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9 Female Writers Who Have Broken the Mold in Theater

November 29, 2016 by Juliana Panzera
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If you enjoyed the first two episodes of our podcast, Broadway Backstory, you’re going to love episode three.

Focusing on the Tony Award-winning, barrier-breaking creation of Fun Home, this episode traces its journey from a popular graphic novel to the groundbreaking Broadway hit.

Featuring interviews with Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, the first female duo to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score, this episode celebrates women in theater, and all those who have forged the path toward powerful, female-centric productions. Here are nine female writers who inspire us daily.

1. Jeanine Tesori

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Music Theatre International

Often referred to as the most prolific female composer of her time, Jeanine Tesori’s work reaches far and wide. Tesori has composed the music for many beloved productions, including Violet and Caroline, or Change, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

2. Lisa Kron

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Lisa Kron is an American actress and playwright with many credits under her belt. Her plays are often semi-biographical, examining the complexities of the LGBTQ community. Kron, along with composer Jeanine Tesori, hold the honor of having been the first all-female writing team to win Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Musical.

3. Marsha Norman

Photo Credit: MTI
Photo Credit: MTI

Playwright, screenwriter, and novelist Marsha Norman received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1983 for her groundbreaking play, ‘night, Mother. She is also a Tony Award-winner for her book and lyric writing for The Secret Garden, which will be featured later this season on Broadway Backstory. Norman currently serves as co-chair of the Playwriting department at The Julliard School. See her writing in action and get The Secret Garden tickets in Washington, D.C.

4. Lucy Simon

Photo Credit: The Stage UK
Photo Credit: The Stage UK

Lucy Simon began her musical career at just 16 years old singing folk tunes with her sister, musician Carly Simon. In the theater world, she is best known for her work composing the music for the Tony Award-winning Musical, The Secret Garden. Most recently, Simon served as composer for the new musical Doctor Zhivago, an adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s epic novel which had a short run on Broadway in 2015. Plus, The Tony and Drama Desk nominee was also the recipient also of a 1981 and 1983 Grammy Award.

5. Sara Bareilles

Photo Credit: Hidden Jams Music
Photo Credit: Hidden Jams Music

Aside from her status as an international singing/songwriting sensation, Sara Bareilles has also managed to make a name for herself as one of the most promising musical theater composers working today. Her stunning score for the new musical, Waitress, has been praised by critics and audiences alike. Plus, it’s the first Broadway musical with an all-female creative team. Waitress was nominated for multiple Tony Awards and is currently running at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Get tickets here.

6. Alle Willis

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: David Gordon

Alle Willis is known for writing the #1 hit, “I’ll Be There For You,” (maybe you’ve heard it before…the famous theme song of the television show, Friends.) She also co-wrote the musical version of Alice Walker’s landmark novel The Color Purple for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. The Color Purple is on Broadway now through January 8, and is scheduled to launch a nationwide tour next year.

7. Nell Benjamin

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: David Gordon

Another show featured on our Broadway Backstory podcast this season is the musical adaption of Legally Blonde, one of the ultimate stories of female empowerment. Nell Benjamin is co-writer of the music and lyrics along with Laurence O’ Keefe, both of whom received Tony and Drama Desk nominations for their work on the show. She is also the  playwright of The Explorers Club, which won the 2014 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play.

8. Carole King

Photo Credit: Indie Wire
Photo Credit: Indie Wire

You can hear the music of iconic singer and songwriter Carole King eight times a week at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The musical, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, tells the story of King’s early life and career as she broke into the music industry. The show, which only features music by Carole King was nominated for seven Tony Awards. King herself has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including a special Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Get tickets to Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on TodayTix.

9. Cyndi Lauper

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: Masterworks Broadway

Cyndi Lauper’s impressive music career has spanned over three decades, and earned her a multitude of awards and accolades. In 2013, she applied some of that inimitable talent to the theater and won a 2013 Tony Award for her work composing the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots. Based on the film of the same name, Kinky Boots took home Best Musical at both the Tony and Olivier Awards and is currently playing on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

Keep listening to the first season of Broadway Backstory to learn more about the journey of some of these great women and many others who have made their mark in theater!