A look at the boys club in NYC pits.
By Steven Jamail (Composer and Music Director)
When I moved from Houston to NYC four years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect from the theater community. Well, I fell in love with it, instantly.
The New York theater community is about as blissfully liberal as they come. We accept anything and everything, usually without question. We put ourselves out there in a way that is both audaciously theatrical and completely American. I mean, c’mon - try explaining Broadway Bares to your 90-year old Grandmother in Texas. It’s actually pretty fun. We rule. Most of the time.
(The visual aid I used to explain the event to said Grandmother)
You see, about 4 months after moving to the city, I got the chance to conduct my first orchestra and some interesting things came up. It’s certainly not across the board on Broadway, but imagine my shock when the contractor asked me if I minded adding a few more female players to the ensemble. He was asking permission-- with hesitation. Like I was going to have a problem with it. Seriously.
Not long after that, I started asking female friends of mine in Broadway pits, on tour and in solid regional houses, if they had been on the wrong end of any kind of gender bias. More than half not only said yes, but had horror stories that literally made me question what year it was. One friend (an insanely talented player with extraordinary credentials) overheard her conductor longing for the day when he could hire a “vag-free” band to play the show. This was on the first leg of a first national, fancy production contract tour no less.