Produced by: Jasmine Joshua, Rebecca Maiten, Mahealani Smith and Sarah Walsh
Produced by: Reboot Theatre Company, Twelfth Night Productions, Seattle Musical Theatre
Featuring: Rachel Rene Araucto as Lewis Morris, Meredith Armstrong as Richard Henry Lee, Jenny Buehler as John Hancock, Walker Caplan as Courier, Lisa Clarke as Martha Jefferson, Kylee Gano as Robert Livingston, Pat Haines-Ainsworth as Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Amy Helms as Dr. Lyman Hall, Laura Holland as Joseph Hewes, Dana Johnson as Roger Sherman, Jasmine Joshua as John Adams, Barbara Klingberg as Andrew McNair, Amy Korver as Rev. John Witherspoon, Rebecca Lane as James Wilson, Rebecca Maiten as Edward Rutledge, Mary Lou Mills as Caesar Rodney, Natalie Moe as Thomas Jefferson, Mandy Rose Nichols as John Dickinson, Cheryl Phillips as Stephen Hopkins, Jessica Robins as Dr. Josiah Bartlett, Jean Sleight as Charles Thompson, Lani Smith as Col. Thomas McKean, Sarah Stillion as George Read, Sarah Meadow Walsh as Abigail Adams, Lisa Wright-Thiroux as Samuel Chase, Samantha Victor as Leather Apron
Directed by: Keith Gehrig
Choreographed by: Rebecca Maiten
Music direction by: Mark Rabe
Other creative team: Stage Manager Lisa Nilsen, Lighting Designer Sarah Fairchild, Costume Designer Barb Klingberg, Props Designer Kayla Rabe, Set Designer Brandon Scalf
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, June 25-28, 2015
Where: Seattle Musical Theatre at Magnuson Park, 7120 62nd Avenue NE, Seattle, Washington
Tickets: $20. Visit www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006
An all-female cast for '1776'
So, there's Jasmine Joshua, a smart kid, sitting in her sixth-grade history class, when the teacher says he's going to show a video.
"We'd just done the Civil War," Joshua recalled, "So when he popped in the tape, I was thinking, 'Oh my God. Another 28 hours of Ken Burns."
Instead, "The opening scene is all the founding fathers jumping up and boisterously telling John Adams to shut up!"
A lifelong love of the musical "1776" was born.
"I already loved musicals," said Joshua, during an interview by phone, "And I loved the fact that these were serious men ... these founding fathers, who came up with this perfect idea.
"The musical makes them into human beings. At the end of the day, they are complaining about the heat, too many flies, and, 'For God's sake, John, just sit down and let's get something done!'"
Joshua was born into a show-biz family. Her mom, Sharon Gabet, was a big-deal soap-opera star in the 1980s (and also a nurse and many other fascinating things), nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her role as Raven in "The Edge of Night"; and her dad, Larry Joshua, has a busy career, including as a singing cop on "Cop Rock" and in dozens of other movies and TV shows. He's the guy who says, "Turned injun, didn't ya?" to Kevin Costner in "Dances With Wolves."
Despite having her socks knocked off by the movie her history teacher showed the class, Jasmine Joshua did not see the stage version till she was in high school.
"Seeing it live is a whole other level of magic," she said.
Maybe about that time was born the idea that she wanted to perform in "1776."
But, what role?
"I'm a performer," she said. "I've always wanted to be an actor, I always was an actor.
"But my particular type in musical theater is a rare bird I'm a character actor, a comedic actor. In musical theater, most of the character roles are men.
"For women, mostly you're an ingenue or you're a mother. I was never an ingenue." Big laugh.
To draw you a picture, Joshua is more Bette Midler and less Audrey Hepburn.
So, Joshua knew, "In my teens and 20s, the whole show is not open to me. I couldn't be Martha, who is a little ingenue role, with one little song. Abigail is older John is like, 41 in the show, Abigail has to be similar."
Eventually, a light dawned.
