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A Bit About Us

ABOUT JEANNETTE

An epic pop musical based on the true story of America’s first congresswoman, Jeannette electrifies the life and history of suffrage activist, social worker and Montanan, Jeannette Rankin. Elected to Congress in 1916—three years before women are granted the right to vote—Jeannette finds herself to be the only female voice within the halls of power to vote on women’s suffrage. Our hero, Jeannette Rankin, is as smart as a whip, with a Montanan’s penchant for big dreams and a politician's penchant for getting what she wants. She knows how to play the game. She knows how to get shit done. But in her quiet moments she wants what we all want; love, intimacy, to be known for who she truly is. She loved women, but always prioritized winning over love. Her sister is her rock. As is her rich and powerful brother, who ultimately comes to betray her. And though she rejects proposals of marriage by Fiorello LaGuardia, they prove that deep friendship might be better than marriage for unshakably ambitious people. But like all heroes, ours is fallible, vulnerable, and lonely. For a pacifist, she really loves a good fight and makes enemies as quickly as she can soothe them. Suffragettes don’t resolutely love her either, a fact she can’t swallow without bitterness. Her only recourse is to do what she’s always done: play the game, never show weakness, get it done and prove them all wrong. New and original songs by Ari will put us inside the hearts of our feminist revolutionaries as well as in the streets marching with thousands, on the campaign trail, in the family home of our heroine, and speaking up for women’s rights in the halls of Congress. Congresswoman Rankin boldly paved the way for resistance through law and government. She was not only the first woman to win a place in American federal congress, but the first woman in the democratic Western world to be voted into national office. She knew how to work the system and had to fight like hell to make it happen. She didn't win every fight and she didn't come out a national hero, but she made a difference in Congress, in women's rights, and to the thousands of women who wrote to her saying, "I have never had a woman politician to write to. I think you will understand." Jeannette Rankin’s story is untold. This is her time.


THE TEAM


DIRECTOR  ERIN ORTMAN

Erin is a NYC–based director, creator, and equalist. She directed two widely recognized Off-Broadway productions in 2018-2019, One Thousand Nights and One Day by Marisa Michaelson and Jason Grote, and Real by Rodrigo Noguiera. She is developing new work with Tony Award winning producer Adam Zotavich, Obie Lifetime Achievement recipient Caridad Svich, Tony Award nominee Alexander Gemignani, Extraordinary Achievement Visa recipient Rodrigo Noguiera and Ugandan playwright Jedidiah Maguraru, currently at the U.N. She is directing Jeannette by Lauren Gunderson and Ari Afsar, which will receive extensive development at The Eugene O’Neill Musical Theatre Conference this summer. Her current concert work includes Hear Her Song, a series of songs written by women serving as acts of resistance, which will be playing Joe’s Pup and The Kennedy Center in 2020, as well as JR Unplugged, a concert with music by Ari Afsar inspired by the life of Jeannette Rankin. She has developed new plays and musicals with many acclaimed theatre companies including The Roundabout, LAByrinth, Ars Nova, Pipeline, Pan Asian Rep, The Prospect Theater Company, New Georges, New York Stage and Film, The Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Sheen Center and The Lincoln Center Director's Lab, among others. Her unique directorial style was highlighted on HowlRound last April.


MUSIC DIRECTOR  MARY-MITCHELL CAMPBELL 

A 1996 Furman University graduate, Mary-Mitchell Campbell has served as Music Director for Broadway's Mean Girls, The Prom, and Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway, and prepared orchestrations for Sweet Charity starring Sutton Foster. She has also lent music direction and orchestrations to Tuck Everlasting, Finding Neverland, Company (Drama Desk Award win for Orchestrations), and Allegro (Drama Desk Award nomination for Orchestrations) among many others. Also to Campbell’s credit are numerous philanthropic efforts including her founding of ASTEP-Artists Striving to End Poverty. Performers for the star-studded gala in February included Chenoweth, Jonathan Groff, Tituss Burgess, Debra Monk, and Raúl Esparza.


MUSIC DIRECTOR  MEG ZERVOULIS 

Meg Zervoulis is a versatile music director, arranger, educator, and pianist in the NYC/NJ area. Broadway: The Prom (Music Director), Mean Girls, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Head Over Heels. Other Selected New Works: Buñuel (Public Theatre) by Stephen Sondheim, Kooman and Dimond’s Dani Girl in the ASCAP/Disney Workshop, Other World by Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, and Ann McNamee, Stu for Silverton (NAMT 2014) by Peter Duchan and Breedlove, Teeth (Sundance 2017) by Anna Jacobs and Michael Jackson, and Andrea Grody’s Strange Faces (directed by John Rando). She also helms Hotel Elefant, a chamber ensemble in NYC, and played keyboard for the Big Apple Circus. Meg frequently appears as pianist/bandleader all over the country with the Nunziata Twins (www.willandanthony.com) and Bryce Pinkham. She is also on the rosters of Sing for Hope, Sing for Your Seniors and Concerts in Motion. She has been the musical theatre accompanist for National YoungArts Week for the past two years, in collaboration with Michael McElroy. Meg is a proud member of the Lilly Power Network and Local 802 AFM.  


EXECUTIVE PRODUCER  JEN BENDER

Jen Bender is the president of Quick Brown Fox Productions and Creative Development Consultant for Lively McCabe Entertainment. She was Senior Vice President of Production and Development for The Araca Group, and served as Director of Programming for the New York Musical Festival (NYMF) which she co-founded in 2004. Prior to her career as a producer, Jen worked extensively as a director in New York and around the world. Her Broadway credits as Resident and Associate Director include The Lion King, Honeymoon in Vegas, The Wedding Singer, Steel Magnolias, and Avenue Q. She directed the world-premiere of Do You Hear the People Sing: The Dream Concert by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg featuring Lea Salonga, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Terrence Mann, and Stephanie J. Block at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX, and toured internationally as the Assistant Artistic Director of Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo.