Greetings from Penn State Musical Theatre!

John SimpkinsGreetings from Penn State Musical Theatre, where we are in the middle of a very busy year! 

A look back at the fall…

Our production of Be More Chill led the way in our commitment to connect our students more specifically to NYC artists and professionals. It was surrounded by a talkback with Broadway historian Jennifer Ashley Tepper and a post-show concert by writer Joe Iconis and his troupe of NYC artists. The second-year M.F.A. directors helmed two terrific one-act productions of S’Wonderful and Falsettoland. Our curricular journey included a revamped class intended to provide business skills to our musical theatre seniors and a reimagined “Junior Studio” whose goal is to provide students an opportunity to prepare a show without production elements.  This continues the work from Sophomore Studio solo acting/singing and duet scenes, and expands it to teaching techniques that include ensemble work. In this inaugural semester, Susan Schulman directed the class in Little Women—a thrill and huge educational opportunity for our juniors.

Looking ahead…

The winter and spring will see productions of American Idiot and The Light in the Piazza. The first commissioned musical (written by Joe Iconis and still untitled) will have a concert at 54 Below in January and a late spring reading/concert in State College. The annual showcase will take place in early May, and the revamped Spotlight event is in the planning stages for April. Also this spring, we will announce our writing team for the second commissioning project, and they will visit campus to meet our juniors in preparation for next year’s fall semester class.

As I continue to settle into my role at Penn State, I want to thank you for your continued support. We are grateful for the many ways in which alumni support the program. The help that you provide our graduates as they hit NYC and the business is invaluable. Many of you provide couches to sleep on, audition advice, help navigating NYC, valuable introductions to your contacts, and countless other things. It is this support that makes musical theatre alumni very special—and I know I speak for all students, current and future, when I say a heartfelt thank you for all you do. Like many high-level musical theatre programs, our current aspirations continue to exceed our possibilities. If you are interested in learning about how you can further support us, please let me know. Teaching a master class, assisting with a scholarship, supporting a program or production…there are many possibilities we could dream up together.

As always, if you find yourself in the area—or wanting to make a trip to campus to visit—please let me know. We would love a chance to welcome you back, introduce you to our current students, and show you some of the exciting things going on in musical theatre! It’s an exciting time to be at Penn State! WE ARE! 


John Simpkins

Head of Musical Theatre

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