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Drexel and UArts Collaborate on Mae Desmond Musical

July 2, 2013

In the 1920s, actress Mae Desmond couldn't walk the streets of Philadelphia without being besieged by fans seeking autographs. In partnership with her husband, Frank Fielder, she was the founder and namesake of the Mae Desmond Players, a successful touring theatrical stock company. Inspired by her rags-to-riches tale of a spirited girl from Philadelphia’s Southwark slums with dreams of life as an actress, theater faculty from both Drexel and the University of the Arts are turning Desmond’s life into a new musical.

This summer, Theater Professor Bill Fennelly will direct and produce a developmental workshop of the musical Leading Lady with composer and lyricist Charles Gilbert and writer P. Seth Bauer – both theatre faculty members from the University of the Arts who began working on Desmond’s story in the summer of 2010. The workshop will engage music director Owen Robbins, as well as dramaturge Ed Sobel, currently the Associate Artistic Director at The Arden Theater, and will culminate with several public performances in late September. 

University of the Arts Musical Theatre graduate Shannon Remley will star as Mae Desmond.  The cast will include guest artists: Clare O'Malley, Alex Bechtel, Jim Bergwell and D'Arcy Webb, and the cast and production crew will be filled out with students and alumni from both institutions.

“There will be several checkpoints along the way where we will read and sing through the draft for feedback and then the writers will go away for a few weeks to rewrite,” Fennelly says. “We’ll have formal public presentations at the end of the first week of the Drexel fall quarter – one at Drexel and one at the University of the Arts.”