BWW Interview: Jessica Eckenrod, writer/director of the new musical HERSTORY at GLOW Lyric Theatre
GLOW Lyric Theatre's 2019 Raising Voices Series presents an original, hilarious, and empowering one-act musical that explores the journeys of women throughout history, and the incredible experiences and tales they have to share.
We asked Jessica to tell us a little about the piece.
What is Herstory and what inspired the show?
Herstory is a brief window into the world of how women can inspire other women. With a cast of only three, including the pianist, our hope is to convey that women today who are struggling can look to the past and see the road that has been paved for them by other women who "seemed" to be struggling. From the outside it may have been seen as struggle, but to them, it was a worthy fight.
Herstory is also very much a collaborative brain-child. GLOW does a politically charged cabaret of sorts every year in their "Raising Voices" series. When Jenna approached me about working on a concert centered around women, together we brainstormed to create a bit of (untitled at the time) Herstory plot points. Over time, that evolved, as it is still evolving throughout rehearsals!
What's it like creating a new work like Herstory and what are some of your personal experiences that influence this process?
Herstory is a welcomed challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. Typically when I write any type of song cycle, musical, etc, there is a great deal of time that goes into. Herstory had a due date and a deadline immediately, before the full concept was even born. So this work in particular is tough, as I'm trying to write meaningful work that can support the cause of the "Raising Voices" series, but also stay true to myself as an artist. I'm trying not to utilize so many of my "personal" experiences, but the experience of every woman today, and couple it with the personal experiences of women from our past.
Who are some of the women whose stories you explore in the piece?
In speaking with other folks, I don't want to give names away of what women are "actually" going to be depicted in Herstory. That is simply because, what if they don't make the cut? I'm working hard to ensure I'm honest when I tell certain stories, and there are strong possibilities some will make it and some will not. So in order to not box myself into anyone, I'm keeping that one to myself! I can say that I've tried to research women who have heavily been a part of political change dating from the 1800s to the 2000s, but perhaps not as well known!
How do you approach telling their stories? How are you trying to capture their voices?
After reading any given story, synopsis, etc - I try to place myself in their time. (Great idea from Jenna, by the way.) I try to, if at all possible, see what they saw as I'm sitting at my piano. My hands will fiddle around until I'm certain I've found the music that fits the moment. Then I go from there. I'm trying to capture their voices by making the lyrics as real as possible, which is difficult on many levels, because I'm not really versed on the 1850s. However, it's been great to learn about so many women along the way.
What is the general structure - do the performers play different characters?
There is a loose story line that we follow, but ultimately two women portray these historical figures through song, while the pianist attempts to find some clarity. Being a new work, it definitely has a way to go, but after first chatting about this project months ago, it's going to be quite a fun time seeing it come to life!
What will audience members enjoy most about Herstory?
I know they will enjoy the voices. Mary Evan Giles and Morgan Voke Thomason are joining me for this piece, and they are both stellar women and vocalists! I also hope that audiences enjoy the truth in the music and lyrics, because that is always a goal of mine.
Anything else you'd like to share about Herstory?
It's been a challenge to put up such a meaningful piece in such a small window, but we are excited for the opportunity. Herstory is more along the lines of a one-act, or song cycle running at about 45-50 minutes. With it being a new work, it is ever changing, so I'm just as anxious to see the outcome as everyone else may be!