CHICAGO – Underscore Theatre Company today announced that Laura Stratford will step down as the company’s Artistic Director in March 2019 to focus on her career as a lyricist and librettist. Since co-founding the company in in 2011, Stratford has served as Executive Director, Co-Artistic Director, and eventually sole Artistic Director. Underscore will launch a search for a new Artistic Director this week.
Under Stratford’s leadership, the company has grown to a staff of ten, including a part-time Managing Director. She has produced over 50 productions, including mainstage world premieres and participants in Underscore’s annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. In March, Underscore secured its new producing home, the Understudy, a storefront space in Uptown built by artistic associates. Stratford also conceived Underscore’s Writer’s Night initiative, which serves as a space for Chicago area writers and composing teams to get together and collaborate, give feedback and network on a monthly basis. During her tenure, Underscore has been nominated for five Joseph Jefferson awards including three for Best New Musical.
Comments Underscore Board President Dan Desmond, “Laura Stratford has been one of the cornerstones of Underscore Theatre since its inception, building it into the Chicago storefront stalwart it is today. Laura has decided to step back from the role of Artistic Director so she can focus on her own creative passions. While Underscore is extremely sad to see her leave this role, we fully support her decision and are beyond excited at this juncture. A new Artistic Director will be able to take the rock-solid foundation built over the past seven years and springboard us into a future chock full of world premiere musicals in a way that should further excite and invigorate the Chicago storefront industry.”
Adds Stratford, “I am immensely proud of how Underscore has grown over the seven years since co-founding the company. Our first production took place in the basement of a bar, using Kickstarter as a ticketing platform so that our ticket sales could directly fund the production. The hard work of our stellar staff and the amazing artists we have partnered with has allowed us to stretch ourselves in ways we would never have believed possible. At present, Underscore not only produces mainstage world-premiere musicals like the critically-acclaimed Haymarket, but is also ramping up for our fifth annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, produces quarterly concerts showcasing local artists, offers readings, workshops,and monthly Writer’s Nights, and has built a new home in Uptown. I am confident that this new opportunity is the next stage in our growth, and I am excited to see where new leadership takes us.”
About Laura Stratford
Laura Stratford (Artistic Director) is an actress, librettist and lyricist who has served as the Executive Director of Underscore Theatre Company since its founding in 2011. She also acts as the Executive Producer of the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival and volunteers as a teaching artist with Storycatchers Theatre to help young people in detention settings turn stories from their lives into musicals performed by their peers. With Underscore, she has produced over 50 new musicals in six years; as a writer, she has seen five of her own musicals produced by companies around Chicago, including Underscore, the EX-Pats and CPA Theatricals. She is the librettist for The 57th Annual Math Sum-It, a new musical recently published by Theatrical Rights Worldwide.
About Underscore Theatre Company
Founded in 2011, Underscore Theatre Company is a team of producing artists dedicated to exploring stories of power and resonance through a musical lens; fostering the development of new musicals; and bolstering Chicago’s role as a national leader in musical theatre. Since its creation, Underscore has produced or co-produced 65 new mainstage and workshop musicals in Chicago. Underscore is proud to be Chicago’s home for new musicals.