Women Wednesdays: “Un-Block” Talks To Melissa Crespo & Rachel Sussman About Playbill’s Centennial Celebration Tonight

Perhaps the first few weeks of quarantine let you catch up on much needed rest, but now…five months later…I think many of us need the rest from quarantine. Lucky for “Un-Block The Music,” I have been able to speak to amazing people who may not have had time for me under regular circumstances. And, for that, I am grateful. But, NOW, I want to see their work live! Luckily, for us, Playbill is celebrating Women’s Equality Day today August 26 with an amazing concert: Women in Theatre: A Centennial Celebration. The 90-minute special will stream at 8 PM ET (https://playbill.com/womenintheatre). I had the opportunity to speak with Director Melissa Crespo (Native Gardens, and upcoming Bees and Honey) and Producer Rachel Sussman (What The Constitution Means To Me, Eh Dah! Questions For My Father) about the event. How interesting, the celebration of women winning the vote falls on Women Wednesdays!

The Playbill special will be co-hosted by Tony Award nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist Heidi Schreck (What The Constitution Means To Me) and Drama Desk nominee Rebecca Naomi Jones (Oklahoma!). (I had the brief opportunity to meet Rebecca the night of the Tony Awards 2019. As you have heard me say in the past, my daughter went to Circle In The Square Theater School where Oklahoma! was playing at the time. Rebecca is beautiful, talented and friendly! Anyway….). Also note, the musical director for the show is Victoria Theodore (Donna Summer, The Musical) and sound design is by MP Kuo (MPK Recording and Production), 

The game-changing women, non-binary, and gender non-conforming artists who made the theater what it is today will be honored in this concert. Who better to help produce than Rachel. Originally, on behalf of Playbill, Ruthie Fierberg, approached Rachel who has been working on the much talked about Suffragists (Shaina Taub). She said “Yes!”

Rachel Sussman

“The suffrage movement is very complex and left many women of color behind. I felt like if we were going to do an event to celebrate this complicated moment in history, we should pivot this and celebrate the legacy of art and women in our industry. We went out and put together this amazing team,” Rachel said. (Cynthia J. Tong is a producer as well.)

“In 90 min, you are going to see a lot of amazing female identifying artists,” Melissa explained. Directors, writers, composers, lyricists, designers, producers and performers from all generations will be showcased.

Melissa Crespo

Melissa also attests to the fact that the history is complicated. “We are artists and visionaries. However, we realize while there is a lot to celebrate, there is a lot more work to do. We will take you through every decade starting with the 1920s and offer a look into the future as well. It is a beautiful tapestry of lots of milestones in our theater history recognizing those remembered and not remembered. During the show, you will see women talking to each other, sharing their knowledge and lifting each other up.”

Sara Bareilles is one of the performers participating in the show. “Un-Block The Music”, of course, has a special place in my heart for Waitress for which she wrote the music and starred. This show was the first Broadway show to have a full female creative team. The stories I wrote about its musical director Nadia DiGiallonardo still sit on the top of my list as most read.

Rachel said, “Women in Theatre: A Centennial Celebration is a variety special that will be incredibly engaging and you will learn something as well. I did.” The concert is free, but viewers are asked to donate as the show will honor the Broadway Advocacy Coalition’s new Artivism Fellowship, which supports artist activists using their tools to have an impact on the world around them.

The inaugural fellowship will specifically support Black women, cisgender and transgender, who are artist activists focused on issues related to systemic racism and criminal justice reform. Applications will be open to women based in the United States whose work centers in stories and narrative. https://www.bwayadvocacycoalition.org/artivismfellowship

Melissa said, she is still overwhelmed by the massive response from women who wanted to participate in the event which will be available online for 4 days only. “Don’t forget to watch before it disappears!” Rachel said.

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