New Musical Written For STEM Students Premieres In St. Louis After New York Engagement

Cascade's Fire, a modern adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone story, was written by Taylor Gruenloh and Kyle Wernke, professors at Missouri S&T.

By: Mar. 03, 2024
New Musical Written For STEM Students Premieres In St. Louis After New York Engagement
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A new musical written for students at the Missouri University of Science & Technology will have a brief run in New York City this month before having its World Premiere at the Tesseract Theatre Company in St. Louis this July.

Cascade's Fire, a modern adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone story, was written by Taylor Gruenloh and Kyle Wernke, professors at Missouri S&T. "The students at this university," Gruenloh says, "are super bright and drawn to creative adventures. Like other theatre programs at schools across the country, we came out of the pandemic swinging and haven't slowed back down yet."

Gruenloh and Wernke's Cascade's Fire had a workshop production on the campus of Missouri S&T in October 2023. Since the university doesn't have a theatre major, the acting ensemble featured students studying in majors like engineering management, physics, education, and biological science. "It was a staggeringly new experience," said David Pisoni, a chemical engineering major. "Not only do you get to go through the rehearsal process with the writer and composer of the piece, but you're approaching it with completely fresh eyes."

Cascade's Fire sees the character of Cascade return to her old college campus looking for answers after the death of her ex-girlfriend.

The same cast from the October production will travel with the show to New York this month. "It has always been a dream of mine to perform in New York," said Madison Kastner, an education major. "I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to do the thing I love."

While the student actors perform Cascade's Fire during the evenings at Under St. Marks Theatre in the East Village, Gruenloh will be escorting them to career related activities during the day. "Not only do these few students get to perform a new musical in New York, the university is helping send a larger student group with us to visit an entertainment engineering firm, talk with technical theatre professionals, and seeing a new Broadway show." Gruenloh says it's his mission at Missouri S&T to showcase pathways for engineering students to achieve careers in the arts. "A lot of students came in around the start of the pandemic, thinking they weren't going to have many opportunities in theatre, thinking this school only championed STEM activities, and now they're taking a show to the busiest theatre city in the world."

Cascade's Fire won't stop after the brief run in New York. St. Louis' Tesseract Theatre Company will produce the musical's official World Premiere as part of their 2024 New Musical Summer Fest in July. Gruenloh has a strong history with Tesseract Theatre, co-founding the company in 2012 with current Creative Director Brittanie Gunn. Gruenloh stepped away from the company in August last year to focus on building the theatre program at Missouri S&T. "We're excited to bring Taylor back," said Kevin Corpuz, a Creative Director at Tesseract. "To share his new musical with St. Louis audiences is very special and we can't wait to get started."

While the St. Louis production of Cascade's Fire will have a new cast at Tesseract for the World Premiere, the titular role of Cascade will be played by Josie Schnelten, who originated the role in October and will lead the show in New York this month. "I never thought that I'd get the opportunity to bring a brand-new character to life," said Schnelten, an engineering management major at Missouri S&T. "It's been special to work on Cascade from her very beginnings and I cannot wait to be a part of her professional debut in St. Louis."

The Tesseract Theatre Company will run Cascade's Fire July 19 - 24 at the Marcelle Theatre in Midtown St. Louis. The 2024 New Musical Summer Fest will also feature My Heart Says Go, a show about a first-generation college student, Indigo, who defies his father and drops out of medical school to become a singer-songwriter.

Gruenloh, who is directing Cascade's Fire in St. Louis, said, "This is the best possible outcome for this little experiment. I wanted to give the theatre students at Missouri S&T a taste of new play development, the bragging rights of originating roles in a musical, but the support from the university and the excitement at Tesseract Theatre has made this project a years long journey that is leaving a lot of people with some great memories."



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