A Bit About Our Namesake
Who is Sappho?
Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet. She was part of the lyric tradition, which means that her words were written to be sung to the lyre. She is one of the oldest known female musical songwriters in the western tradition, though her work has only survived in fragments.
Sappho was also queer. She lived on the island of Lesbos (where the word “lesbian” derives from), where she ran what many believe was a school for young women. Though Sappho’s poetry spoke of queerness, womanhood, otherhood and visibility, it was not defined solely by these “identities." Sappho wrote freely about the life she lived, and the world she lived in. These themes of queerness, womanhood, otherhood, and visibility are most likely why pop culture, art, and activist movements invoke her as a muse.
At The Sappho Project, we wanted to translate Sappho’s existence and importance in her era to whom we consider the modern day “Sapphos.” In an industry that has grown more and more accepting of the diversity of identity onstage, there still remain so many barriers to entry for women, transgender, and gender non-conforming composers, lyricists, and book-writers. The work now is to build the representation into a fundamental transformation of the stories the industry chooses to tell.
While more openly queer and increasingly racially diverse shows have found their way to Broadway over the years, the writing teams behind commercial hits remain overwhelmingly white, and overwhelmingly cis male.
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality scholars explain to us at length how the work of women, transgender, and gender non-conforming artists have been left out of the narrative. It is the gendered power dynamic in knowledge - in academia - that laid the groundwork for the intentional loss of Sappho’s work, and for the stratification of gender to continue to negatively impact women, transgender, and gender non-conforming writers and creators. In a world where intersectional identities often have to pick between identities, the current system perpetuates the loss of their value to the cause as a whole.
So we support the modern day “Sapphos” – the multi-faceted, smart, creative composers, lyricists, and book-writers who are changing the landscape of musical theatre by writing the world that they see, feel, and live in, into musical existence. Women, transgender, and gender non-conforming artists have always been there. The w*rk has always been there. It’s time we make it seen.
“Beauty endures only for as long as it can be seen; goodness, beautiful today will remain so tomorrow.”