Courageous Conversations: the 9 to 5 movement and its lasting impact

Arts

A few weeks ago, members of the KO community were given the rare opportunity to speak with original cast members of “9 to 5” on Broadway. Those participating in the musical were able to discuss important themes and issues that come up in the musical and how to best portray them in their own performance to the school.

“I just want to remind everybody although, yes, this is an important conversation, it’s also important to remember why we do theater,” actress Janelle Robinson said. Mrs. Robinson, who starred in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” on Broadway, came to visit KO just a couple of years ago, and we had the privilege of speaking with her again to hear her perspective as well. “Standing up on stage and portraying these characters gives us the freedom to have these hard conversations,” she said.

“9 to 5,” which takes place in the 70’s, deals with issues that were prevalent at the time, such as sexism and sexual harassment in and out of the workplace. KO librarian Nancy Solomon was able to speak on some of the issues she faced as a woman in the 1970’s. 

“When I was in college I double-majored…and in one of my classes I was the only female in a class of about 50 students,” she said. As the only woman in the class, she was constantly ostracized by her male professor, who would tell a dirty joke every day to try to make her blush. “I had no recourse to make him stop, so I decided that it was a really difficult course, but I was going to do really well,” she said. “And I did. I got the highest grade in the class. I killed myself to do it, but I did.”

Ioana Alfonso, who was one of the only women of color in the original Broadway cast of “9 to 5,” spoke on why she felt it was important for the KO community to see this show. “We have to remember that sexual harassment is across all genders,” she explained. “It’s necessary not just to eradicate it or shut it down…but it’s also to illuminate that this is happening to many people right now.”

Not only were members of the KO community able to ask original “9 to 5” cast members questions regarding the themes present in the show, but they were also able to ask them questions about how they were able to keep up with the physical demands of such an action-packed show.

Actor and original cast member Michael Mindlin responded that building up stamina is the best way to keep up with the show, especially with being able to sing and dance at the same time. 

He shared a story of when the music director of “9 to 5” called him out for not singing during one of the show’s more difficult numbers, “One of the Boys.” “Sing on the treadmill, or go outside and sing while you’re running,” he suggested.

It is so rare and special for members of our community to have the privilege of engaging in these important conversations with Broadway actors. Students involved in the winter musical believe it greatly improved their understanding of the production and helped them perform more authentically and meaningfully.