With their wins for Best Book of a Musical ( Lisa Kron) and Best Original Score ( Jeanine Tesori and Kron) for the groundbreaking musical Fun Home, these writers not only take home some of the first awards of the 69th Annual Tony Awards, the two women are also the first all-female writing team to win a Tony Award for a musical's score.
Fun Home's Broadway opening came in a season with many more works written by and about women than the previous one. Musicals also included Doctor Zhivago, with music by Lucy Simon, lyrics by Amy Powers and Michael Korie and a book by Michael Weller; It Shoulda Been You, with a book by Brian Hargrove, music by Barbara Anselmi and lyrics by Jill Abramovitz, Brian Hargrove, Carla Rose Fisher, Michael Cooper, Ernie Lijoi and Will Randall; and Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Gigi, which features a revised book by Heidi Thomas.
A finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, Fun Home received its world premiere in October 2013 at the Public Theater, where its run was extended through January 2014. Its Broadway bow marks the first time a musical with a lesbian protagonist plays Broadway.
"The characters are dealing with coming out, but the show is comfortable in its skin," Kron said in a previous interview with Playbill.com. "And I think it's hard for people who have these issues around coming out. It's hard for women dealing with ambition who think one thing as being feminine and one thing as being masculine. I see women who can't even picture that they don't need to become men to be artists. There is a holistic way of women being integrated. The show has built into its DNA that sense of integration." Read more about Fun Home's creators in Playbill.com's exclusive interview with them here.
The last time two women were nominated for Tony Awards for Book and Score was 1991, when Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman were nominated for their musical adaptation of the young adult novel The Secret Garden.
Norman commented on the lack of female playwrights and composers, saying, "What we really have to do is get into the control center — how the choices are made — and make it clear and obvious and happily accepted that the work of women is breathtaking and needs to be done... If you look at last year, all five Pulitzer finalists plus the winner [were] all women. And yet none of those plays had a Broadway production."
Norman also weighed in on the long-term effect of a Broadway production, saying, "Broadway is the place where you get that national stamp of approved theatre, so that it goes out and is then done by every regional over the next three years," she said. "Everybody in America will have a chance to see that play in a regional theatre in a fine production. It's fantastic for plays by women to have productions at New York institutional theatres, but it doesn't have the same afterlife power as a play done on Broadway...A play done on Broadway is going to be done for the next three years and will ultimately enter the Norton anthology," she continued. "It has this powerful afterlife plus international tours, which means it enters the language, it enters the history."
Tesori and Kron, the two women behind one of the most anticipated musicals to play Broadway this spring, shared additional thoughts on bringing more diverse voices to Broadway.
"If someone wanted to change [it], they could change it," Kron said of the standards for diversity in the industry. "They would bring more vibrance into the theatre. I'm also not interested in the argument in terms of fairness. I'm interested in why it's important in terms of the quality of art and what theatre is about. I think theatre is not actually about looking at people who are like you. Theatre is about what happens when people unlike each other [collide] — that's what happens on a stage. That's what drama is made of — when people unlike you reach across that divide. And when that can happen on the stage, the play is better. When that can happen in the audience, the experience of the theatre is better," Kron said.
Along with Book and Score, Fun Home received a total of 12 Tony nominations, including Best Musical; Direction of a Musical; Actor, Actress and Featured Actress in a Musical; Orchestrations, Scenic Design and Lighting.
Commenting on the groundbreaking history of
Fun Home, Kron said, "If there are people who are only comfortable seeing what they've seen before, they're like, 'This is in the round. I heard the word lesbian. I'm freaked out' — there's nothing we can do about that. We're not doing something that looks like other things. That being said, this has traditional theatre values and bones. This works as a piece of theatre. That's what we're interested in."