The S&S Award is turning producer to become S&S Theatre Productions, dedicated to producing radical new musical theatre with partnerships between the UK and the USA.
Joining forces with London-based, multiple Offie-nominated Mercurius Theatre and Kent Nicholson, doyen of new musical theatre writing in the States, the new company has already hit the ground running with the live-streaming of the award-winning Stay Awake, Jake from Southwark Playhouse.
Since the early days of the Award – given to the best new unproduced musical of the year – its founders, literary agent Caroline Underwood and writer Warner Brown, have longed to encourage links between the UK musical writing scene and that of the US and one of the aims of the new company is to mount co-productions with Off-West End and Off-Broadway companies.
“Writers in both territories have so much in common yet so much to learn from each other,” says Underwood. Exciting developments are in the pipeline regarding this, but first – even before the launch of the company – the fledgling producers couldn’t resist joining forces with Pearson Theatre Productions and Damien Tracey for the production of Stay Awake, Jake by Tim Gilvin.
The show was the 2014 S&S Award winner and, says Brown: “Tim Gilvin represents everything S&S Theatre Productions stands for in his fresh new approach to the form.”The Award had developed from a small London-based entity to an international event, attracting entries from around the globe, but, Underwood says: “We were taken aback by its success. We had over 40 industry-leading UK and international judges and a final panel which included Nica Burns of Nimax Theatres, Nikolai Foster of Leicester Curve and Kent Nicholson of Playwrights Horizons in New York and in truth it had got too big to manage. We so wanted to carry on the good work the Award had started, though, and this seemed the next logical step.” She adds: “We want to produce work that simply breaks the mould.”
During a pandemic might not seem the obvious time to launch a new theatre production company, but Underwood and Brown have been inspired to announce their project by the increased determination of theatre professionals to prepare for a return to business after lockdown.
Caroline Underwood and Warner Brown add:
“We are thrilled to be making this announcement now and to join with the increasing number of our colleagues who are looking ahead to the time when theatres are fully back in business.”
Brown and Joshua Schmidt (the American composer of Adding Machin3 amongst others) plan to set a template for the transatlantic aims of S&S Theatre Productions by forming a UK/US collaboration to write the new company’s second show. This new, innovative musical will be co-produced with the UK’s Mercurius Theatre – whose artistic chief Jenny Eastop will direct – and the USA’s Kent Nicholson.
Say Underwood and Brown: “Dates and venue for the London leg of this will be announced just as soon as the world returns to some kind of normal. S&S Theatre Productions are all set to go.”
Jenny Eastop, who directed Warner Brown’s musical The Biograph Girl at the Finborough Theatre in 2018, said: “It feels even more now like a perfect fit to form a collaboration with Warner and Caroline. We’ve found we’re all passionate about developing new musical theatre as a way into deeper and more profound themes and we have similar ideas about the sorts of stories we’re eager to tell.”