Long before Beyoncé declared it, girls have been running the world, often without deserved recognition or opportunities. And the theatre world is no exception. More and more women have been stepping into the spotlight and taking their rightful place in prominent positions in their fields.
Here are 12 inspirational women dominating the theatre world one show at a time:
1. Audra McDonald
It’s impressive enough that Audra McDonald graduated from Juilliard and earned herself three Tony Awards all before celebrating her 30th birthday — accomplishing in her 20s what most actors work a lifetime to achieve. Now, at 47, McDonald has earned three additional Tony Awards and the reputation of Broadway royalty, starring in shows such as “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Carousel” and “Porgy and Bess.”
Over the years, McDonald has also taken on roles in popular television shows and films, such as “Private Practice” and the recent adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Juggling work and a family, McDonald still finds time to support various charities. She was also announced as the 2018 recipient of the McDermott Award in the Arts from MIT.
2. Jeanine Tesori
Winning five Tony Awards has earned Jeanine Tesori the title of the most decorated female theatrical composer. Most recently, she won the Tony for her work with Lisa Kron on “Fun Home” to become the first female writing team to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score.
In addition to “Fun Home,” Tesori has seen several successful musicals grace Broadway stages and even dabbled in film scoring. In early November, it was announced that Tesori will join the New York City Center for the 2018 Encores! Off-Center season as one of the co-artistic directors.
3. Linda Cho
Even if you’ve never heard of Linda Cho, you’ve likely seen her costume designs. A graduate of the Paris American Academy, McGill University and the Yale School of Drama, Cho has worked designing costumes in theatres around the world. A past Tony Award winner for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” Cho was most recently nominated for her stunning work on Broadway’s “Anastasia.”
4. Sutton Foster
Broadway darling Sutton Foster has been a regular on the Tony and Drama Desk Award nominee lists since 2002, when she received her first nominations and awards for her work in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Foster has since starred in many successful Broadway shows and even branched out into television. She led the short-lived “Bunheads,” and currently plays Liza Miller on popular show “Younger.” Foster also added motherhood to her long list of accomplishments, becoming a first-time mother in March.
5. Lynn Ahrens
Decorated lyricist Lynn Ahrens started her career as a copywriter but has since gone on to create some of Broadway and film’s most beloved musicals. Ahrens has been collaborating with Stephen Flaherty since the 1980s, creating Broadway hits such as “Ragtime,” “Once On This Island,” “Seussical” and recently, “Anastasia,” based on the hit ‘90s film for which they also wrote the music.
Her success has allowed her to take part in founding the Dramatists Guild Fellowship Program. Along with Flaherty, she received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement.
6. Jane Greenwood
British costume designer Jane Greenwood has been working in costumes since the 1960s and has received 21 Tony Award nominations for her work. This year, she earned her first Tony win for Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes,” although she was previously awarded a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
While Greenwood has worked actively in designing for the stage, her work has also graced television screens over the years. Currently, Greenwood teaches at Yale School of Drama while continuing to work in the theatre.
7. Jill Furman
Producer Jill Furman was one person who became famous overnight with the success of Broadway’s “Hamilton.” Furman had previously produced hits such as “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical, “In the Heights.”
8. Sara Bareilles
Songstress Sara Bareilles burst onto the scene in 2007 with her hit “Love Song” and has been proving her undeniable talent for songwriting ever since. With several successful albums, tours and a judging stint on “The Sing-Off” under her belt, Bareilles took on the challenge of adapting the film “Waitress” into a Broadway musical. The show has enjoyed a successful run since it opened in 2015, with Bareilles stepping into the leading role on occasion.
9. Helen Mirren
Queen of the red carpet Helen Mirren has been a longtime fixture in the theatre and film industry. Mirren first made a name for herself with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s and has since gone on to win her fair share of awards, including an Academy Award, an Olivier, a Tony Award and several BAFTAs and Emmy Awards. There’s nothing she won’t do, whether it’s dramas, action, documentaries or comedies. She’s even hosted “Saturday Night Live.” And she shows no signs of stopping, with several new projects on the horizon for the new year.
10. Julie Taymor
A jack-of-all-trades, Julie Taymor is known for her inventive directing and her creative work in costume design. Taymor won the Tony Award for her outstanding direction of the Broadway hit “The Lion King,” making her the first woman to win a Tony Award for directing a musical. She has also worked in film, notably on the Beatles musical “Across the Universe,” Academy Award-nominated “Frida” and “The Tempest” alongside fellow #GirlBoss Mirren.
11. Kathleen Marshall
Kathleen Marshall has been working in the theatre since the ‘90s, choreographing, directing and earning acclaim for productions such as “Follies,” “Anything Goes” and “Wonderful Town.” She has won three Tony Awards and served as a judge on the NBC reality show “Grease: You’re the One That I Want.” She continues to direct and choreograph, including the recent Los Angeles staging of “Mamma Mia!” at the Hollywood Bowl.
12. Cicely Tyson
At 92 years old, Cicely Tyson boasts an illustrious career on the stage and screen. Tyson began her career as a model but soon made the jump to acting and built her current long list of credits. She has won Tony, Emmy and Drama Desk awards, and nominated for an Oscar.
As if that wasn’t enough, Tyson is the recipient of the NAACP Spingarn Medal, a doctorate from Columbia University, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has a performing arts high school named after her. While most people would be retired and relaxing in their 90s, Tyson continues to act, appearing onstage in 2015’s “The Gin Game” and most recently in the popular television drama “How to Get Away With Murder.”
With these and many other creative women leading the way, here’s hoping the future holds more stage productions with women at the helm.