Samantha and the Glass Ceiling, a new musical by composer Arthur Abrams and playwright/lyricist Tom Attea, now receiving its world premiere production at Theater for the New City, is a show for the modern "lean in" career woman. A lingerie designer named Samantha (played by Kristin Piacentile) vies for a promotion against a misogynist male coworker (Richard Dezmond), whose old-fashioned mindset is further encouraged by her even more misogynist boss (Jacob Storms). After her secretary (Elizabeth Doyle) encourages her to meet with a motivational speaker (Anik Baker), she learns how to maintain her feminine identity and still rise to the top of the corporate ladder.
TheaterMania asked the musical's three leading ladies to reflect on their own personal experiences with gender imbalance in their careers as performers. Take a look at what these women had to say about breaking through their own "glass ceilings" both on and off the stage.
Kristin Piacentile (Samantha): The most eye-opening experience for me was when I was called in to meet with an agency a year ago. They said I had an amazing voice, incredible stage presence, and a shining personality. They also told me my neck was too short, my face too round, and my hips too wide. Like my character, I take an experience like this and let it strengthen me. I firmly believe that women are subject to physical expectations that are disillusioning and discouraging. After all, I've never met a man who orders salad for dinner.
Anik Baker (Kelly): The glass ceiling is different for female actors than it is for women in the corporate world, but it is very much still there. It reveals itself in a different way. There are infinitely more roles written for men, and they therefore have more opportunities for advancement and within these roles there are more physical types available to men in the industry. Women have less opportunity and are squeezed into a narrow range of physical types. For example, a man cast as a nerdy scientist can look a variety of ways; heavy set, super-scrawny, boy next door, mega-handsome. If a woman is cast in the same role she would need to be "hot" and the only way they would make her seem "less attractive" is by how they style her hair and the addition of eye glasses. This is how I feel the glass-ceiling personally affects me.
Elizabeth Doyle (Bernice): As a performer, I have thankfully never experienced gender discrimination. As an administrator, however, I have encountered instances of discrimination in the workplace, specifically working under men. Similar to Bernice, my character in the show, I have been treated disrespectfully and have felt devalued, even with a higher educational status. Samantha and the Glass Ceiling addresses some serious issues that I believe are still present in the workplace today.