What makes a "useful" theatre tweeter? The question was posed to me over drinks by Carey Purcell, who covers Women in Theatre for Playbill. Useful, she surmised, is not the same thing as simply informational, popular, or entertaining. She challenged me to consider the word, and make a short list of women in theatre with particularly useful Twitter accounts. I thought I'd be able to rattle them right off. I follow so many incredible women on Twitter that coming up with a list should have been a piece of cake. Not so! By the end of our outing, I had dozens of names rattling around in my brain; for every one I thought of, another three sprang to mind. I told Carey I needed time to narrow them down, that this was going to require both soul-searching and research. Now, after quite a bit of fretting and about a thousand edits, I have the list she requested.
I've chosen these women for their specific, unique frames of reference, which allow theatre lovers to see our world through varied, colorful lenses. They are useful because they expand our understanding of Broadway, and the larger culture of theatre in which it exists.
Here is my short list of useful Twitter accounts written by Women in Theatre. (Please help expand it, by tweeting me at @BroadwayGirlNYC!)
KATE SHINDLE, @AEApresident
On her personal Twitter, Kate Shindle has always been a firecracker, sharing backstage stories and personal anecdotes, passion projects and politics, food and fashion. In her new role as president of Actors Equity, she channels accessibility and wit into a second account that is focused on enhancing the union and its community. With no trace of antiseptic bureaucracy, she engages actors, fans, and advocates in conversation about important industry issues; and by doing so via social media, she is simultaneously educating Broadway audiences about why union contracts matter.
#equity tweeties! give us your most clever hashtag to educate audiences to turn off their phones. whoever has the best one wins...something.
— Kate Shindle (@AEAPresident) July 11, 2015
THE INTERVAL, @TheIntervalNY
Dubbed "The Smart Girls Guide to Theatricality," The Interval is an online magazine dedicated to all of the ways that women and theatre intersect. In addition to linking to their brilliant long-form editorial content — including interviews with groundbreakers like Jeanine Tesori, Georgia Stitt, Leigh Silverman, Tanya Barfield and Cusi Cram — the Twitter account features quotes and ideas that inspire laughter as well as change.
Comic Con*: Marvel announces new superhero franchise based on Jeanine Tesori. * in our dreams
— The Interval (@TheIntervalNY) July 11, 2015
WEST END WILMA, @WestEndWilma
Broadway may be home, but theatre everywhere is ripe for fandom. As her name suggests, West End Wilma is based in London, where she's on the scene in a major way. A blogger, author, reviewer, and video host, she shares her passion enthusiastically and with distinctly British flair. Her daily updates of industry news are equally valuable to UK locals, visiting tourists, and overseas fans (like me) who live vicariously through her access.
The business we call show is so hypercritical sometimes. I shall have to sing three choruses of Defying Gravity to calm myself down ����
— West End Wilma (@westendwilma) July 7, 2015
ERIN QUILL, @EQuill
Can you imagine a better Twitter ID for one of Broadway's leading diversity advocates, who is also a fantastic writer (check out her blog), than @EQuill? Turns out that what could have been a clever play on words is actually a twist of serendipitous eponymy: the perfect pen name (pun intended) belongs to Erin Quill, the original Christmas Eve understudy in Avenue Q. She is one of the industry's most vocal champions for diverse representation on stage and screen, particularly (but not exclusively) regarding American actors of Asian decent. Using her Twitter feed to share updates of both hurdles and progress, her brilliant wit — girl knows how to use a gif! — never dilutes the urgency of how far we still have to go.
— Erin Quill (@Equill) July 27, 2015
JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER, @JenAshTep
She's the author of two best-selling books; director of programming at 54 Below; and known industry-wide as one of Broadway's most ardent supporters. Especially fervent about lesser-known and short-run "lost" musicals — she created and produces the award-winning concert series "If It Only Even Runs a Minute" — Jen Tepper is, at her core, a Broadway historian and advocate. Her Twitter feed is awash with gems, from insider scoop (she seems to be all of Broadway's BFF), to vintage photographs, to daily anecdotes that inspire both envy and respect.
THE MARQUEE is the big sign outside a theater with the name of the show on it. THE MARQUIS is a theater in Times Square. Come on, people.
— Jennifer Tepper (@jenashtep) July 18, 2015
THE LEAGUE OF PROFESSIONAL THEATRE WOMEN, @LPTWomen
The LPT is an organization of theatre women, by theatre women, and for all people who support theatre women. Updated multiple times a day, their feed is a fantastic aggregate of news from all over the world, aimed at “promoting visibility and increasing opportunities for women in theatre and beyond.”
— LPTWomen (@LPTWomen) July 23, 2015
AUDRA MCDONALD, @AudraEqualityMc
Her Twitter handle says it all: Audra "Equality" McDonald takes social justice seriously. The queen of the Tony Awards uses her platform for good, rallying the Broadway troops around causes like #BlackLivesMatter, gun control, animal rights, and marriage equality — which ￼￼￼￼ ￼inspired her Twitter debut and which she celebrated joyously by sharing gifs and vines and photos for days after the SCOTUS decision came down.
I feel like any second we are gonna see Justice Ginsburg come out of the building on a rainbow clad motorcycle & ride into the sunset.
— Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc) June 26, 2015
SYDNEY LUCAS, @SydneyLucasNYC
Sydney Lucas, 11-year-old Tony-nominated phenom playing Small Alison in Fun Home, proves she's a quadruple threat by adding social media prowess to her theatrical resumé. Tweets to fans of Fun Home and support for Broadway colleagues demonstrate a wisdom beyond her years — while posts about her rescue cat Hank and silly videos with her castmates show that she hasn't forgotten to be kid first.
You're @Lin_Manuel <insert word> Miranda. So, you can do what you want! (I'm not allowed to curse, hope you understand.) <3
— Sydney Lucas (@SydneyLucasNYC) July 21, 2015
THE KILROYS, @TheKilroys13
The Kilroys are a self-described "gang of thirteen playwrights and producers who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action." This year, the all-female collective released their second annual "The List" of plays written by women and transgender playwrights. In addition to sounding a battle-cry for fair consideration of both quantity and quality of work by non-males, The Kilroys use their Twitter account to celebrate the successes of groundbreaking theatremakers that are closing the gender gap.
— The Kilroys (@TheKilroys13) June 22, 2015
LIA CHANG, @LiaChang
She's an activist and a prolific blogger, but it's Lia Chang's theatre photography that brings me continually back to her Twitter feed. More than an artist, more than a journalist, Lia is everywhere, with her camera aloft so she never misses "the shot." Whether it's a live performance, on a red carpet, or behind the scenes at an awards show or opening night, Lia seems to always capture a moment of perfect realness between a star's planned poses. I always feel like I know the subjects more intimately than I did before viewing her photos.
— Lia Chang (@liachang) July 2, 2015
THE PUNDITS AND COMEDIENNES
A handful of women on Twitter stand out as consistently clever, dealing in wit along with deep theatrical knowledge and passion. They are highly useful in brightening my days. From onstage stars, to backstage support, to dedicated audience members, here are some of my faves: @MildlyBitter @NikkaLanz @PataphysicalSci @PattyNEmily @Scamandalous @TheCraptacular @MissLizRichards @JenniferMudge @LauraBenanti @ChelseaNachman @QueenLesli @TracieThoms @Susan_Blackwell
(Laura Heywood is the creator of Twitter's most followed independent theatre account, the formerly anonymous @BroadwayGirlNYC. She is also an accomplished commercial actor, voiceover artist, and radio host. LauraHeywoodMedia.com)
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