Why 'Waitress' is So Important to Theater...And Feminism

With music and lyrics written by singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, a book by Jessie Nelson, choreography by Lorin Latarro, and directed by Diana Paulus, Waitress is the first Broadway musical to be helmed by an all-female creative team, and with good reason. Waitress’s plot is centered around the stories and lives of three average women, all working in a diner to make ends meet, and to live out their lives in their small town. One of the waitresses’ lives is less typical however—Jenna is trapped in an abusive relationship and is expecting her abuser’s baby.

Jenna feels trapped in her life and in her relationship with her husband, and has all but given up hope of ever escaping her situation. She’s not sure if she can love her baby or herself. Jenna’s friends, fellow waitresses Becky and Dawn, still believe in their friend’s inner strength, and in addition to pursuing their own happy endings, help motivate Jenna to pursue her own as well. Eventually all three women, with the support and love of the others, reaches their personal goals and prospers—Jenna leaves her husband and learns to love herself and her child, Becky finds some passion in her normally dull life, and Dawn learns to accept herself for who she is, and finds love in the process.

In a show where women’s stories, women’s evolutions, and women’s lives are at the very center of its plot, it’s only natural that a woman would direct, write, and publicize these works. Then, why are so few women’s works present on Broadway, and why are so few women given the ability to present their own stories to the world? Waitress is the first Broadway show with an all-female creative team, yet many shows revolve around female characters, female lives, and female experience. Female team members are rarely allowed to take part in the presentation of their own stories. Of course, the most qualified and able person available should be given the task of directing or putting on a show, but it seems hard to imagine that up until the production of Waitress no women in the field of theater production were capable of working together to create a women-centric story.

Now that Waitress has been produced, and successfully produced, by an all-female creative team, perhaps something will change. In order for women to be able to take part in the theater world, women need to have role models—women writing shows, women directing shows, women running shows—to believe that it is possible to do so. Waitress, and all of the shows to come, that are produced by an all-female team show young girls that their dreams can come true, and that their artistic contributions to the world of theater are not only desired, but also needed.

Hopefully some day soon Waitress’s accomplishment will no longer be newsworthy. Women will be allowed and encouraged to tell their own stories, and, through their art and their work, to share parts of themselves with the world.

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