Pick one woman in history or fiction to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. What would you talk about?
If given the opportunity to sit down with any woman and converse for an hour, I would select Jeanine Tesori, the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score. Tesori is credited with composing the musicals Fun Home, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek, and Violet, among others. These stories of coming of age, discrimination, and sisterhood have little in common with one another, yet Tesori has translated their messages through music with grace and sophistication.
Each stage of my life has been dominated by the soundtrack of a Tesori musical. The princesses and dragons of Shrek were a fixation of my fourth grade year, while the Thoroughly Modern Millie album defined my transition to high school as I dreamt of college and creating my future in New York City. As the women of Fun Home and Violet overcame their dark pasts and found their ways, I began to confront my own fears and anxieties, all while memorizing the soundtrack.
The unconventional source materials from where Tesori’s works originated – ranging from ogres to televangelists to LGBT to Civil Rights issues- faced scrutiny from the “Boys Club of Broadway”, whom Tesori threatened. If granted the opportunity to speak with Ms. Tesori, I would ask her about her trailblazing journey that opened the door for women in writing on Broadway and how she manages to hold her own in a male-dominated field, in addition to thanking her for the impact that her work has made on my adolescence.