Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 ensemblist and friend of the podcast Mary Page Nance shares the creation of her viral song "Pussy Power" with Lauren Zakrin and Cathryn Wake.
"In the time following the 2016 election, the political climate has been difficult to ignore. Emotions have run high at every turn and with every bit of news that emerges. I have felt shock, confusion, and anger, but perhaps the most undeniable feeling that has persisted, has been motivation. I kept having the urge to DO something, to turn to the streets, to call up anyone who would listen, to have conversations around the issues in question, to seek connection with people around me. Riding the subway became a daily inspiration. I remember seeing this mother and son on the train — beautiful white woman in her 50s hanging with her adorable mixed race child wearing a green army jacket with a big FEMINIST pin on the front pocket. That’s our future."
"On International Women’s Day my hair had a fresh dye of red, I donned my bright red hoodie (the one I usually get cat called as 'Little Red Riding Hood' in), and a bright red vest. I walked onto the subway that morning, a task that usually involves zero connection to any other human, and a cheery elderly woman (wearing red) looked right at me and said, 'Good morning!' — recognizing my outfit and taking me in. There was an urge to connect, an urge to say, I see you, I hear you, I am with you, let’s do this. And there was that question again. DO WHAT?"
"Two weeks after the election, I began rehearsals to join the Broadway company of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. The show had just opened with only two swings, and with a cast of 30 on that glorious set of stairs and physical challenges, they were at a point where they needed coverage, fast. As a swing, I cover 20 tracks in the ensemble (men and women — can I get a holla for #genderfluidity). Within two weeks of being in the building, I was on doing split tracks and dancing parts I hadn’t had time to even see — with the support of amazing dance captains Paloma Garcia-Lee and Brandt Martinez as well as the entire stage management team. Needless to say, the work load was heavy and there wasn’t much time or energy for much else other than learning this beast of a show. My creative activist bug would have to chill out."
"The weekend of the Women’s March on Washington came and I was immersed in learning the musical. The women of New York were also taking to the streets, but it was a two show day, I was on for more brand new tracks, and once again I wasn’t physically involved. Every social media feed was coated in images of the masses in pink pussyhats and signs. I WANTED TO BE OUT THERE! I remember being in the dressing room that morning, and the women of Comet were uncharacteristically quiet. There was a weighted energy about the room — we knew all of this was happening and was important, and here we were putting on eyelashes and lipstick. You can’t help but feel selfish and vain when your job entails getting dressed up and putting on a show, when there are women in the world fighting to have basic human rights. We each had our breaking points. Mine came when I saw an image in the Huffington Post of my dear friends Colin Cunliffe and Joe Conger. They were at the Women’s March on Washington wearing the names of women they marched for proudly on their shirts. Surprised and deeply touched, I saw my name written right across Colin’s chest. My heart burst open to think I had truly been there, represented by such committed allies. And yet I still felt like I hadn’t done anything yet."
"Enter Cathryn Wake. The Great Comet extended an opportunity for us to perform in an evening at 54 Below. Jumping on the chance to join the cast, I signed up not knowing what I’d sing. Lauren Zakrin had expressed interest in the concert as well but neither of us wrote original music, so we didn’t feel right taking up a solo spot among all of these incredible original song writers. Cathryn wanted in, and joined our songless team. In the thick of the women’s movement, we all thought we could sing a blaring belty medley of girl power pop covers. As you do. But Cathryn wrote to us one day asking if we’d be down to sing something original. HELL YES. Then… she brought us 'Pussy Power'."
"The song spoke for itself in every way. Lauren wanted high belting, a request Cathryn took very seriously. And Cathryn decided I was going to rap………………………………. Something that is certainly not on my list of special skills, that I had only ever done while singing along to 'Joyful, Joyful' from Sister Act II. Still unclear where her confidence in my rap capabilities was rooted. Letting it go. The two of us brainstormed together, discussing our experiences as women living in NYC, and she wrote the darn thing. We performed 'Pussy Power' on February 27, 2017. After the concert, we received such positive encouragement around the song we decided that other people may also enjoy hearing it and listening to its message. This was heavily encouraged by my biggest ally, my boyfriend Johnny Lahoud. DING DING DING. This is the thing that I’m supposed to DO."
"Fiercely excited and ferociously texting at every waking hour, Cathryn and I took action. With the incredible support of The Great Comet and Howard Kagan, we recorded the song at Threshold Recording Studios NYC with James Walsh, and it was mixed/mastered by Neil Reynolds. Having seen the song performed live, Maddy Talias came on board as our videographer/editor/creative collaborator. Our generous friends volunteered their time and talents (worth millions) to the cause as we embarked on our shooting journey. Folks from the show jumped in enthusiastically, including Jessica Dermody, Jamie Ramsden and Sam Brooks who styled the shoot."
"The 'Pussy Power' Music Video is now live on YouTube and Facebook, and the song is available for a FREE download/streaming on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer, Tidal, Microsoft Groove, and Shazam. We encourage listeners to #DonateYourDollar you would have spent on a download to a women’s rights organization of your choice. Suggested include: Planned Parenthood, RAINN, National Partnership for Women & Families, Center for Reproductive Rights, Dress for Success, and Women’s March."
"If there’s anything I can say for America today, it’s that regardless of how active people have been in the past, they have woken up to a more active future. We just don’t have a choice anymore. And while I don't claim to be some big shot gender studies expert, I do know what it's like to be a woman and how it feels to be weakened by others. That’s reason enough for me to share my voice. Besides, I REALLY don't like it when people say they can grab me ANYWHERE, let alone somewhere so sacred. We created 'Pussy Power' to be a comedic anthem reclaiming the word “pussy” while celebrating female empowerment. We hope that in this light, the issues can be discussed in a positive and productive way."