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6 Powerful Women in the Theatre Industry You Should Know About

As Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton once said, “And if I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel.” Over the past several years, we have seen more and more women being cast in stronger, more central roles that are focused on driving the story’s plot rather than being simple love interests. We have also seen more women coming to the forefront of the theatre industry, creating and making billboard-worthy stories. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are six Broadway women you should know that are making a difference in the world, one day at a time.

Diane Paulus

One of Variety’s “Trailblazing Women in Entertainment for 2014,” Diane Paulus is the Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. Paulus was also selected as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine in 2014. She is well-known for her direction of Waitress, the first Broadway musical with an all-female creative team, and the 2013 revival of Pippin, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. These days she is gaining buzz for her direction of Jagged Little Pill, a new musical taking the music of Alanis Morissette’s album of the same name, which opened in December 2019 at the Broadhurst Theater in New York.

Ali Stroker

A graduate of New York University’s Tisch Drama Department, Ali Stroker became the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage, starring as Anna in Deaf West’s 2015 revival of Spring Awakening. Stroker is also the first actress who uses a wheelchair for mobility to be nominated for and win a Tony Award. She won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Ado Annie in the 2019 Broadway revival for Oklahoma! Apart from her theatre resume, Stroker serves as the co-chair of Women Who Care, which supports United Cerebral Palsy in New York City. Stroker is also a founding member of an anti-bullying campaign called Be More Heroic.

Rachel Chavkin

Rachel Chavkin is the founding Artistic Director of TEAM, a Brooklyn-based ensemble focused on showcasing work about the experience of living in modern American society. Chavkin’s work has been seen all over London and the United Kingdom, including the National Theater and the Royal Court. Chavkin is well-known for directing the Broadway musicals of Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 and Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown, for which she received Tony nominations for both shows and winning for the latter in 2019 for Best Direction of a Musical. More recently, Chavkin directed the world premiere of Dave Malloy’s Moby-Dick at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA in December 2019.

Victoria Velazquez and Alexia Sielo

Sisters Victoria Velazquez and Alexia Sielo are the co-founders of Women of Color on Broadway, a non-profit organization aiming to uplift the voices of women of African, Latin, and Asian descent that work both on and off stage in the musical theatre industry. While Velazquez was studying theatre performance at New York Film Academy, she grew frustrated with the sentiment of women of color being encouraged to audition for only a handful of parts while white actors would go out for a larger scale of roles, filling 77 percent of roles during the 2016-2017 season. Velazquez and Sielo introduced an initiative called “The Conversation” to create a digital database to share research about women of color in musical theatre history. They continue sharing that mission by presenting networking opportunities to female high school and college students through special programming, mentoring with industry professionals, and internships with local theater and production companies.

Young Jean Lee

A Korean-American playwright, director, and filmmaker, Young Jean Lee was the Artistic Director for her own theater company from 2003 up until 2016. Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company was a non-profit company dedicated to producing her own work. Lee has written and directed ten shows for her theater company in addition to touring her work in thirty cities across the globe. Her 2014 play titled Straight White Men made its Broadway debut four years later after its Off-Broadway run at the Public Theatre. Lee became the first Asian-American woman to have a play produced on Broadway.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Paulus#Career http://www.dianepaulus.net/biography.html https://www.alistroker.com/about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Stroker#Career http://theteamplays.org/about/core-company/rachel-chavkin/ https://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Rachel-Chavkin/ http://theteamplays.org/about/about-the-company/ https://www.womenofcoloronbroadway.org/ https://allarts.org/2019/09/all-arts-spotlight-victoria-velazquez-and-al… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Jean_Lee#Theater https://youngjeanlee.org/about/production-history/

Marieska Luzada is a sophomore at Emerson College at Boston, MA majoring in journalism and minoring in publishing. Besides writing for HerCampus, you can find her drafting an a capella arrangement, drinking an iced matcha latte, reading a young adult contemporary, or listening to Studio Ghibli movie soundtracks.
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