Meet Genevieve Flati, Creator of Women Rule Broadway
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]W[/dropcap]e all know the state of current Hollywood roles for women… it’s dismal, to say the least, with one-dimensional, overly sexualized characters as the norm. But what about the roles on Broadway? All too often, the situation is the same, but Genevieve Flati wants to flip that narrative. That’s why she created Women Rule Broadway, “a live theatrical show in which women sing and perform roles and songs originally written for men.” The goal is to show in the most blatant way possible that women, too, are capable of playing complex characters… because, duh, of course they are. This week, we caught up with Genevieve to hear about her inspiration for the project, her definition of feminism, and her advice for other women on Broadway.
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Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do.
I’m the creator and director of Women Rule Broadway. I’ve had a crazy career – I was a theatre and vocal performance major in college, and was doing that for a couple years and at the same time I was working at Disneyland doing improv shows in Tomorrowland. And then I got cast in an improv troupe that used puppets, so that got me into improv comedy. That summer, I got cast in the Ringling Brothers Circus as a clown and a sketch writer. So I left college and ran away with the circus for two years. I got picked up from the circus to do a standup comedy tour in Ireland, and then when I got back to Orange County, where I’m from, I started working as a puppeteer for Disney and that’s what I’m doing now (along with Women Rule Broadway!)
My partner in crime is Kelly Rogers. We met in college – she’s a vocal performance major and a badass. She worked as a singer in Tokyo Disney, she’s sung at House of Blues a bazillion times, she’s just a badass. She’s super hot. That doesn’t matter, but she is.
She and I both grew up in musical theatre – I started doing musical theatre when I was two and was in a show a month ever since. Kelly was about the same. So that’s us, that’s who we are.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
How do you define feminism and how does that play a part in the work you do?
[pullquote align="right" cite="" link="" color="" class="" size=""]Because even if they don’t want to see you, someone in that room will see you. And then the world is changed, just for a little bit, because you forced it. You stood your ground.[/pullquote]
I have almost always been the only girl in my profession. In the circus, we had 12 clowns – 11 guys and me. And then, now in puppeteering in Disney, I’m often the only girl working. I got into the Jim Henson puppeteering program because they were working on diversity, and being a white woman is diverse in the puppeteering world because it’s usually a bunch of old men. And I’m part of the improv comedy world and on all of my teams and in all my shows, I’m often the only girl. In my world, there haven’t been a lot of women.
In terms of defining feminism, I’m an equal opportunist. I believe in humans. I’m like, who’s the funniest, who’s the best, regardless of race, age or gender, unless the story is specifically about, like, a 17-year-old Indian guy, then we can cast whoever’s the best.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
Tell us about your own experience in theater! How has that played a part in creating this project?
Lately, I have noticed an imbalance toward women in the roles they get to play. For women, it’s always hot, blonde, comfortable in a bathing suit, has to be a model, whatever. And then I looked at one of my guy friends’ casting breakdowns and it was like, funny guy, doesn’t matter what you look like, intelligent guy. And I remember growing up in musical theatre, I never really wanted to be the ingenue girls. I remember someone asked me to try out for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz once, and I was like, “No, she sucks. She sits around and watched other people to sing. Can I be the wicked witch? Can I be the cowardly lion? That’s so much more interesting.”
And in vocal performance, when I was choosing songs to sing, my teachers were always like, “You can’t sing that song, that’s a boy’s song.” And I said, “But I connect with the words of this song better than other songs. I don’t want to sing about how I’m in love with this guy, or about how I’m feeling really slutty. But I want to sing about my goals, or I want to sing about drinking the blood of my enemies. That sounds great.” And so more and more, I realized women are getting jipped on the roles.
Women Rule Broadway isn’t about proving that women can play with the boys. It’s more about proving that women, like men, are just full human beings with a full range of complex emotions.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
What’s your best advice for women in theater who are frustrated with the roles and opportunities available to them?
Just ask. Always keep your hand in the air. Say, “Let me sing the song. Let me audition.” Because even if they know that they’re not going to cast you, let them see you in that light, just for a minute. Force them to see you. Show up to the audition and say, “I’m auditioning for the role of Captain Hook.” Boom. What are they going to do? Just start singing. Because even if they don’t want to see you, someone in that room will see you. And then the world is changed, just for a little bit, because you forced it. You stood your ground.
The other thing is to do what I’m doing: Write shows with parts that you want to play or you want to see other women play. Write the parts. Put on the shows. Get your friends and put on your own show. It’s not a new concept to do an all-female cast of something. Just go for it.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
How can we follow and support your work in the future?
We’re on Instagram, we’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter. Facebook’s the best one. And then our Kickstarter. Because so often in Hollywood and in art, artists are asked to do things for free – for the “exposure”. But I want to pay my performers and my band for their time and effort, and that way, they do a better job because they feel respected.