-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
Philadelphia Theatre Company is developing its first commission under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Paige Price. This brand-new musical, The Tattooed Lady, was awarded a Project grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The new musical from Max Vernon and Erin Courtney with director Ellie Heyman, is a fictional tale based on true stories from the sideshow, centering on one of sideshow’s biggest stars. Philadelphia Theatre Company will produce a virtual reading during the 2020-2021 season and the show is slated to have a full production in a subsequent season.
“Commissioning is something I’ve been dreaming of doing since I joined PTC,” said Price. “We can make the most impact by supporting new work and artists in this way. We hope this is just the start. There’s no formula – I believe a little bit in Kismet when it comes to finding talent. After the long slumber of isolation, this show will be the jolt of live humanity we all crave.”
The Tattooed Lady is a moving, fantastical tale of the bond between mother and daughter, fractured by self-inflicted patterns that manifest in both the visible and invisible marks left on these women. The musical explores the power of and the path through “otherness,” and celebrates the resilience of women whose choices have the potential to liberate them.
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage awarded Philadelphia Theatre Company a $300,000 Project Grant to support the production and its world premiere and $60,000 in general operating support.
The Tattooed Lady was written by Obie Award winner Erin Courtney (libretto) and Max Vernon (libretto, music, and lyrics). Vernon crafted the music and lyrics for the sold-out Off-Broadway sensation KPOP, which is slated for Broadway. Erin Courtney is an award-winning, New York based playwright. Her play, A Map of Virtue, produced by 13P and directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, was awarded an Obie. Heyman has worked with Vernon since the inception of The Tattooed Lady, shaping the aesthetic vision, and will direct the production at PTC. They met in New York while both had notable shows running—The View Upstairs for Vernon, and for Heyman, Dave Malloy’s Beardo.
The rest of the team assembled for the eventual World Premiere of this new musical includes TONY Award winners Rachel Hauck (scenic design), Hamilton sound designer Nevin Steinberg, (both won TONY Awards for Hadestown) and Clint Ramos (costumes) (TONY Award for Eclipsed) as well as lighting designer Mary Ellen Stebbins (longtime collaborator with Heyman) and choreographer Jeffrey L. Page, PTC’s Resident Artist and the upcoming co-director, with Diane Paulus, and choreographer of the Broadway bound 1776.
Since taking over the artistic leadership of PTC in 2017, Price has been looking for a show that could usher in the next era of theatre’s history.
“The Tattooed Lady exceeds our mission to develop and produce imaginatively staged contemporary theatre focused on the American experience,” said Price. “I have been looking for the right show that will introduce audiences to the next generation of American talent, draw attention to the national theatre community and upend our audiences’ expectations of what is possible in our space.”
Price met Vernon in Philadelphia when they were working with director Heyman as part of a new work incubation program run by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. She was taken by their fresh perspectives and artistic audacity. She then attended a concert of Vernon’s at Joe’s Pub, where they performed songs from the musical. Soon after she met Heyman and then Courtney. Price then helped with some early development of the piece.
“The Tattooed Lady promises to transform the physical space of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre and usher in an era in which Philadelphia Theatre Company reshapes the way audiences experience the surprise and delight of leading-edge musical theatre,” said Price.
The Tattooed Lady is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The Tattooed Lady has been developed with support from the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, the Kimmel Center, National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater.