Jeanine Tesori

#Tesori2015

On Why Theaterkind is Still Rocking a Kinda Feminist Tony-Motto on Facebook

(disclaimer: I know Playbill.com named last week #WomenInTheatre-week, but I’ll take it as someone pointed out early last week, when she said “Shouldn’t every week be #WomenInTheatre-week?!”. And I’m like hell, yeah!)

I think even way before the nominations for the 2015 Tony Awards had been announced a thing started on various social media platforms – in my eyes mainly on twitter and it might have been the girls from The Interval NY who started it in the first place.

The “thing” was a hashtag, the hastag #Tesori2015 to be exact. To me it meant “we” – what ever that very flowy and ever changing ‘we’ on the internet is – were rooting for Jeanine Tesori, the composer of Fun Home, to win the 2015 Tony Award for best score (together with Lisa Krohn). And although I’m German and (sadly) living MILES and MILES and MILES away from the place of action – that is: New York City – I was so rooting with them.

In the weeks from the announcement of the nominations leading up to the actual Awards there was a lot of talk and bringing up of statistics happening. Important and kind of shocking pieces of information were put up on the internet – like the one that Jeanine Tesori is, with her nominations for both Shrek (2008) and Fun Home, the female composer (for theatre) with the most Tony nominations in Tony-history! Or that – in case of her win – she’d be the first female composer from a musical theatre background to win. The first EVER female composer to win a Tony for best score was Cyndi Lauper in 2013 for Kinky Boots.

YES RIGHT!

2013 – the first EVER female composer. Back then it were the 67th Tony Awards.

And now 2015 #Tesori2015 really happened. And along with it also the history making fact that Fun Home won “Best Musical” as the first musical ever to be written entirely by women, focussing on a female character, having SO MANY amazing female parts in it.

I mean – really?! It’s been effing 2015!

As you might or might not know I’m all in for gender equality and gender parity and general awareness about these things not happening most of the time. And this is also why – as pathetic as it sounds – I was about to do something very, very stupid and impulse-buy plane tickets to the big ol’ city of musical theatre and be there, see the shows that created such a buzz. Long story short I didn’t do it. But I have plans….

Anyway….the reason why I am writing this is to say something about why I still hold the “#Tesori2015”-flag high, most prominently on the profile pic on the Theaterkind facebook page, even though it’s SO June 2015 and we all know two months is a CRAZY long time on the fast and ever changing internet. I think this might be a sign, some kind of slogan to keep reminding us about women making theatre history this year and also reminding us that we still aren’t somewhat near gender parity when it comes to who gets to be heard in artistic contexts – both in the US and in Germany as well.

I mean – we’re living in bloody 2015 and women have come so far and there are people saying we should be happy with what we have achieved and can do, but: NO. If I can choose to be happy about being able to open a bank account and being unhappy about women not getting the artsitic opportunities they mght deserve I most definitely will choose the latter.

I really want to raise awareness among all of us and keep us thinking about why some people get heard and recognized while some really don’t and why that might be having to do something with their gender!

And that’s it for my short-ish rant about women and Tonys and making histroy and non equality, in case you want to read some more about these wonderful topics I poped some links below….

read more about what the girls on The Interval do over here.

especially their project-ish article in which they quoted a lot of young women, including me, in theatre about the history-making Tony Awards 2015 over here.

and then I have some articles I wrote here on this blog about the lack of gender parity in German theatre. Namely here and here.

P.S: I just recently scrolled through a new jury for a new competition for young musical theatre writers and out of the 13 members there’s only one (in numbers: 1!) woman. And while I don’t want to imply with any word I’m writing here and these men aren’t great men in and for German musical theatre – they are and I am inspired by so many of them! – I’m also just like: REALLY?!?!

Promise me, Violet … Violet on Broadway

that's a shot of a marquee, right? with that Hello Kitty thingy and umbrellas photo-bombing...

that’s a shot of a marquee, right? with that Hello Kitty thingy and umbrellas photo-bombing…

What I saw was the fourth preview as far as I remember, so the following only shows an early view on what happens on stage. They actually might have changed things. This post is based on the preview of March 30th 2014.

I love most of the music of Violet, “On My Way” has this very special drive to it and it has this vibe of hope and motivation and more often than not I immediately feel better as soon as I listen to it. Plus I really like these sort-of-coming-of-age-stories – although Violet isn’t a typical adolescent character it’s about growing and leaving old paths behind. Something in this stories gives me the feeling that it is about growing stronger and opening up.

