Theatregoers are always hungry for the next big thing. The fact is, theatre takes a long time to incubate and make. (Just ask Tina Fey who thought there was no way it could take five years to adapt her hit movie Mean Girls into a musical—and then it took five years adapt Mean Girls into a musical.) Playbill has been keeping its proverbial ear to the ground about the creators in the theatre community who are working on plays, musicals, and events that could impact the theatre in big ways. Get to know them now:
Shaina Taub, songwriter and performer
Her mission: “I want to use music and theatre to tell stories that both entertain and challenge people and that bring women’s voices to the fore.”
The types of stories she’s drawn to: “Liz Swados, who was my mentor in college, said something about how your whole life as a writer you’re trying to work out the same thing over and over again in different costumes. For me, that thing is the girl who really wants to prove herself and the girl who wants to wear the pants. I find myself working with Shakespearean heroines—the Viola and Rosalind—or working with my main character Alice Paul in this suffrage musical.
Her past work includes: The musical adaptation of Twelfth Night at the Public Theatre’s Public Works; original soul-folk opera The Daughters; a re-mounting of Old Hats starring Bill Irwin and David Shiner with her original songs; originating the role of Mary in The Great Comet at Kazino; original cast member of New York Theatre Workshop’s Hadestown, and featured on the live album.
How she chooses her projects: “I like to look at a project that I’m going to potentially work on and think both what can I learn from this and what can I bring to it that’s missing?”
What she’s working on now: A new album Die Happy released May 1. “I write for theatre, but I also love to write songs that stand on their own ground. There’s three threads [in the album]: political songs (what I’m responding to in the world and reflecting), personal songs (about my family), and then a lot of unabashed love songs, which is also kind of unusual for me. I chose the title Die Happy because I like the combination of dark and light together.”
She’s also been working on the Untitled Women’s Suffrage Musical for the past three years, which just had its first real reading in March. “[Producer] Rachel Sussman sat me down and told me about Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party and the fight to get American women to vote—specifically in the 1910s—and how American women were the first people to picket the White House, and they were in jail, and they went on a hunger strike and were forcefed and all the dramatic story of how we got our rights,” says Taub. “I was just flabbergasted because I feel like I’d spent my whole creative life until that point searching for that story and I had been looking for it in all the wrong places. I had been taking myths and legends and gender-flippig them or trying to find that story when all along, it was in my own backyard.”
Patricia Ione Lloyd, playwright
Her mission: “The first part of my mission is to entertain, because that’s why we watch theatre. If you can entertain someone, then they can start entertaining different ideas. Sometimes we’re just so wrapped up in our own experience, we forget the human experience.”
Her background: “I was always a big reader as a kid. My mom didn’t finish junior high and my dad didn’t finish elementary school, so it wasn’t the kind of household where you were going to get homework help but what they did do for me was they gave me books. I was always writing freeform thought-feeling stories. Seeing [The Nutcracker] changed everything for me because it was the first time I experienced live theatre.” Lloyd first mounted her work at Wow Café Theater, a space for female-identifying artists on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “You can go if you are female-identified and do sweat equity. You can take tickets or mop the floor, hang lights. You build up points and then do a show of whatever you want.”
Her past work: Pretty Hunger produced at the Public Theater as part of Public Studio; Eve’s Song at Sundance; Kilroy List playwright
What she’s working on now: As a Public Theater fellow, Lloyd is working on multiple projects, including a soon-to-be-announced show to be produced at the Public as well as revisiting her play Eve’s Song. “It is a queer female version of Get Out. It’s about an upper middle class black family. Their house is being haunted by dead black women, and dead black girls, and dead black trans women that have faced injustice or have been murdered in America. It’s not a stretch for me to understand the real and present, physical danger of being a black woman in America. What I wanted [people to take away] was the idea of compassion for black women, black girls, black trans women. I feel there is this ‘strong black woman’ myth, which means—to me—that we don’t get as much help or compassion or love. Someone came up to me [after seeing the Sundance workshop] and said they have a black son and they always worry about their black son, but they didn’t worry about their black daughter in the same kind of way. ‘Thank you for telling me that I should also look after her in the same way,’ they said. That’s not something I had articulated I wanted to happen, but I’m so happy it did.”
How we hear more diverse voices in the theatre: “All of us are going for this one thing that we all desperately want. It is part of my job as an artist to make sure that there isn’t only one spot. We have to decide that it’s not just my work that I want to see out there, but I want to see other women of color’s work. I want to see other queer people’s work. I want to see other work by people of color.”
How she pays it forward: “It’s sharing resources. Once I have a fellowship, I’ll post about the fellowship and suggest to someone ‘Try this.’ If there have been people that say, ‘I want to meet with you and find out how you do what you do,’ I take one day a month and I give everyone an individual hour. “
NOTE: WOW Cafe Theater has historically been a women-identified space, but since 2005 it is a women and/or trans people space.
Tricia Brouk, filmmaker, director, choreographer, performer, Director of TEDxLincolnSquare
Her mission: “My vision is all about how we can inspire, entertain and educate so we can create a global conversation. I am massively inspired by getting the woman’s voice out there. My mission is also to speak loudly about difficult subject matters, like mental illness. Conversation can have a massive ripple effect. And everything I do comes from a place of humor.”
Her past work: Choreography in Romance and Cigarettes, ABC’s Black Box, FX’s Rescue Me, Showtime’s The Affair; creator of documentary This Dinner is Full, web series Sublets, and musicals like Committed at the 2018 New York Theatre Festival and 50 Shades of F****D Up, A Musical Parody
What she’s working on now: A documentary film called Just Enough about the strength and impact of women and she’s always working on TEDxLincolnSquare. “[The first TEDxLincolnSquare] was called Risk Takers and Change Makers and I had ten speakers. The show opened with a couple of singers from Hamilton. I marry theatre and academia in my event. This year the theme was Looking Beyond. Looking Beyond was important because of what’s happening in the world politically, environmentally, and with gender, with the transgender community, with women. I wanted to give speakers an opportunity to look beyond what we have to deal with right now and hopefully bring some hope into the world.” Brouk chooses speakers through an application process (which is open through the fall) as well as seeking out particular speakers.
How to elevate the work of more women: “First we have to be given the meetings. Second, I’m all about lifting people up and women up, especially, but I also believe it’s our responsibility to be honest with one another and to ask the hard questions. Rather than criticizing, ask hard questions so the person you’re supporting has to think about the answer. [In terms of representation onstage] I think it’s important to consciously, as writers, write for women of all ages.”
Ruthie Fierberg is the Senior Features Editor of Playbill covering all things theatre and co-hosting the Opening Night Red Carpet livestreams on Playbill's Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @RuthiesATrain, on Instagram @ruthiefierceberg, or via her website.