Joan Jett Meets the Victorian Era
Growing up in the 1980’s I developed a strong affinity for the hard rock and heavy metal scene of that era. What a better soundtrack for the life of an angsty rebellious teenager than the hard-hitting sounds of bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Sex Pistols, Judas Priest and of course Joan Jett. When I first came across this play, I was immediately drawn to it with its pounding guitars, howling vocals and its potential for a lighting spectacle indicative of any self-respecting rock show.
LIZZIE is a four-woman rock concert/musical hybrid that draws inspiration from Riot Grrrl music, queer sensibilities, and '70s/'80s female punk. Riot Grrrl is a subculture combining feminism and punk music. Riot Grrrl songs frequently dealt with topics such as rape, domestic violence, sexuality, racism, patriarchy, classism, anarchism, and female empowerment. Media-wise, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Excuse 17, Slant 6, Emily's Sassy Lime, Huggy Bear, Jack Off Jill, and Skinny Teen are the bands most associated with the movement. Also included were queercore groups such as Team Dresch and the Third Sex.
In the late summer of 1892, Lizzie Borden was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe. Testimonies were muddled, evidence was incomplete, and Lizzie was acquitted. Lizzie: The Musical delves into the mysterious mind of Lizzie Borden and speculates on the motivations she may have had: loss of inheritance, history of sexual abuse, overwhelming oppression, and madness. By her side is her older sister Emma, maid Bridget, and neighbor Alice. Together, the four women create a punk rock score to tell the story of why Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks, and why when she saw what she had done, gave her father 41. As for Lizzie, her birth name was Lizzie Andrew Borden. Her father, as she reminds us throughout the show, wanted a son, thus her middle name. She was, at least by her recounting, sexually molested by her wealthy father. In addition, she and her sister, Emma, were harshly treated by her step-mother Abbey.