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Cardinal Stage switches out musical in response to national sexual harassment conversations


Yadira Correa and Caitlan Taylor speak to each other Oct. 26, 2016, during a dress rehearsal for Cardinal Stage Company's presentation of "The Merchant of Venice". The Cardinal Stage is switching their musical from “9 to 5: The Musical" to be more sensitive about the recent sexual harassment conversation. Katelyn Rowe Buy Photos

Three women stage a workplace coup to overthrow their sexist boss in a series of triumphs and comedic misadventures in the show "9 to 5: The Musical," but Kate Galvin, Cardinal Stage Company artistic director, is not laughing.

Cardinal Stage Company announced Thursday it will be switching out its summer musical in order to be sensitive toward the ongoing national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace, marketing manager Rachel Glago said.

Galvin said the company’s new summer musical will be “Fun Home,” instead of the original “9 to 5: The Musical.” She said she thought it would be insensitive to produce “9 to 5” because it approaches sexual harassment in a comedic way.

“Right now, I'm having a hard time laughing about a lecherous boss,” Galvin said. “In my opinion, ‘9 to 5’ loses its value as musical comedy if the audience isn't laughing.”

Galvin said the show was originally meant to be empowering and may still empower some people. But for others, she said she is worried they will be turned off by the comedic tone.

“'9 to 5' has its heart in the right place,” Galvin said. “But the tone of the show struck me as inappropriate and insensitive at this time.”

Glago said the musical was chosen last May by Randy White, Cardinal's previous and founding artistic director.

Galvin was hired as the new artistic director in October, coinciding with when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke earlier that month. In the next few months, women in Hollywood began to speak out about the former Miramax producer’s treatment of the women he worked with.

When Galvin started working at the Cardinal Stage Company in November, she said the national conversation had snowballed and she said she felt more and more uncomfortable with directing a musical that makes light of sexual harassment.

“I feel that ‘9 to 5’ is a little tone deaf in this particular moment,” she said. “A lot of the comedy of this show rides on disgusting behavior that we are supposed to find funny.”

So Galvin turned to Cardinal Stage staff members who agreed that replacing the musical would be the right move.

Glago said Cardinal staff members talk to the theater community, audience members and season subscribers to see what shows they are interested in.

She said Galvin decided "9 to 5" would not be what audience members want to see after speaking with the Cardinal Stage's board members. 

Managing director Gabe Gloden said he supports Galvin’s decision to change the musical in a statement released Thursday.

“She's reached out to our current audience to understand what they expect and want to see from Cardinal Stage going forward, while confidently expressing her own artistic tastes and vision,” Gloden said of Galvin, according to the press release.

When looking for a new show to produce, Galvin said she wanted a musical with strong female characters.

She said “Fun Home,” a musical adaptation based on an autobiographical graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, was a natural choice.

Galvin said the musical, a coming-of-age story as a young woman reflects on the moments that shaped her life, is chock-full of strong women who can only add to the voices of women standing up to harassment.

“Alison, our narrator, is so brilliant and strong,” Galvin said. “Her first girlfriend Joan is so comfortable in her own skin. It’s really inspiring. And Helen, Alison’s mother, is a force of nature. She keeps her family together.”

Galvin said the musical allows viewers to become a part of Alison’s family and eavesdrop on moments of joy and pain.

The result of inviting viewers into a character’s family like this is empathy, she said.

Instilling empathy in viewers while treating issues such as sexual harassment seriously are the responsibility of artistic directors, Galvin said.

As the arts and entertainment industry looks within itself at how women are treated at the workplace, Galvin said she hopes the Cardinal Stage Company can be a part of the discussion.

“Actors and other artists are constantly putting themselves in vulnerable situations in the course of their work, and sexual harassment is something that is pervasive in this business,” she said. “A lot of it gets brushed aside but hopefully that can change.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated who made the decision to produce "9 to 5: The Musical." The IDS regrets its error.

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