What CMTF Is All About

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival is back! After a 4 year hiatus, Kokandy Productions is thrilled to steward the return of this vital opportunity for new musical development in Chicago, as originally envisioned by Underscore Theatre Company:

“We believe there’s a wealth of musical theatre creators in Chicago and around the country, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially with emerging authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to keep costs low, to return proceeds to artists and to showcase emerging authors from Chicago and beyond.”

The 2024 Festival will be part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s Lookout Series and will take place at their 1700 Theater in Lincoln Park.

APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN and will remain open until Thursday, May 30. Stay tuned for further announcements and check back here for updated nformation, including FAQs, festival timeline and more. 

Festival Info and Application

CMTF 7: Common Questions

Where/when is the festival?
CMTF 7 will take place August 8-11, 2024 at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater, as part of Steppenwolf’s LookOut Summer Series.

The window for new musical applications will open on Monday, April 15. Submissions will be accepted until Thursday, May 30.

The five finalists will be notified in June (a more specific date will be added soon). Casting for the festival will follow selection of the finalists.

Rehearsals for the five concert presentations will take place the weeks of July 22 and 29, leading to a short tech process in Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater the week of the festival.

How does CMTF work?
Authors, composers, and producers submit scripts for consideration via our application form (opening Monday, April 15). Our jury selects 5 productions for participation, who then receive participation agreements. There is currently no fee associated with participation. The festival will provide shared resources for each group, including the hiring of directors, music directors and a festival ensemble (a core group of performers who cover the roles in all 5 shows).  Ticket sales are split between the venue, the festival and festival participants.

Is the festival judged?
Yes! We have a panel of judges who attend every show, and vote on awards and distinctions, including the declaration of a winner of the festival. The panel is composed of Artistic Directors and industry leaders, which means your work is guaranteed to be seen by producers, directors and industry professionals who can help your show take its next steps. These judges also provide substantive feedback on your show that you can use to help spur further development.

What kind of shows are you looking for?
CMTF is designed as a place to showcase the text, sound, and concept of your show, rather than glitz, glam, and crazy-expensive production value. Each show will be presented in a concert style, on book with music stands. The festival will provide a house band, limited tech (individual mics, lights up/lights down, etc). We’re looking for shows that are ready for an audience, and ready to show their work to producers, agents, and publishers.

  To submit for the 2024 CMTF, your show should be:

  • A Musical (No Plays, or Plays with Music)
  • Finished (i.e. ready for a public reading)
  • Un-produced (Previous Readings and Workshops are acceptable)
  • Un-licensed (No representation by a major licensing house)
  • Original Material (If adapted from another source, proof of copyright must be provided)

How much does the festival cost?
Applying is free. There is currently no participation fee, though this could change for future iterations of the festival. The festival will use ticket sales to cover the cost of paying directors, music directors, band members, performers and other festival production staff. 

What do I get?

  • A concert reading presentation of your work
  • An archival recording of the presentation for your use in further development 
  • 2 rehearsals before tech with hired director, MD and cast to make creative decisions for the concert reading presentation (keep it simple!) 
  • 2 hours of tech in the space
  • Limited on-site storage
  • A publicist who is actively working to bring press to the festival 
  • A shared lighting plot and sound system
  • Lighting and sound technicians for your performances
  • Shared festival resources (Front Bar cafe and bar staff for patrons, front of house and ticketing staff) 
  • Guaranteed feedback from artistic directors, directors, composers, and theatrical publishers

What am I responsible for?

  • Attending meetings on production, marketing, and development of your piece
  • Supporting the rehearsal of your show (2 rehearsals) and collaborating with the hired director, music director and cast
  • Attending your show’s rehearsals, tech and performance

How do I apply?
Start your application now! Applications are now open, and will remain open through Thursday, May 30. 


If you have any issues submitting your application or have questions about the festival, email cmtf@kokandyproductions.com.

All press inquiries should be directed to David Rosenberg, our publicist, at david@drpublicrelations.com.

Sponsorship inquiries should email Executive Producer Scot Kokandy at scot@kokandyproductions.com.