Chicken Soup for the Soul has come to the stage! The world-famous book series has teamed up with Stellation Entertainment to bring is its positive message for teens to life through the excitement of live theater.
William Meade sat down to discuss the process of adapting the book series for the stage and his hopes for its radically positive messaging to teens in schools, community groups, and professional theatres around the globe.
What is the Chicken Soup for the Soul Musical Theater Series?
The “CSS” Musical Theater Series is a collection of mini-musicals based on the amazing true stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul, written to be performed by middle and high school students. Knowing who the performers would be gave us several goals we wanted to accomplish with the musical series; we really wanted to create shows that were about what they are going through right now.
Therefore, all of the musicals would solely feature teen characters. We felt strongly that in order for the shows to resonate with our audience that there should only be teen characters played by teens. In addition, each of the musicals had to be available for performance with or without full production elements. In other words, schools that don’t have the resources could still perform the shows. All you need is a phone and speakers for the music tracks — and you are ready to go!
What exactly is a “mini-musical”?
A “mini-musical” is a full book musical that runs up to 45 minutes in length. One of the main reasons we chose this format was so that each musical could be totally performed within a typical school period. But if you wanted to create an entire evening, you could perform multiple shows. Each musical focuses on one story from the catalogue based on a specific theme.
What themes do you explore?
In the initial release we created six musicals based on bullying, friendship, values, identity, taking risks and body image. We had five different writing teams working on these shows, so, each title has its own special personality. I was looking for new voices to bring their own special talents to the table.
What made you interested in creating this series?
I have been involved in theatre for years, either performing on Broadway or teaching in schools. Live theatre has the ability to reach kids like no other medium. There are so many teens that love theatre and would like the chance to perform but never get the opportunity. Either they weren’t the typical character types or their school didn’t have a program. And many musicals are about subjects or people that teens can’t relate to.
So, with the help of the Amy Newmark from Chicken Soup and the support of Concord Theatricals, this series came to life. It took three years but it was worth it.
Anything else you would like to add?
It has been a wonderful experience to work with such talented writers. I think you’ll agree that there are some amazing songs ranging from traditional musical theatre to indie-rock to rap. We look forward to getting feedback from performers and educators, and hopefully adding new titles in the future.