For my second work for the theatrical stage, I wanted to create a show that makes a statement on social justice through musical choices rather than just language. Librettist, Gaye Jeffers (who also wrote the book) was insistent that the point of the show would not be to tell the story of how the fight for women’s suffrage was won. “We all know how the story ends,” she kept reminding me. This freed us up to really dive into the characters, disturb the chronological narrative, and for me to use several musical styles that hint at the larger story of the ongoing fight for women’s equality.
In Give Me Room! we see the characters of the 1910’s as they push for the 19th amendment’s ratification, but we’re also hearing music of 1960’s protest anthems and 21st-century musical theatre alongside the jazz of the 1920’s and 40’s. This hopefully serves as a constant reminder to the audience of what women had to fight for throughout the past 100 years. Some of my favorite moments to write were bits of music for the anti-suffragists who sing in musical styles of the 18th and 19th centuries depending on the character’s degree of conservatism.
The biggest question remains: “Is it a musical or an opera?” With the expansion of the libretto into a book, I think it falls slightly more in the musical theatre world, but I’m so excited for the inclusion of the strong operatic voices on this production! We’ve finished workshopping the show, and next is an un-staged, concert performance at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, as soon as this pandemic settles down. See you there!