One Thousand Words-Chicago Musical Theatre Festival

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its second year, is a new-works festival produced by Underscore Theatre company. We created CMTF for one reason: there’s a wealth of musical theatre creators and performers in Chicago, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially on new authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to showcase Chicago’s emerging musical theatre creator community, and this year’s festival features 13 brand-spankin new musicals!

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Book and Lyrics by Michael Braud
Music by Curran Latas
Directed by Lavina Jadhwani

Richard Hanks knows that writing a thousand words about two men who were in love in the 1940s will help promote himself at the Forward Magazine, but what he doesn’t realize is how much hearing the story of the men will change his perspective on equality. The audience follows Richard’s journey, and in doing so, gets a glimpse at a love story that must struggle against a quickly changing, unacceptable culture.

One Thousand Words began as a Louisiana State University student-driven production in Baton Rouge earlier this year, and is a painfully earnest plea to honor the dignity of gay people. The performers pour their hearts into their characters and the rock-style songs deliberately used anachronistically to portray a relationship between a Warren, World War II soldier, and his actor buddy Daniel, who left their small mining town for New York City in 1940. The music is generally fast-paced and passionate, focusing on the internal struggles of individual characters. However, the dialogue is mostly clichéd and clumsy, forcing characters to say things like “you think I want this?” and predict their own untimely deaths. The logic of the framing device is also unclear; Forward Magazine must be similar to Time or Newsweek in their heyday to have a Kashmir branch and still consider running a human interest cover story on a gay WWII vet, which would probably be longer than 1000 words, but Hanks’s only basis for investigating is a photograph found in a mine of one man kissing another on the cheek. Warren also apparently had the bad luck of being the only man from his town to get drafted, although Daniel unhelpfully suggested fleeing to Canada. Besides the ill-fated gay relationship, there’s an interracial romance that badly needs more depth or focus to be more than an obvious parallel. Still, the main characters have some potential, and a few more rewrites could strengthen the book considerably.

Jacob Davis
[email protected]

Reviewed July 7, 2015

For more information, see CMTF.

Playing at The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago. Performances are July 11 at 2:00 pm, July 16 at 8:00 pm, and July 18 at 5:30 pm. Running time is ninety-five minutes.