PHILADELPHIA, PA  (October, 2020) –  Philadelphia Theatre Company is developing its first commission under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Paige Price. This brand-new musical, The Tattooed Lady, was awarded a Project grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The new musical from Max Vernon and Erin Courtney with director Ellie Heyman, is a fictional tale based on true stories from the sideshow, centering on one of sideshow’s biggest stars. Philadelphia Theatre Company will produce a virtual reading during the 2020-2021 season and the show is slated to have a full production in a subsequent season.

“Commissioning is something I’ve been dreaming of doing since I joined PTC,” said Price. “We can make the most impact by supporting new work and artists in this way.  We hope this is just the start.  There’s no formula – I believe a little bit in Kismet when it comes to finding talent. After the long slumber of isolation, this show will be the jolt of live humanity we all crave.”

The Tattooed Lady is a moving, fantastical tale of the bond between mother and daughter, fractured by self-inflicted patterns that manifest in both the visible and invisible marks left on these women. The musical explores the power of and the path through “otherness,” and celebrates the resilience of women whose choices have the potential to liberate them.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage awarded Philadelphia Theatre Company a $300,000 Project Grant to support the production and its world premiere and $60,000 in general operating support.

The Tattooed Lady was written by Obie Award winner Erin Courtney (libretto) and Max Vernon (libretto, music, and lyrics). Vernon crafted the music and lyrics for the sold-out Off-Broadway sensation KPOP, which is slated for Broadway. Erin Courtney is an award-winning, New York based playwright. Her play, A Map of Virtue, produced by 13P and directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, was awarded an Obie.  Heyman has worked with Vernon since the inception of The Tattooed Lady, shaping the aesthetic vision, and will direct the production at PTC. They met in New York while both had notable shows running—The View Upstairs for Vernon, and for Heyman, Dave Malloy’s Beardo.

The first two members of the creative team for the World Premiere of this new musical include Hamilton sound designer Nevin Steinberg (TONY Award for Hadestown) and lighting designer Mary Ellen Stebbins (a longtime collaborator with Heyman).

Since taking over the artistic leadership of PTC in 2017, Price has been looking for a show that could usher in the next era of theatre’s history.

The Tattooed Lady exceeds our mission to develop and produce imaginatively staged contemporary theatre focused on the American experience,” said Price. “I have been looking for the right show that will introduce audiences to the next generation of American talent, draw attention to the national theatre community and upend our audiences’ expectations of what is possible in our space.”

Price met Vernon in Philadelphia when they were working with director Heyman as part of a new work incubation program run by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. She was taken by their fresh perspectives and artistic audacity. She then attended a concert of Vernon’s at Joe’s Pub, where they performed songs from the musical. Soon after she met Heyman and then Courtney. Price then helped with some early development of the piece.

The Tattooed Lady promises to transform the physical space of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre and usher in an era in which Philadelphia Theatre Company reshapes the way audiences experience the surprise and delight of leading-edge musical theatre,” said Price.

The Tattooed Lady is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The Tattooed Lady has been developed with support from the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, the Kimmel Center, National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater.

About Erin Courtney

Erin Courtney is an award winning, New York-based playwright. Her play, A Map of Virtue, produced by 13P and directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, won the Obie and was described as “one of the most terrifying plays of the past decade” by Alexis Soloski in The New York Times. A Map of Virtue was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Theater, and has had numerous productions across the country. Her play I Will Be Gone, directed by Kip Fagan, premiered at the Humana Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville in 2015. She is currently writing a new play, Ann, Fran, Mary Ann, which is a Playwrights Horizons commission.​

She has written two operas with Elizabeth Swados: The Nomad and Kaspar Hauser. Both were commissioned and produced by The Flea Theater. The musical, The Tattooed Lady, which she is writing with composer and lyricist, Max Vernon, has been developed with support from The Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, The Kimmel Center, and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. Her other plays, produced by Clubbed Thumb, include Alice The Magnet, directed by Pam MacKinnon, and Demon Baby, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll. She is an affiliated artist with Clubbed Thumb, a member of the Obie Award winning playwrights collective, 13P, as well as the co-founder of the Brooklyn Writers Space. Ms. Courtney teaches playwriting at the MFA program at Brooklyn College. She earned her MFA in playwriting at Brooklyn College under the tutelage of Mac Wellman, and she earned her BA from Brown University where she studied with Paula Vogel. She has been a member of New Dramatists since 2012, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Core Writer at the Playwrights’ Center, and a member of The Working Farm at Space on Ryder Farm. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013.

About Max Vernon

Max is a three-time Drama Desk nominee, Out100 Honoree, and recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical, Richard Rodgers Award, Jonathan Larson Grant, New York Stage and Film’s Founders Award, New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship, and the JFund Award from the Jerome Foundation. They have been a Dramatist Guild Theatre Fellow, MacDowell Fellow, and an artist in residence at Berkeley Rep, Ars Nova, Kimmel Center (via The Public Theater), Disney Creative Entertainment, and Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, among others. Their musical, The View UpStairs, ran 105 performances Off-Broadway and will have fifteen new productions around the world; original cast recording on Broadway Records. Their other musical, KPOP, enjoyed a sold-out, extended run at Ars Nova and was the most nominated Off-Broadway show of the 2017-2018 season. Max is also an acclaimed cabaret artist. Notable concert performances include a sold out 6 month residency at Joe’s Pub of The Public Theater (“Existential Life Crisis Lullaby”), Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

About Ellie Heyman

Ellie Heyman is a New York City-based theatre director. She is the Director in Residence of Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater and most recently directed the Angels in America AMFAR benefit, with an all-star cast that included Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, S. Epatha Merkerson, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Josh Gad. Ellie directed The Traveling Imaginary, a theatrical rock show, rated in the “top five shows of the year” by NPR and a Time Out “Critic’s Pick” on two continents with long term collaborator Julian Koster (Neutral Milk Hotel). Ellie co-directed/developed the narrative podcast The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air), presented by Night Vale and WNYC. It’s been downloaded over 5 million times, rated #1 in Apple Podcasts and features John Cameron Mitchell, Tim Robbins, Mandy Patinkin and Charlie Day.

Recent credits include (Still) Asking For It (The Public Theater); ThisTree (Prototype); Dinner with Georgette (New York Theater Workshop, Next Door); Jason Craig & Dave Malloy‘s Beardo (Drama Desk Award Nomination; Pipeline Theater); Erin Markey: Boner Killer (Under the Radar/The Public Theater); Becca Blackwell‘s They, Themself and Schmerm (Under the Radar/The Public Theater); Adrienne Truscott’s THIS (Bessie Award Nomination for Outstanding Production; NYLA) and music-fiction podcast Dreamboy. International credits include: Elevation 506 in Bulgaria and Home/Yuva in Turkey.

Her work has been presented by (among others) The Public Theater/Joe’s Pub, Under the Radar, New York Theater Workshop, The Kennedy Center, PS122, Pittsburgh CLO, Tilted Windmwill Theatricals, Fusebox, Talking Band, HERE Arts, WP Theater, Abrons Art Center, The Bushwick Starr, Banana, The Drama League, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, indie rock clubs across America.


Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) is a leading regional theater company that produces, develops, and presents entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience.

Founded in 1974, PTC has presented 153 world and Philadelphia premieres. More than 50 percent of PTC’s world premieres have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. PTC has received more than 201 nominations and 55 awards from the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. In 2007, PTC was instrumental in expanding Philadelphia’s thriving cultural corridor by opening the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.

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Carrie Gorn, for Aversa PR & Events, 215-480-7423

Kory Aversa, Aversa PR & Events, 215-840-9216