This summer, Julia Greer and Emma Miller founded The Hearth, a company dedicated to telling the stories of women. During rehearsals for their inaugural production FOR ANNIE by Beth Hyland, the artistic directors caught up with us about personal style and creating socially conscious work.
From right: Emma in the Jessica Dress and Julia in the Suzanne Top
Tell me about the mission of The Hearth.
EM: The girls and women I know are ambitious, complex, and sometimes make mistakes. They are brave and they are unapologetically themselves. They do things that, when we see them on stage or on screen, we often call "unlikeable." Julia and I are committed to producing theater that doesn't shy away from those things. We started The Hearth to address and confront discrimination and inequality head-on. We hire women, we tell their stories, we cast them in roles that are active and meaty and diverse. We believe that what we see on stage can affect how we interact with the world, so we also believe that how we represent women and make room for them has the power to further the conversation about feminism, and that we can contribute to a very important fight for greater equality.
JG: The mission of The Hearth is to make room for the next generation of female artists in the landscape of the American theater. It’s to create theater that challenges stereotypes, advance and complicate the conversation about feminism, and expand perceptions of what it means to be a woman. The statistics are shocking, there needs to be more female-identifying voices onstage, behind the scenes, building the sets, directing, designing; you name the job, a woman can and should be doing it. If we can give more work to women, we hope they’ll be known more widely and hired in more places, and hopefully we can change these statistics. Additionally, I think theater, and the arts in general, are a really important way for us to relate to and understand each other. In a time that’s so divided and so extreme, if we can tell a story that shows another layer of what it means to be a woman and make people understand some facet of womanhood they glossed over before, we can help change minds and have conversations. Sexism is real, but if we can work harder to understand and respect each other, we can make progress. That idea feels at the core of our mission.
Why did you choose this particular play as your inaugural endeavor?
EM: FOR ANNIE is a really special play. When Julia and I read it, we knew basically instantly that it was the right first production for The Hearth. Part of our commitment to telling women's stories means we also need to dedicate ourselves to representing some of the harder truths of womanhood. Beth, in FOR ANNIE, does that so deftly. FOR ANNIE is simultaneously funny and bright and tragic and difficult, and Beth allows her characters the same depth and fullness.
JG: Not only does it give strong and complicated voices to young women, but it deals with material that hits close to home for such a wide spectrum of people. From grief to intimate partner violence to the intricacies female friendship, FOR ANNIE tackles intense topics in a way that feels so true to our contemporary culture and understanding. It’s as complex and varied as life is.
How would you describe your personal style?
EM: I guess I'd describe it as sort of simple and a little bit bohemian. I had a school uniform for thirteen years, so I find I kind of give myself a uniform now by mixing-and-matching staples. I wear mostly things that are simultaneously nice enough for the office and comfortable enough for rehearsal, and I love long sweaters and tunics.
JG: I would say my style is cozy and comfortable with occasional unique patterns and bright colors among the majority of greys and blues and blacks. I definitely place an emphasis on practicality. When I buy clothes, the only real requirement for me is that I feel confident in it.
What elements of ethical attire are important to you?
EM: It's important to me to know about the brands and companies I support. I try to support small businesses, to shop locally, to think about eco-friendly and less wasteful consumerism, and to be a loyal customer to brands I believe in and that I know treat their employees well.
Mostly, I think it's about thinking before you shop and about understanding how valuable your choice to spend your money somewhere can be.
JG: For me, ethical attire really comes down to being more conscious of the clothes you are wearing and buying and doing your research about the companies you are supporting. I think it’s important to create less waste by buying more purposefully and to support the people who are going about manufacturing, labor, and materials in the right way. It may seem simple, but it’s an easy way to do better by people and our planet.
What does work hard, dress smart mean to you?
EM: To me, "work hard, dress smart," means finding clothes that make you feel like your best, most confident self. I do my best work when I feel at the top of my game and feel at home in my body, and I know which clothes help me feel that way.
JG: Work hard, dress smart means to wear clothes that support the work you do. It means they are never a distraction and fit your work environment. I think the best, smartest clothes enhance the way you feel and therefore make you better at what you do.