Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the category “Librettist”

Sheilah Rae

Sheilah Rae, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenLyricist, Librettist, Composer, Producer
New York, New York USA

By the time I was five I was already studying ballet and piano, and had seen several children’s musicals, so it wasn’t that big of a leap that when I was five years old, and my sister Judy was three, my mother dressed us alike, and complete with white gloves, toted us off to see the National Company in Chicago of South Pacific. I remember that day as if it were yesterday, from where our seats were, to what the theater looked like…and of course, the piece! This was my first Broadway musical, and I was mesmerized, and I told my mother right then and there that when I grew up, I wanted to ‘do that’—whatever that meant. She assumed it meant that I wanted to be a performer, and for many years, that’s where I thought I was headed too, but I was always consumed with the creative process. How could anyone actually sit down and write South Pacific?? I have been very blessed in that I was able to more or less realize my dream. I was a Broadway performer for many, many years, and then made the segue to full time songwriter as I began a family. I am grateful that I could pursue my career with the help and encouragement of my family, and even as I became a wife and mother, was able to continue a life in the record business, jingle business, and then again the theater. I have been a member of Equity since 1963, and that is a long time. And even before I had my Equity card, I was performing in ballets in Chicago from the time I was about nine. Seeing the recent South Pacific brought back a flooding of those early childhood memories—and I am still asking myself, ‘how does anyone actually sit down and write South Pacific?

Sheilah Rae: Co-book/lyrics, ‘Funny, You Don’t Look Like A Grandmother’ pub. Sam French. Co-book/lyrics ‘I Married Wyatt Earp’, Off Broadway 2011. Heideman Award Finalist 2005; ‘Lovelines’, 2006; ‘What Goes Around’, 2010; ‘The Waiter’, 2011;‘ Single and Active’ with Michele Brourman. Past president of LPTW. President Board New York Theatre Barn. AEA, SAG, AFTRA, Local 802, The Dramatists Guild, Songwriters Guild.

Elsa Rael

Elsa Rael, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenPlaywright, Lyricist, Book Writer
New York, New York USA

Some ideas, themes, books, films get lodged in our heart’s memories for ages, and one such for me was a novel, The Leopard, by a brilliant Sicilian, Giuseppe Lampedusa, written in the 1880s. Much later, the material was filmed in Italian, with Burt Lancaster (probably dubbed) and happily faithful to Lampedusa’s painful vision.

The character understood he had little choice but to live with the societal changes which were developing, causing him great distress. However, his family, wife, mistress and even his servants accepted the inevitability of what was happening, adding to the Leopard’s pain. The work, oddly, foreshadowed the dire events of The Cherry Orchard.

Within the past few weeks, I wrote a much updated outline — my version of the story, taking into account how we, in our time, are accepting of our society’s immoral greed and lack of caring for those on whom we trod. Whether the material will become a play or a novel I don’t yet know, but I feel I have a date with the idea.

Elsa Rael wrote 9 plays produced off Broadway and at major regional theatres, and special material for Walter Cronkite, Kaye Ballard, Marsha Mason,and Beatrice Straight. As an arts advocate, she co-produced with Joseph Papp at the Public a festival of 30 plays by women with roles for women over 50. Gov. Mario Cuomo honored her with a special citation.

Ruth Margraff

Ruth Margraff, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenPlaywright/Librettist
New York, New York USA

Where do you look for inspiration? For so long it was opera and Roma gypsy music always but lately I’ve been obsessed with paintings. There’s a lovely one on the back cover of my new book of plays painted by one of my students at the Art Institute.

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure / cocktail? 30 Rock, Indian mystic poetry, candles and snow – oh and you made me remember – I need to have a Campari and orange again! I always forget about Campari and drink red wine.

What production changed your life? Reza Abdoh’s Quotations of a Ruined City (1994).

Is there anything you still dream of doing? A million things! I want to have my own rehearsal/ performance/ gallery space with a wood-burning fireplace. I want to tour everything I’m writing everywhere. To archive everything I’ve done. To see one of my operas in an opera house from an opera box. To work with Atom Egoyan, Ivo van Hove, Nick Cave, Emir Kustrica and whoever designed the Ziegfeld Follies girls’ costumes.

I am most myself when I am in between writing on my fainting sofa and my accordion.

Best escape? My bicycle, running to the lake or river or sea or strolling through plazas of some place I’ve never been.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? I just bought some flamenco shoes!

Ruth Margraff’s plays have toured the world, received awards from Rockefeller, McKnight, Jerome, NEA/TCG, NYSCA, Fulbright foundations, published by Dramatists Play Service, American Theatre, Theater Forum, Performing Arts Journal, Playscripts, Inc., Backstage Books, Autonomedia, New Village Press, Innova Records, NoPassport Press. New Dramatist, Chicago Dramatist, and Associate Professor at the Art Institute of Chicago.

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