Harmony France and Danni Smith have announced the two-show inaugural season for their Chicago-based Firebrand Theatre, a musical theatre company committed to empowering and employing women.
The theatre will get started with a Firebrand Launch Party benefit on March 27 at Underground Lounge (52 W. Newport Ave., Chicago), featuring live musical performances from Rashada Dawan, Bethany Thomas, Steven Perkins, Danni Smith, Missy Aguilar, Sydney Charles, Jasondra Johnson, Lili-Anne Brown, Amanda Horvath, Angela Alise, Christina Hall, Khaki Pixley, Annie Passanisi Ruggles, and Melissa Young.
The season will get underway November 11–December 17 with the Chicago premiere of Lizzie, a musical about Lizzie Borden. The show has music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner and book by Maner.
Victoria Bussert will direct the show, with a cast to be announced later. The production will play at The Den Theatre’s Upstairs Main Stage.
The season will conclude April 7–May 20, 2018, with 9 to 5 The Musical, country star Dolly Parton’s stage musical based on the 1980 film comedy. Sharriese Hamilton will star as Doralee in the show, which has a book by Patricia Resnick and direction by Harmony France. It will be performed at the Den’s Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre.
France serves as the company’s artistic director and Smith is a member of the advistory board, They told Playbill.com previously that they will focus on seeking out female talent in all aspects of production including within the creative teams, casts and artistic teams.
“When Danni and I first had the idea to create Firebrand, I searched online for musical theater companies with like-minded missions,” France told the Sun TImes in a prepared statement in 2016. “I found nothing. And that brought home how crucial it is that we launch this company. There is a void in our industry, with more actresses than actors, yet fewer roles for women. There are also statistically more women than men in our audiences. Yet most musicals are directed by men, cast with mostly men, with stories about men. Not only do we feel a moral obligation to illuminate female artists in roles that empower them, but we also need to tailor productions to the largest demographic of theatergoers.”
France’s words bring to light recent findings from the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) that highlighted how women continue to be underrepresented in most theatre productions. The League’s recent gender parity report showed that while the number of female playwrights and directors was increasing, it still wasn’t equal. Read the full article here.
Tickets for the March 27 gala and subscriptions for the season can be ordered at firebrandtheatre.org.