"I thought it would be great if they did an all-female version. I had heard of a 'Jesus Christ Superstar" with an all female cast I loved that idea I thought, 'Why not "1776"?'"
Joshua has been a performer for years, starting in grade school. When a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, she produced and performed in an all-female variety show. After college, she was part of a female acoustic duet. In the San Francisco Bay Area, while working as a theatrical publicist, she sang with a blues/rock band, Dr Gone & Serious Condition, bringing a fabulous voice and a brassy strong presence to everything from blues rockers to Beatles music.
When her husband, engineering manager Mike Messenger, got a good job at amazon.com and they moved to Seattle, she immediately immersed herself in the Seattle theater scene, as a performer, a sometimes theater reviewer, a publicist, and now as a producer, for a very special production of "1776."
In the summer of 2014, she was in the dressing room for "The Who's 'Tommy,'" in which she was performing and "I have a big mouth I said, 'Wouldn't it be great if someone did an all-female version of "1776"? and finally, I was in a room full of people who agreed with me."
"Rebecca Maiten said, 'Let's do it. Yes, I will help you do this, let's go, let's rock.'
"I collected these people, one here, one there.
"Seattle is such an incredible arts community. People are willing to help you, to support you."
The word spread, and 50 people showed up for the first casting call, and lots more found ways to let it be known they wanted in.
"Maybe this is a bigger deal than I thought. Maybe it's not just ten history nerds," Joshua said.
The first table read was such a success, Joshua said, that she started looking for venues.
She formed Reboot Theatre Company, and co-sponsorship deals were made with Seattle Musical Theater and Twelfth Night Productions. Seattle Musical Theater is making its theater available, on a profit-share basis. Twelfth Night has helped out with props, costumes and set construction.
And Barbara Klingberg, who is in the show as Andrew McNair, volunteered to make the costumes.
"My God, I am so grateful to her," Joshua said.
But lots of money was still needed for the rights, rehearsal space, publicity, and to, it is hoped, pay the production team and the cast.
So, Joshua organized a fund-raising cabaret show, and also waged an Indiegogo campaign, raising around $5,000.
The cast is all women, and the auditions confirmed Joshua's belief in colorblind casting.
"I hadn't seen that sort of diversity at an audition before," Joshua said. "The spectrum of women who came to our auditions was truly inspiring. I haven't seen this kind of diversity at any other production. We were already casting women, so the rest doesn't matter. We don't need tall or short persons.
"Part of the reason we started Reboot Theatre Company is to see how far we can take non-traditional casting with established work.
"More established theater companies sometimes don't want to take that risk, because of their subscriber bases. Fifth Avenue cast a Filipina in 'Cinderella,' and got calls complaining about it. It was good that they did it."
And, John Adams will be played by Jasmine Joshua.
"I like people yelling at me," she said. "I love John Adams because of his passion. To be really passionate about something, to have your emotions get in the way of your message, to be constantly referred to as being obnoxious I had to be John Adams.
"I connect with that," said Joshua. "I sometimes get overworked, work myself up, get so emotionally invested, I'm a bull in a china shop. That's all in John Adams." Part of what Joshua, who is 30, likes about "1776" is that it is "one of the most intelligent books in musical history. It has a lot of lines taken from John and Abigail's letters to each other. They didn't always get to see each other, but wrote to each other every day.
"The love songs are in the letters to temper John, who is so stubborn about things, trying to bully his way through; that is tempered with his love for Abigail." The cast of 26 performers is in rehearsals, and the show opens on June 25.
"It's a freakin' awesome cast," Joshua said. "Great singers, and more important, great actors. '1776' is known for its really smart libretto. It has 40 minutes of no music, just debate, discussing independence, why or why not ... it's unusual to go that long without a song.
"Other musicals don't do that. They were discussing things like what does tyranny mean, and a huge section that debates slavery.
"It's important to have articulate, intelligent actors. And we have an embarrassment of riches."
Email John Orr at email@example.com