Expanding accessibility is an ongoing concern for Broadway — and this spring, the musician Gaelynn Lea arrives with lessons she learned from advocating for the cause in the music industry.
Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:
“Maybe the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is just how much people haven’t thought of [accessibility], and why it’s important to talk about it,” said Lea on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. The singer-songwriter, a wheelchair user who was born with the genetic condition osteogenesis imperfecta, will soon get her first Broadway credit as the composer of the original music in the Broadway revival of “Macbeth,” starring Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga.
On Stagecraft, Lea, whose first big break came when she won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2016, told horror stories of her experiences playing inaccessible music venues before she decided she would only perform at places that made accessibility a priority. She also discussed her role as a co-founder of Recording Artists and Music Professionals With Disabilities (RAMPD) and the organization’s work with the Grammys to make the awards ceremony more accessible both onscreen and off.
“I think the biggest thing is: If you’re a non-disabled performer, it’s really important to recognize that it’s not just on the disabled artists” to advocate for accessibility, she said.
“Macbeth” marks a return to theater for Lea, whose parents ran a dinner theater in Minnesota. “That was a big part of growing up,” she said. “We kind of grew up there. [My parents] would bring us to rehearsal instead of getting a babysitter… I ushered. I did lights. It was very much a part of our family’s fabric.”
That history makes “Macbeth” personally significant for the composer. “It’s a weird full circle moment to be back and in such a different capacity, with nothing in between [then and now],” she said. “It’s fun, but very surreal.”
Also on the new Stagecraft, Lea revealed which show most influenced her in her adolescence, shared her thoughts on writing a musical, and gave some details about the “sort of apocalyptic” sound she’s created for “Macbeth.” “It’s very intense and really dark,” she said.
To hear the full conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.