There are not many characters like Sarah Julius.
“There aren’t many queer female characters in musical theater,” said Julius, “and the characters who are out there are largely based on stereotypes. I wanted to create something more authentic to my own experience.”
She continued, “There wasn’t a story quite like my own.”
The U.S. Bank talent acquisition manager took her love of music, rugby and poetry and used it to create Great Big Rainbow World (GBRW), a “happy lesbian love story” and queer women’s rugby musical based in part on Julius’ relationship with her wife, Megan, and the chosen family and self-confidence she found through college rugby.
“Rugby was a key influence in my life and one of my first experiences as part of a chosen family. My teammates and I are forever bonded by this sport and the positive environment it created for us,” Sarah said. “You know you’ve found your home when you can be who you are – that idea of community and belonging became central to the story.”
The two years over which Julius has written the musical have been a learning experience. In composing the music, she tapped into her past experience writing “angsty” poetry as a teenager and her limited ability to strum chords on guitar. And in structuring the script, she laughed, “I Googled ‘how to write a musical.’”
After taking a “good is better than perfect” approach to her first draft, Julius refined the musical by entering contests, contacting dramaturgs, and eventually finding Ring of Keys, a national nonprofit for queer women, transgender and gender non-conforming artists in musical theater. After seeing a lack of representation in the theater world, Julius was ecstatic to find such a group. “I’m a queer woman, and this is a bunch of queer women in musical theater?! What are the chances?!’”
Finally, when hiring for the musical, she was able to rely on her professional experience leading a team at U.S. Bank that focuses on recruiting for senior-level developer and technology roles. “It’s about finding those rare gems who can truly uplift the work,” Julius said. Through networking, she hired Twin Cities-based director Laura Leffler, and together they along with the entire GBRW creative team set out to represent a broad spectrum of the LGBTQ community in race, culture and identity in their hiring process, adding, “We prioritized marginalized voices.”
GBRW cast member Deidre Cochran was drawn to Julius’ story because of its queer and female representation.
“This show is really filling a need in the theater community,” Cochran said. “Most of the time, female characters are in supporting roles to help male characters progress through their story. Even the character descriptions describe female characters in relationship to someone else – a wife, a sister. Who are they as a person?”
Cochran is confident the authenticity of the characters will help the story resonate with all audiences. “It’s going to be fun and enlightening for people to see a different version of a love story and connect with it no matter how they identify.”
GBRW was set to premiere in June 2020 during Pride Month. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans and it is now planned for June 2021. Julius sees the postponement not as a setback, but rather an opportunity to continue refining it over the coming year.
All the while, the optimist and recruiter in Julius cannot help but think even further ahead, “If we’re able to get additional productions in the future, we’ll continue to make it clear this story is an opportunity for anyone who identifies with these characters and wants to embody them.”
Written by Arielle Goldberg of U.S. Bank. The company has been named by the Human Rights Campaign as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for 13 consecutive years.