JUSTICE Comes to the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts

Performances begin on April 11.

By: Apr. 09, 2024
JUSTICE Comes to the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts
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On April 11, the musical Justice will open at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) for a three-week run on the Michael Nutt Mainstage. A new American musical by playwright Lauren Gunderson of The Revolutionists, along with composer Bree Lowdermilk and lyricist Kait Kerrigan; the production explores the lives of the first female Supreme Court Justices—Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor—and delves into issues related to equality and civic responsibility while exploring the justices’ personal journeys. WICA’s production is directed by Rose Woods, with musical direction by Sheila Weidendorf, and stage management by Michelle Durr. 

“Playwright Lauren Gunderson gives us characters deeply seeped in language—words that are transformational and powerful. These three characters are all ‘women of words’ and this musical upends any preconceived notion that we ‘know them.’ They all ask themselves what they must do to ‘get it done’ and their stories will inspire us,” says WICA Executive Artistic Director Deana Duncan. “We are thrilled that Justice has a home at WICA and we know that it'll encourage conversations, creating a ripple effect that will truly impact our community. That is our mission at WICA and this is the right play at the right time. We are so excited to support Rose Woods and the entire creative team in the PNW premier of a new American musical.”

The epic and intimate musical is brought to life by the three-person cast: Christina Boom (O’Connor), Gail Liston (Bader Ginsburg), and Jessica Robins (Sotomayor). Whidbey Island locals Boom and Liston are no strangers to the WICA stage, having previously appeared in numerous productions at the arts center. With a background in scripted, improvisational, and musical theater, Robins will be making their Whidbey Island debut, having performed with other Pacific Northwest theatre companies.

“I was surprised to find out that Sandra Day O'Connor did not have the goal of becoming a Supreme Court justice, rather, when she was asked by President Regan to be a nominee to the Supreme Court, she felt it was her duty to accept,” says Boom. “It clearly wasn't an easy task, being the first woman on the court, and yet she felt the responsibility to do it well and to make sure she ‘wasn't the last.’”

For the three actors, the musical is the opportunity to explore current themes and to have important conversations about societal issues.

“When I first heard about this play, I got excited,” says Liston. “What an amazing concept. And the idea of playing one of these strong, brave women was irresistible. The show is so timely, with an important message about fighting for your rights and never giving up or becoming complacent.”

Adds Robins, “More than anything, this show is a call to action. Please, please vote. Make your voice heard. Our democracy needs us more than ever!”

The WICA production includes sweeping songs and an exploration of incredibly relevant themes that Woods hopes will encourage the audience to think deeper about their shared humanity.

“I think we are living in a time when it is getting more and more impossible to look away from the ugliness, the violence, the rifts in our society,” says Woods, who was drawn to the musical for the opportunity to bring this “call to action” to life on WICA’s mainstage. “I think this play gives us a deep and personal look at our recent history and brings us to right now; to a better understanding of Equal Justice Under Law; to We the People; and to a powerful sisterhood of trailblazers as they confront the battles of their time. I hope our audience is moved by the personal stories and perhaps motivated to step out and make a difference in social justice and equity in our own communities.”

Adds Durr, “This musical isn't just about the Supreme Court and ‘government’ but about these women's personal lives and the challenges they each faced outside of being a Supreme Court Justice.”

It is the unique blend of music genres and the powerful messages behind the musical score that intrigued Weidendorf, who as musical director, will also be supporting the cast on piano during the performances. “The Justice score is largely what we would call a ‘pop/rock’ score with nods to old Broadway, TV Westerns, and more.”

For her, the production has the power to truly inspire through artistic creativity. “Art is most potent when creativity intersects with and illuminates our shared experiences—be that political or personal experience. Justice brings the personal to the political and makes the conversation accessible.” 

It is this “raw expression of living a life” that Woods can’t wait to witness with the official opening this month.

“I am in love with this cast,” she says. “There is a kind of alchemy and power between these actors. From the beginning, they dove into research and each shared stories of these characters they learned. We all got to know these women through our rehearsals. I won’t pretend this was easy. The music is complex, the pacing is relentless, and the actors never leave the stage. But they bring everything they’ve got to every single rehearsal.”

Adds Durr, “All these incredible humans have come together to tell this timely story. From the actors, music and costumes, we have supported and held each other up every rehearsal and beyond. We are truly the Justice League, as we like to call ourselves.”

In addition to the Justice performance run, WICA will also be hosting a Center Conversation Series event on April 21 following the matinee performance, featuring retired Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge and sitting Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu who will discuss how the groundbreaking work of women Supreme Court Justices relates to the courts today.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the WICA events, please visit wicaonline.org.


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