essence: the script. Thanks to the Tuacahn New Works Festival on Oct. 6, audiences will be able to do just that — savoring the very core of two riveting and relatable musicals, “Solana” and “Academy.”

The product of Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid (“Solana”) and Andrew Kato and John Mercurio (“Academy”), both plays serve as a framework for a story about young people coming of age, finding themselves and making decisions that will impact the type of people they grow into. It’s a concept that New Works Festival Director Jeffry Denman says he found “fascinating” and can’t wait to see how audiences respond.


“The New Works Festival offers our audiences a peek at a musical being worked on,” Denman says. “It celebrates the process, the development.”

The program is not only a boon to the authors of the original works, but also to the actors, directors and audiences who have the chance to be part of “something special and unique,” says Scott Anderson, artistic director for Tuacahn.

Now in its second year, the Tuacahn New Works Festival invites authors to submit an original musical and, if chosen, they have the opportunity for their new work to be directed and dramatized by Tuacahn professionals and performed before a public audience in a free, staged concert reading setting.

This year two plays were selected from a pool of hundreds of submissions.

“Solana” tells the story of Chloe, a 25-year-old adopted Asian-American writer. While living at home with her family in rural Indiana, Chloe is frustrated because she wants to create something important. When an unexpected visitor arrives she is thrown into a fairytale adventure, forcing her to face her own understanding of who she is and how she feels about her adoption.

“It has a beautiful score and a funny, touching script,” Denman says.

“Academy” is a clever twist on Goethe’s “Faust” wherein two high school seniors make a harmless bet on whether they can influence an unsuspecting freshman to break a few rules to succeed. But when the transaction goes out of control, the boys have to fight for their own academic and personal survival.

“I think both shows will speak to and entertain our audiences,” Denman says. “Watching a staged reading of a musical is a more pure experience of that musical, and one that I believe people will enjoy a great deal.”

The Tuacahn New Works Festival takes Friday, Oct. 6, in the Hafen Theatre at Tuacahn Amphitheatre, 1100 Tuacahn Dr., Ivins, Utah. “Academy” begins at 11 a.m. and “Solana” starts at 2:30 p.m. The event is free to the public but tickets need to be requested for each show individually at the box office by calling 435-652-3300.

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