Producers Brian Haas and Frank Monier are developing a new musical from Mason Emmert and Patrick Deane Greeley titled Burn. With a folk-country score, the work tells a fictional story of two friends and bandmates on tour who find themselves stranded in a Northern California bar when a nearby wildfire makes it impossible to leave.
The work received a three-week developmental workshop at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, which will be followed by public presentations July 29 at 2 and 7 PM and July 30 at 2 PM. Tickets will be available at the door at Bradley's Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts.
Jake Van Hoorn is directing and serving as dramaturg, and Susan Somerville is music directing. The cast includes Dedra Baker, Charles Brown, Lindsey Ropp, Keliah Schertz, Adam Sitton, and Eddie Urish.
"When we first started writing Burn in the fall of 2021, we wanted to personalize the lives that are being affected by wildfire devastation, to audiences who don’t experience them directly,” say Emmert and Greeley in a statement. “Now, even on the East Coast, wildfires are impossible to ignore, making it more important than ever to understand the effects of climate change on our world."
The development at Bradley Unviersity (done in association with Theatre Arts Chair Scott Kanoff) places the show in a historic theatrical testing ground. Theatre fans tend to be more focused on try-outs in Boston, Chicago, or New Haven, but at the turn of the century, Peoria, Illinois, was one of the most important early stops for vaudeville acts. Groucho Marx coined the term "Will it play in Peoria?," implying that any act that played well in Peoria would work nationwide.
“We are so excited for the opportunity to develop this show in Peoria, Illinois—a historic city that used to be considered one of the premier test markets for new theatre during the Vaudeville Circuit at the turn of the century,” says Haas. “As a fellow mid-westerner and an alumnus of Bradley University, I’m excited to uphold and re-ignite that tradition.”