Filed under: art, Gender politics, theatre | Tags: Annie, Broadway, Cinderella, Gypsy, Les Miserables, Little Girls, Matilda, Peter and the Starcatcher, sexism, The Secret Garden
The New York Times reported this: that due to the realization that women and girls make up the majority of the Broadway audience, there’s a whole new crop of girl-centered work on the way to Broadway. On one hand, this is good news, the future looks good for girls. I can already see all the middle schools across the land happily producing Matilda Jr or Cinderella Jr. (They’ve been doing Annie Jr for years.) Perhaps, girls will be playing girls for the first time in their middle school careers, the little lovelies. So, yes, hooray!
But on the OTHER hand – Broadway has a thing for little girls. Annie comes around again and again and now we’ll have Matilda, which appears to be a darker English Annie, filled with adorable ragamuffin children. Thus providing work for. . . Little Girls. Which we can find in many a hit show. From Les Miserables to The Secret Garden to Warhorse to Gypsy. Little girls can really make it on Broadway. And there are many women who make careers out of playing girls as well. I’ve seen Cristin Milioti play girls in Stunning, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Little Foxes. Celia Keenan-Bolger from Peter and the Starcatcher has reportedly played many many other little girls. No disrespect to the women making careers out of being girls (I’m glad you’re working!) but I’d like to see some damn WOMEN on the Broadway stage sometime, please!
And what happens to little girls who tear up the stage? Do they get to grow up and mature before our very eyes? Do we get to see them tear up the stage as women? Not much. Daisy Eagan won a Tony in 1991 when she was 11 years old. Here’s her recent tweet that tells you what she’s up to. My friend Lydia Ooghe started in Les Miserables, moved on to the little girl in Secret Garden and quit the business when she began to mature. Now she’s a rockin’ singer songwriter (yay!) far far away from Broadway (boo!)
And while it’s great for little girls to see themselves on stage, I think it’s an enormously mixed message we’re sending. For the little girl who wants to be onstage, we’re telling her that she’s only worth something while she’s little. We’re telling her that if she’s interested in a career in theatre, she’d better hurry and have it while she’s still a child. By giving her so few adult female role models, we’re telling girls not to bother growing up. This is something the culture tends to reinforce on a regular basis, what with its interest in little girl looks, pre-pubescent bodies and so on.
So, yes, hooray, more girls on stage. That’s good. But it is not the same as having fully grown women on the stage, playing women, fully expressing woman-ness on a regular basis.
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