I like shows without intermission – I don’t exactly know why, but I guess there’s something about them what gives me a feeling of not being interrupted. Anything between 90 and 110 minutes is okay to sit through – althought it’s on the longer side. (back at Einstein on the Beach I sat through 5 hours!)

Can you imagine how excited I was to see Sutton Foster on stage? I mean, she’s probably one of the funniest actresses I have ever witnessed – I loved her funny Fiona on the Shrek DVD and her Michelle on Bunheads. To be honest she was probably the main reason to get interested in this piece in the first place when I read about this one night only concert they did of Violet. (which is the basis to this production as far as I know)

Sutton Foster and the rest of the cast (especially Joshua Henry as Flick and Emerson Steele as Young Violet – if you ask me) we absolutely gorgeous, their performance was highly energetic and they literally took us along with them on the bus ride – not only the ‘real’ one between Violet’s getting on and getting off the bus again, but also a ride through Violet’s life.

This production is – as you may have already figured out from my rambling about no intermission – a one act production of this piece, they actually created a new version of the piece how it was performed as the Off Broadway production back in the 90ies. They have shortened here and there, cut somethings, but also added a new song for Monty. It still has this charming vibe you can sense from just listening to the music – I think for the most parts it is easy to like, but…

BUT (and this is actually a huge BUT) for me there was a little something missing. Ultimatively it’s about love, loving yourself and being loved and love other people (in a way, that’s actually what the directing suggests) – but all this falling in love, falling out of love and in love again with another person happened too fast, almost casually. I really was surprised when the ending came around and suddenly there’s this big love between Violet and Flick (or maybe it’s not that big, but at least it’s big enough to change them) – and this impression stuck with me and still is sticking and it kind of bothers me.

I remember reading about how many people complained about Violet not having an actual scar across her face (I always imagine Phantom without the mask, something like Beauty’s beast without that much hair…) back in the 90ies and my sister, too, said: I thought it was weird that she didn’t have a real scar!

I think that Violet really isn’t so much about the scar, about something actually deforming your (or: Violet’s) face, but about the feeling of not being pretty, not being the same as everyone else, being different, not fitting in. I remember having a moment of shock when I saw Ms. Foster’s face in the light for the first time right after a short (and lovely) moment when both Violets stand and just touch their faces along what’s supposed to be the scar and obviously a finger nail cut in her face or something because there was a small red line on her face which I – in the first second – interpreted as the scar and “They did it!”.

I actually love not being shown things, just leaving the scar to the audience’s imagination surely was the right decision – while I really would have loved to see more of why the characters are feeling what they are feeling.

If this makes sense.

Just from reading this: Are you pro and anti showing the scar?

Have you ever seen something on stage you wish you hadn’t?

Or the other way round: Have you ever had the feeling of something had to be shown in stage but wasn’t?

 

Music Monday … Ring of Keys

Last week a CD I eagerly waited for arrived with the mail. It’s the recording of Fun Home, the latest work of Jeanine Tesori which also is a collaboration with Lisa Kron based on the ‘graphic memoir’ by Alison Bechdel. Basically most of the message boards are full of people raving about the show which closed off Broadway on Jan 12th after three extentions (if I remeber correctly). There are quite a few great songs that are very nice to listen to – especially these kind of naive, playfull but at the same time very serious (lyric-wise) songs that Small Alison (Sydney Lucas) sings.

But the one that stole my heart and found its way into my ear (permanently….right, it’s stuck there) is Ring of Keys. First: That girl’s performance is great in my honest opinion. Second: That description of that lady, butch, delievery worker is so amazing – childlike and yet rather grown-up.

I’m a big fan! Let me know what you think.

Ring of Keys on Soundcloud

And lastly: What are you listening to today?

Music Monday … On My Way

Just recently Roundabout Theatre Company announced that they’d bring Violet to Broadway (in a new one act version) starring Sutton Foster (who was featured in my post about my Top 5 Favourite Actresses). I spend some time listening to the original Off Broadway recording from 1998 and soon found my favourite song….it has such a nice drive and make me happy and sad at the same time every single time I listen to it. And I like the harmonies! I really do.

In addition to that I found Sutton Foster sing a solo version of it on her first solo CD and in concerts going with that. I found a video of that for you! Isn’t her voice just great in that? I’m kind of looking forward to hear more of her Violet in 2014! 🙂