Boss Babes

Next Act, a musical theater student group at the University of Georgia, will premiere “Boss Babes,” a virtual cabaret featuring songs by female artists, on April 3 at 7 p.m. in collaboration with the Black Theatrical Ensemble. (Courtesy/Next Act)

From the heartful belts of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” to the upbeat lyrics of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” women have used their voices to empower others to overcome challenges of gender inequality.

Next Act, a musical theater student group at the University of Georgia, will premiere “Boss Babes,” a virtual cabaret featuring songs by female artists, on April 3 at 7 p.m. in collaboration with the Black Theatrical Ensemble. It will be released on their website and remain available on the Next Act YouTube channel.

According to a Next Act March 2021 press release, the cabaret will feature music videos intercut with documentary style interviews of the cast, all created in collaboration with UGA student filmmakers. The artists that will be celebrated include Lady Gaga, SZA, Kacey Musgraves, Ariana Grande, Destiny’s Child and more.

“Boss Babes” was co-directed by junior Kendal Reeves, a marketing and theater double major, and senior Sydney Wakeford, a computer science and theater double major.

Reeves said Next Act’s goal for the overall production was to explore the “why” definition of a boss babe. They did so through tackling multiple themes throughout the showcase.

“So we hit on themes of the spectrum of femininity and gender expression, sexuality and themes that could be associated [with being a boss babe],” Wakeford said.

The project is part of Next Act’s annual series of cabarets. Since the pandemic has limited live performance, the group has produced numerous virtual projects. “Boss Babes” is the third of four cabarets produced by Next Act this academic year. Traditionally, Next Act performs cabarets at Hendershot’s in downtown Athens.

Next Act collaborated with the Black Theatrical Ensemble to cast and create the cabaret. Nala McCamy, a sophomore theater major, is the president of BTE, and said the partnership ensured a more representative homage to the female artists celebrated.

“Boss Babes don't just look one way. I just know that it's important to feel empowered and to feel represented,” McCamy said. “It's important to see yourself and if we can give as many people that chance to see themselves as possible then I feel like we're doing something good.”

Anna Wakeman, a fifth year cast member majoring in music education, is performing“You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore. Although the song was released nearly 60 years ago, it still resonated with Wakeman’s personal experiences.

“[Performing in the cabaret] was a really good way for me to be proud of who I am as a woman and celebrate who I am,” Wakeman said.

Coronavirus restrictions affected production of the cabaret significantly. The crew had to come up with solutions to overcome the constraints of social distancing. Although Next Act normally performs shows live, adaptations were made to make projects virtual this semester.

Logan Arnold, a senior majoring in entertainment and media studies, contributed to the shooting and editing of the project.

“[We had to] figure out some new creative way to put in what emotions we wanted… it really challenged us and [we had to] think differently and solve problems that we never really thought we'd ever have to solve,” Arnold said.

But at the same time, the cabaret comes after a long pause on theater for the project’s performers. In some of the numbers performed by groups, in-person filming was the highlight of the production process.

“[The cast got to] have that ‘cast-feeling’ that they haven't had in theater in a year,” Wakeford said.

While “Boss Babes” champions female empowerment, Wakeman said the message can apply to anyone.

“Even though it's about women empowerment, anybody can be a boss babe,” Wakeman said. “So I hope that anybody no matter who they are… can resonate with the messages about being yourself, being independent, fighting double standards, knowing that they're not alone in their struggles and they are awesome just the way they are.”