COCA Debuts New Musical With Help of Student Playwrights

Apr 13, 2022 at 1:57 pm
click to enlarge The Big Machine (FKA The Butterfly Room) cast in rehearsal. - Courtesy COCA
Courtesy COCA
The Big Machine (FKA The Butterfly Room) cast in rehearsal.

The Center of Creative Arts (COCA) artistic director Jennifer Wintzer describes the organization's newest musical with excitement – it’s the final product of composer Colin Healy and the students in the COCAWrites program hard work over the last few months.

What has culminated is Big Machine (FKA The Butterfly Room), the tale of a young girl with dreams of breaking out of a factory town, and it will hit the stage for the first time ever on April 14.

Wintzer has been a leader in the COCAWrites program since it began two years ago. It features students who are interested in becoming playwrights and allows them to participate in “a professional playwright’s commissioning process,” Wintzer explains. Just like professional playwrights, the students create and develop characters that young people want to perform.

“We've not only used the development process with our students to contribute to some really core characters that are their age, but they've also worked alongside professional adults, performers, designers and dramaturges,” Wintzer says. “Anyone that you can imagine that has a role in producing a new musical, our students are also taking on that role and being mentored by the adults.”

The interaction between COCA’s professionals and students is one of Wintzer’s favorite pieces of the new musical and the program. She said the staff really values the voices of the students.

“I think the beauty of new work is that... it's never been done before,” Wintzer says. “And it really allows our students who are the next generation of theatre makers, the next generation of change makers to invest in the story and to help craft it.”

When the musical hits the stage at the new Catherine B. Berges Theatre, which opened during the pandemic, Wintzer hopes audiences will see that the artists involved in the play are incredibly dedicated. Bringing a new character to life with no previous source material to reference would be a challenge for any actor. But the students are also excited to showcase what they developed.

This won’t be the only opportunity to catch a show from the COCAWrites program. Wintzer teases that she is hoping to take a project by director and playwright Ashleigh Akilah Rucker, titled Kaleidoscope Crown, into a full production across the next year.

Big Machine (FKA The Butterfly Room) will hit COCA’s stage on April 14 and run through April 16 at the Catherine B. Berges Theatre (6880 Washington Avenue, 314-725-6555). Check the showtimes and purchase tickets on

The Big Machine and COCAwrites Festival creative team includes Delaney Piggins, Artistic Producer and Lead Teaching Artist; Colin Healy, Composer; Nancy Bell, Director; Jermaine Manor, Musical Director.