'Justice: A New Musical' - composer and lyricist on their Supreme Court show

  • by Marijke Rowland
  • Tuesday February 14, 2023
Share this Post:
composer/lyricist duo Bree Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan
composer/lyricist duo Bree Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan

History happening in real-time changed not only the course of the U.S. Supreme Court last year, but also a new musical coming to the Bay Area about its trailblazing female justices.

The Marin Theatre Company staging of "Justice: A New Musical" will technically be its second production after its world premiere last spring in Arizona. But the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court resulted in some significant rewrites to the new piece from longtime composer/lyricist duo Bree Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan. The production will run Feb. 16 to March 12 at the Mill Valley theater company.

Lowdermilk, a transgender woman, and their creative partner Kerrigan have been collaborators since they were in middle school in Pennsylvania. They have teamed with MTC's Mellon National Playwright in Residence Lauren Gunderson and director Ashley Rodbro for the new musical about the first three women confirmed to the court: Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor.

The piece originally focused on O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg and a fictional first Black female justice. But since Justice Jackson joined the bench, the creative team behind the piece re-envisioned it to include Sotomayor, the first Latino person and woman of color confirmed to the court.

"What we really wanted to celebrate was actual history and living through these actual events," Lowdermilk said in an interview with the By Area Reporter. "I think that this is a piece that in its DNA is always going to feel of the exact moment it is written in. The way the show felt each night was literally shifting from outside event (during the Arizona premiere)."

The musical explores the three female justices at the height of their power. The production's songs and dialogue focus on the sisterhood between the justices, and also looks toward the next generation of judicial trailblazers.

(L-R) Karen Murphy (Sandra Day O'Connor), Stephanie Prentice (Sonia Sotomayor), and Lynda DiVito (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) in rehearsal for Marin Theatre Company's 'Justice: A New Musical'  

Other current events, including the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, have informed the new version of the show, Kerrigan said, as the production addresses the future with the court's hard-right turn.

"If I were going to see a musical about the most inspirational figures of the Supreme Court, specifically the first women justices, I would be looking for answers," said Kerrigan. "I would be looking for 'What do I do now?' since Roe v Wade has been overturned. Affirmative Action is hanging in the balance. Voting rights have been stripped way back. What do we do? That was the question that each of us entered this new draft asking ourselves. What can we say? How can we tell people not to despair? How can we tell people that the court will survive?"

That more hopeful outlook is one Lowdermilk said they want people to take away from the show. That includes the possibility of one day seeing the confirmation of the first transgender justice.

"The idea that there might be a trans person on the Supreme Court is an unimaginable hope right now. But thinking about other people who have witnessed unimaginable hope change to reality in their lifetimes is something I feel really privileged to get to write about," Lowdermilk said. "It's really cool as a transfem person to be on a team of women...I feel very inspired right now to try and tell stories, even if it's not about queerness or transness in any way. The fact that I'm here and working on it speaks to representation and justice."

'Justice: A New Musical,' Feb. 16 to March 12, Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. $25.50-$60.50. (415) 388-5200 www.marintheatre.org

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.