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Underscore Theatre Company has announced that Laura Stratford will step down as the company’s Artistic Director in March to focus on her career as a lyricist and librettist. Since co-founding the company in 2011, Stratford has served as Executive Director, Co-Artistic Director, and eventually sole Artistic Director. Underscore will launch a search for a replacement this week.
Stratford 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.
“Laura Stratford has been one of the cornerstones of Underscore Theatre since its inception, building it into the Chicago storefront stalwart it is today,” said Underscore Board President Dan Desmond. “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.”
“I am immensely proud of how Underscore has grown over the seven years since co-founding the company,” added Stratford. “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.”
Stratford has seen five of her own musicals produced by companies around Chicago, including Underscore. She is the librettist for The 57th Annual Math Sum-It, a new musical recently published by Theatrical Rights Worldwide.