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Disney Theatrical’s Women’s Day on Broadway Takes Over the St. James Theatre

Category Broadway

|by Danielle Moore |

The event featured theater “changemakers” on Broadway and beyond

On Tuesday, March 12, women from across the entertainment industry convened at the St. James Theatre for “Women’s Day on Broadway.” The second annual event, hosted by Disney Theatrical Group, cleared the Frozen stage to make way for a series of discussions with pioneering women in theater. The theme of the event was “inspiring changemakers,” with a focus on issues that impact women in the entertainment workplace, both on Broadway and off. Panelists included Broadway producers, writers, directors and performers, who elaborated on everything from negotiation to compensation to childcare.  

Actress Mandy Gonzalez was among the special guests at Women’s Day on Broadway 2019 (Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Actress Mandy Gonzalez was among the special guests at Women’s Day on Broadway 2019 (Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Heidi Schreck, the writer and star of What the Constitution Means to Me (which opens March 31), kicked off the event with her co-star Rosdely Ciprian, noting that while her show explores the possibility of one kind of change – “revolution” – that she’s all for, there’s also a “patient, persistent, daily kind of change” that can have an impact over time.

Syndee Winters (The Lion King) and Ryann Redmond (the first-ever woman to play Olaf in Frozen) soon took the stage to introduce the first panel, “Spotlighting Marquee Women.” The panel featured visionaries like director Leigh Silverman (who made headlines for hiring an all-female creative team on her recent play, The Lifespan of a Fact) and Genius Grant winner Dominique Morrisseau, who wrote the book for the soon-to-open musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.

Morrisseau highlighted some of the methods that she has taken to ensure that people of color are represented in New York theater, not only onstage and behind the scenes, but also in the audience. She also shared the story of how composer and lyricist Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) personally recommended her for Ain’t Too Proud, prior to his untimely death from AIDS. “‘If you’re gonna write a musical about the Temptations and Detroit,’” Morrisseau, quoting Friedman, said, “‘You need to go to Dominique Morrisseau.’”

Later, Hamilton producer Jill Furman took the stage to introduce “Stages, Screens and Studios.” This panel included woman who had worked not only in theater, but also across the wider entertainment industry, including film and theater producer Paula Wagner (Pretty Woman on Broadway; Mission Impossible), playwright and Smash creator/showrunner Theresa Rebeck (Bernhardt/Hamlet), director and writer Jessie Nelson (Waitress on Broadway), and singer-songwriter and Hadestown bookwriter, composer and lyricist Anaïs Mitchell.

Nelson revealed that Waitress’s creative team, which featured women in the four major roles of director, choreographer, composer/lyricist and book writer – the first of its kind for a Broadway musical – was actually a happy accident rather than an intentional outcome. “We went through most of previews not realizing we all had vaginas,” she joked.

Mitchell, who will be the only woman composer produced on Broadway this coming season, remarked that she was surprised when she learned that statistic.

Rebeck added, “There were no women on that creative team…” referring to, ironically enough, the 2010 musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. “That gives me a nervous breakdown,” she quipped.

Perhaps the best quote from this panel, though, came from producer Paula Wagner: “A woman with dignity and self-respect can do anything she wants.”

Another highlight of the event included Hamilton star (and Wicked alumna) Mandy Gonzalez sharing the story of how, when she first signed with an agency, her reps recommended that she change her last name. After picking out a stage name – Mandy Carr, after the singer Vikki Carr – she ultimately told her agents that she had no interest in changing it. “My grandparents were migrant workers, and they worked hard for the name ‘Gonzalez’ to be here,” she added.

The day concluded with closing remarks from legendary Argentine-American director and choreographer Graciela Daniele, whose credits range from Follies to Falsettos to serving as a director-in-residence at Lincoln Center. Daniele reflected on her journey from ballet student in Paris (“I was very lucky. I was very good, too!”) to Broadway performer, adding that she did not miss performing once she  made the final leap to directing and choreographing. “Why would I?” she said. “I was inventing all the parts!”

She closed with a quote from Martha Graham in conversation with Agnes de Mille regarding humans’ need for artistic expression: “Keep the channel open.”∎

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in March 2019.

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