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BWW Blog: Why I Needed to See Jagged Little Pill Before the Broadway Shutdown

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Without going into the plot of the show, I want to talk about why it was important for me to see Jagged Little Pill (JLP)  before the Broadway shutdown. 

BWW Blog: Why I Needed to See Jagged Little Pill Before the Broadway Shutdown

HARMONICA.

LIGHTS.

ELECTRIC GUITAR RIFF ("weewoohwewohwohwiiwiiwiiwiiiwiiWIIIII")

Cast members suddenly, and stealthily, claim the stage. The energy zaps you. Each cast member dances, acts, and sings directly to you. The theatre shakes and rattles your bones. I knew in the Overture that my dad and I were watching a special piece of theatre. Jagged Little Pill.

Without going into the plot of the show, I want to talk about why it was important for me to see Jagged Little Pill (JLP) before the Broadway shutdown.

JLP taught me the power of individuality. This piece of theatre embraces ensemble. It is obvious that each cast member brings something of their own to share. This idea of bringing a piece of you to share to "the room"/audition/show was recently introduced to me in my college movement class. The cast's sincere connection with the show is apparent onstage. In my experience, individuality is hard to find in theatre. Rarely is it asked for onstage, commonly known as the "leave you and your life outside of rehearsal/off the stage" mentality. But who I am and my life experiences inform my art. When I step into a role, parts of Macy come too. My past informs the present and how I will venture into the role. Being able to embrace my identities and personal experiences onstage is a rare gift. Not only does JLP acknowledge this aspect of individuality, but they embrace it by writing characters with complex narratives and casting actors who connect and identify with the characters they are playing.

JLP told me to embrace life, even the bad times. I saw Jagged Little Pill twice in January, back to back weekends. After returning home from my last trip, my life began to slowly peel apart. College rejections, knee surgery, Covid-19, the list goes on and on. Basically, 2020 happened. While Broadway and my local theatres shut down, college theatre rejection emails came in. With my dream schools breaking the news that I was "not good enough for them" (lies!), I started doubting my confidence in pursuing theatre. Deep down I knew that I was not going to give up, but I couldn't find the instant encouragement to keep going that I usually had access to. That strength came from the Broadway dream. I thought back to the songs "Thank U" and "You Learn" a lot during this time. When I felt like I'd hit rock bottom, these songs reminded me of what I have overcome and that I can overcome these current trials too. "Thank U" recommended "unabashedly bawling your eyes out," "remembering your divinity," "enjoying the moment for once," and "grieving it all one at a time". "You Learn" recommended "biting off more than you can chew," to "wait and see when the smoke clears" and "the dust settles," and that I can live, breathe, cry, live, and learn. The songs themselves are powerful, but the context of the songs in the show is what I'd think back on for light in a dark time.

JLP helps me to tell my story. Each character within the show has their own struggles they are forced to deal with. Jagged Little Pill tells stories that are not traditionally told in theatre. Stories are told of opioid addictions, rape, sexuality, and racial identity. Protests act as an ongoing motif projecting topics from menstruation to gun violence. I think a lot of people connect to JLP because those stories are their stories, and seeing those stories told onstage make you feel heard and not alone. There is a time and place for stories of magical forests and high school underdogs. But theatre is more than entertainment. Theatre is a megaphone for silenced voices, a weapon, and a warm blanket of comfort. To see a show that uses the power to heal, help, and heighten relevant stories reminded me why I am a theatre artist. As mentioned in the previous point, this encouragement was much needed. My greatest wish is to use my stories and work in theatre to make someone feel seen and heard. JLP tells untold stories that resonate with the audience, and that is the kind of theatre I strive to create and be a part of one day.

JLP gives me hope for a future theatre. When I dream of being on Broadway, I dream of being in this show. It is an anthem for the future artists who want to create inclusive and honest theatre. I mean, who isn't dying to be in this show? For a show to feature so many lgbtq+ and BIPOC actors of all body types is new. This kind of theatre is what we need when Broadway reopens. Cast member Ezra Menas says it best, "the only way I want Broadway back is if Broadway is black and trans." Jagged Little Pill is paving the way for future Broadway stories outside the cis white narrative. Because of JLP, I feel empowered to contribute to creating these narratives.

JLP helped me see me. Lauren Patten is one of my favorite theatre artists for a reason. Her portrayal of Jo felt very personal to me in their search for self discovery, self-acceptance, and the journey to defiance. For the first time, I had something to point to and say "That is me. That is how I feel. That is what I want to say but have no words to say yet." I've learned that understanding and embracing yourself is essential for artists. You have to know who you're bringing into the audition room, classroom, on camera, or onstage. However, understanding who you are as a person and who you are as an artist is a journey.

Being honest with yourself is a journey.

Finding your artistic voice is a journey.

Cultivating the courage to be defiant is a journey.

Jo's narrative brings me hope in my journey of self-acceptance.

I was fortunate enough to see Jagged Little Pill twice, each performance giving me gifts of courage, strength, encouragement, inspiration, adrenaline, and love. Jagged Little Pill is a gift, especially for young artists like you and I. It sets an example for what we should create as we grow into the professional industry. The fifteen Tony award nominations agree.

Find me on social media @macymcowart- let's talk JLP, Tonys, favorite AOC quote, and sing some Alanis together.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Macy Mae Cowart