Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr – all Queens whose lives have been retold and reshaped to suit history’s story. Were my sister Jen (a history buff and lifelong feminist) alive today, she’d be none too pleased with how little I knew of these Queens before SIX THE MUSICAL.
Eight times a week, at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, we are challenged to re-examine that history and give them a voice in a world that silenced them. SIX THE MUSICAL features powerhouse vocalists and musicians (all women) whose performances elicit joy, laughter, awe, and introspection.
For the first time in nearly 2 years I sat in Broadway theater, awaiting the house lights to dim and six queens to take their rightful place on stage. My emotions swirled – anticipation, joy, comfort, belonging. And then I felt at home. At first, I thought “home” meant Broadway; the way my body tingles and my soul expands during musical theater performances. It wasn’t until the train ride home, as I drafted a professional-style review in my head, that I realized I felt at home because it was though my older sister’s spirit (5 years gone) filled the empty seat next to me.
Jennifer and I were as different as could be, but we were the eldest sisters in our family and thus shared an unlikely bond. While we may not have understood one another, we loved each other. Where Jen was fierce in her passion for animal welfare and women’s rights, I attended Mass regularly and breathed everything animated fairytales.
Jen’s love of history came from a place I never understood. It was but names, dates, and places to me – distant and in the past. How could learning history help me in the present? She loved to push my buttons, and consistently challenged me to re-examine the stories of women in history. To see them as patriarchal perspectives dictated in scriptures and fiction, but also understand they were women who were complex and fierce – brave and powerful.
I didn’t always react well to her attempts at in-depth feminist lessons – most times I viewed her as angry and unable to move forward. So, I built up a wall and crafted my own story of her – never truly brave enough to ask the questions I wasn’t certain I wanted answered.
Jennifer wasn’t the easiest for me to understand or reach and while I was immersed in my own mental health struggles, I couldn’t see past to recognize hers. She lived fierce, but also with struggles not always overcome. My family and I have mourned her passing five years ago in different ways, but there are times I sense her presence in unusual circumstances – like a Broadway theater.
I live with immense guilt and regret for not seeing her truth or pushing past my own trauma to understand hers. There’s so much of Jen’s story that I will never know, and I’ve felt selfish in wanting to know more because it’s “not my story to tell”. However, as a writer and amateur genealogist I yearn to write her story (and thus mine) in the hope that it helps someone else going through a similar situation.
Had she been alive today, I’d have offered her my extra ticket to see SIX. Instead, before the show I lit a candle at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in her memory and told her I loved her. While she could not be at the theater in person, I believe she occupied the empty seat next to me in spirit – cheering for not only the artists on stage but her little sister too.
Now, I yearn to know the stories of women overlooked and misrepresented in history. I’m also currently working on a genealogical writing project to tell the stories of the women who came before me and am writing book two in my YA Fantasy book trilogy.
Jennifer’s with me on this journey forward, acknowledging our unbreakable bond and smiling at the fact I now embrace the feminist label!
Learn more about the brilliance that is SIX THE MUSICAL and go see it live!!!!