How it Happened
In the fall of 2009, I was living and teaching in Pittsburgh when I received an email from Professor Beth Turcotte at Ball State. Would I be willing to let a group of students adapt my book into a musical?
Sure, I said. Why not. Just let me come hear it.
So in January 2010, my husband and I drove from Pittsburgh to Muncie and heard the first draft. That’s when I knew this wasn’t just a class project. This was the real thing.
Why my Book?
When Beth Turcotte met with the class the first time, she suggested the word “circus.” A few students raised their hands and mentioned The Circus in Winter.
How did they know about my book?
Because they’d taken classes with Dr. Anthony Edmonds, who had been teaching Circus in his history classes since 2004.
How did he know about my book?
Because he came to a reading I gave at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in 2004 at the invitation of Kathryn Kennison, the director.
How did she know about my book?
Because once upon a time, she lived in Peru, Indiana, my hometown. In fact, I probably walked by her house a hundred times on my way home from school. When she learned that a book was being published about Peru, she got in touch with me immediately. If she hadn’t, none of this would have happened.
I’m so grateful for these wonderful coincidences.
And here’s another:
I applied for my current position at Ball State after this process started.
My campus interview for the job coincided with the first reading at Sursa Hall.
The Circus in Winter was optioned for musical theater by Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, an interdisciplinary program at Ball State University. A concert version of the show was performed in Muncie at Sursa Hall, in Chicago at Drury Lane Theater, in Peru, Indiana at the Ole Olsen Memorial Theater and the International Circus Hall of Fame, and at the Muncie Civic Theatre.
A fully realized production was mounted at Ball State in Fall 2011 as part of University Theatre’s 2011-2012 season.
It was selected and was performed at the KC-ACTF’s Region III Festival at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in January 2012.
A national committee then selected Circus as one of the top five shows in the nation, and it earned a total of seven awards at the national awards ceremony in April 2012.
Following the astounding success of the show at the KC-ACTF, the National Alliance for Music Theatre (NAMT) selected the musical as a finalist in their yearly new work competition.
NAMT’s 24th Annual Festival of New Musicals is a premiere industry event that gathers theatre industry leaders to discover the eight musicals selected.
Hundreds of scripts are considered but only eight are given abbreviated performances in what has become a major stepping-stone towards a Broadway production.
According to American Theatre Magazine, NAMT is “an industry-only event, and it happens for only two days, but it makes a major impact in the world of musical theatre.”
The Circus in Winter both opened and closed the festival, the first new work to do so in the history of NAMT.
- Playbill article on Hunter Foster.
- Ben Clark singing “Never Alone” at the Palladium.
- Ball Bearings Magazine video presentation about the history of the Peru Amateur Circus.
- STAGE magazine’s feature by Pat Maley: “The Circus in Winter: A New Musical on a Unique Journey.”
- A NAMT interview with the writers of The Circus in Winter, Beth Turcotte and Ben Clark
- Sutton Foster cast in The Circus in Winter.
Full list of the national award winners from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival
- “From Page to Stage,” Katherine Greene, Ball State Alumnus Magazine. November 2011, pp. 12-13.
- “It takes a circus.” Lou Harry, Indiana Business Journal.
- Photos of the production, courtesy Ball State Daily News.
- Feature on Christopher and Justin Swader, set designers for the musical, from the Evansville Courier & Press.