Let’s Hear It For The Girls, Part One
Pop quiz: name your top five new musical theatre composers. How many are women? If you’re me, maybe one half of a team.
And it’s not that female writers aren’t out there, because they are. And it’s not even that they’re less talented, because give me five more seconds to think about it and I can name so many more that I love — possibly even more than the four and a half men that first came to mind for whatever reason. There are many and varied discussions and debates we can have about this, but there are also a whole bunch of smarter, calmer people who can do it more productively, less rantily, and all-around better than I can. So for now, I’ll spare you the bitching and give you a basic listening list to tide you over until that day comes.
(I mean, we could also have discussions and debates about how I apparently feel the need to belittle and apologize for wanting to make this list at all. But we won’t.)
NewMusicalTheatre.com features the following fabulous females:
(written with Jeff Blumenkrantz)
(poem by Maya Angelou)
(written with each other, natch)
(written with Jill Abramovitz)
(written with Brian Lowdermilk)
(written with Laurence O’Keefe)
And be sure to also check out the following:
Can we stop for a moment and discuss how epic the vastness of Katie Thompson’s fierceness is? Not only is she an incredible performer (I was there that night and my life and face may never be the same), she’s also a brilliant songwriter — at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, and always wrenchingly honest. Don’t miss her Christmas concert at 54 Below!
(written with Gordon Leary)
If you know me at all, you know how I feel about stories focused on strong female friendships between strong female characters who have no need for men to know who they are. Well, the girls in Julia Meinwald’s Pregnancy Pact may need a few things from a few boys to get what they want, but it’s their relationships with each other that really drive the story — and inspire some of the most exciting songs in the score.
Zoe Sarnak’s A Lasting Impression was the official 2012 selection of the Pace New Musicals program, and ran Off-Broadway at NYTW’s 4th Street Theater last summer. She’s gone on to sell out concerts at Joe’s Pub and develop four full-length original musicals, which is three and a half more than anyone on Broadway has done in a good long while. (No hate here, I love me a good adaptation. I love me a few bad ones too. But still pretty cool, right?) You can see Mixtape in concert this January at 54 Below.
(written with Greg Turner)
Ever notice how 97% of all NMT writers went to either NYU or BMI? Selda Sahin did both. That’s how awesome she is. Seriously, if anyone ever tries to tell you that you can’t have it all, just remember that Selda also directs, produces, performs, and flies those tiny personal jets that write love letters in the sky. (One of those may not be true.) She penned the score for All Fall Down, which ran at NYMF and went on to workshops and performances all over the country, and recently wrote the lyrics for a short musical film called Grind, starring Anthony Rapp as the Cyrano of hook-up apps.
You better be sitting down for this one. CHIX 6 is a Broadway-bound musical about “an all-female rock and roll Justice League” written by Lourds Lane, who also happens to be one of its stars. She plays a superhero. The superhero plays the electric violin. Did I mention that Lourds happens to be a former child prodigy? She started touring with youth orchestras before most of us were standing upright. She and Felicia Day should be best friends, and then adopt me. Lourds also created the Medusa Festival, featuring the best emerging female-fronted bands in the country, and The Lightning Girl Fun-Dation, an arts-based after school program for girls. Basically, she’s as much of a rock star superhero offstage as she is on.
(with Peter Mills)
Speaking of Wonder Women of New Musical Theatre, let’s talk about Cara Reichel. She’s already got some stuff on NMT thanks to her frequent musical collaborations with (the brilliant) Peter Mills, but she’s also a bookwriter, director, producer, recipient of the 2002 Lucille Lortel Award for Emerging Women Artists from the League of Professional Theatre Women, and Producing Artistic Director of Prospect Theater Company, which strives to “actively cultivate and support a community of musical theatre writers” — so basically, she’s the Guardian Angel Fairy Godmother of aspiring NMT writers everywhere. If you’re the kind of crazy person who thinks a life outside the theatre might be considered important, she also wrote and illustrated a children’s book, Stone Promise. Yeah, I bet she’s the kind of person who gets up before noon and puts on pants even when she doesn’t have to leave the apartment too. Pah.
(with Will Aronson)
Lyricist Jenny Stafford was featured in William Finn’s Songs By Ridiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists You Probably Don’t Know, But Should — and forgive me for being presumptuous, but I think we can all agree that the guy knows what he’s talking about? Her work has been performed in every major NMT venue in New York, from Joe’s Pub to Don’t Tell Mama, and this spring, the Broadway’s Future Songbook Series gave her her own spotlight concert. One of her frequent collaborators whose work was also showcased that night was…
(with Jennifer Stafford)
Composer Anna K. Jacobs holds a special place in my heart for two reasons: 1. she’s working on a musical adaptation of Teeth, a comedy horror film I might have an inappropriate crush on, and 2. she owns two cats. Not one. Two. That’s how much she knows how great they are. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that her music is by turns playful and gorgeous, because she’s got major range in addition to flaw-free taste. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so — she was one of Ars Nova’s 2013 Uncharted Artists, a 2010-11 Dramatists Guild Fellow, and Artist in Residence at New Dramatists, Barrington Stage Company, CAP21, and Bundanon Trust. That’s more places than I’ve been rejected from.
(with Anna K. Jacobs)
Speaking of Anna K. Jacobs, did you know that she wrote a burlesque murder mystery musical about Andy Warhol with Maggie-Kate Coleman? If that combination of words doesn’t get you excited, we probably can’t be friends. (Please still be friends with me.) MKC is a fantastically witty lyricist and playwright and her stuff has won slews of awards, and I really wish she had a website I could link you to, but she doesn’t as far as Google can tell. Get thee to YouTube. Thank me later. Actually, thank me by making a YouTube playlist of all her songs so I don’t have to bother with all that pesky clicking because I don’t do the internet for a job or anything.
I actually had to cut this post short because every time I found a new person, I found three more who’d done the same concert or who’d collaborated on another song and it eventually got to the point where I didn’t want to kill your entire data plan by loading one lame blog post. Isn’t theatre — especially new theatre, especially new musical theatre — great in that way? Shouldn’t we all take advantage of that? So stay tuned for another twelve installments, because all these women are brilliant and deserve to be heard. And it’s way past time we put this ridiculous notion that theatre — especially new theatre, especially new musical theatre — is an all-boys’ club, when it’s supposed to be for everyone.
And hey, help me (and them) out too: Who are your favorite female composers? Who should everyone be listening to? Who deserves more recognition? Share, listen, be merry, and make sure your favorite ladies nab a spot on the next list. I know I can never get enough.