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The Groves Scriptor

The Groves Scriptor

The Groves Scriptor

Rachel Sussman’s Broadway success inspires students

Samantha Jacobs
Sussman highlights her career in New York City as coming from her time in Birmingham Public Schools. She puts emphasis on the importance of chasing after your goals and putting yourself in the best position.

On February 8, students at Groves High School were given the opportunity to meet Broadway producer Rachel Sussman. Sussman is known for her incredible contributions to social justice and theater, but before fame she was just another high school student— a Groves high school student.


When she came back to Groves in February, Sussman gave two presentations and held two intimate Q&As in which Groves students sat in awe as she shared her professional and personal story, full of quirky moments, amazing opportunities, original business ventures and works and astounding accomplishments.


Sussman, a born and raised Birmingham Public Schools student, was always obsessed with everything theatre.  A “theater kid” through and through, Rachel’s thespian journey began with competitive dance and Rising Stars Community Theater before she participated in multiple Berkshire Middle School plays.


Many people in BPS think of Groves as the “theatre school”, because its productions are far better than the average high school play. Sussman was no different. By the time she got to Groves she was eager to join every production— and talented enough to star. Not only did she participate in every possible Groves Performing Arts Company club, team, production and event, but during her later high school years, she took on even more in the Groves theatre department and became GPAC president and president of their chapter of the International Theater Society, Troupe 2297. 


John Rutherford, longtime theater teacher and head of GPAC, said Sussman always had a love for all things theater.. He remembered Rachel’s love of playbills— “she had been ordering them to her house”, said Rutherford. “When we went to New York City she realized they were free”. He goes on to say, “she was so excited she almost cried!


Sussman has always been profound. During her time on Groves forensics team she made Groves history as part of the first ever winning multiple at States. Through her involvement in GPAC she got to explore many different roles as well as creative positions within the theater world. 


Post-high school, Rachel was dedicated to pursuing a professional career in the arts, and knew that New York City was the place for her.


“I did a powerpoint presentation to prove to my parents why I needed to go to New York… I wanted to be in New York because I wanted to get a head start and to get ahead of everybody else,” Sussman said. She eventually attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts to study drama. Even though she later would become a professional producer, she never studied it in school. While at NYU she developed a greater comfort with her sexuality, due to finding friends in the theater world that she could connect with. 


As a college freshman, she got her foot in the door by interning in New York City. She got various internships in places like the office for international Emmy awards, which helped her gain real-world connections. During her time at at NYU, she even started producing shows of her own in between classes: small scale, school sponsored concerts.


“I’m really interested in work that has a social justice bend or a way to [be] civically engage[d] with the world around us,” Sussman said.


Sussman explains to students to utilize the experiences given by Groves High School and GPAC as stepping stones into the future.
(Erika Rice)


After graduation, she connected with a producer friend and together they created the Indigo Project. This started out as small script reads of various plays where they would give the proceeds to causes that aligned with the themes of whatever play they were reading. But it quickly grew. Being a not-for-profit allowed them to get celebrities to participate in the reads— who doesn’t love helping charity? This only catapulted its success.


“That became my first producing foray,” Sussman said. Everyone wanted to know: what was she going to do next?


She helped to develop a musical theatre festival. After that she decided to do commercials. The Moodsman, complete with music, puppets and very little dialogue, was her first commercial show and her first real experience being in charge.

In 2015, she reconnected with an old close friend and got to talking about how many old classmates were now developing work that they had no way to get seen. People would often come to Sussman and ask, “How can I make it to the next level if nobody is giving me an opportunity?” This was the start of her second entrepreneurial venture: The MITTEN Lab (Michigan Incubator for Theatre Talent Emerging Now). Lots of artists have come from Michigan and left, but Sussman wondered, “How can we bring the artists here?” The MITTEN Lab is a week-long residency program where undiscovered artists are given the time, space and support they need to really focus on and make real strides in their art.


Through her career, Sussman has worked on 5 official Broadway shows, all of which had social justice themes: “What The Constitution Means to Me”, “Prima Facie”, “Parade”, “Just for Us”— and “Suffs”.


When Sussman was at Berkshire Middle School, she did a project on women’s suffrage. However, when she tried to research, she realized how little information there really was out there about the topic. The more she was unable to find the information, the more interested she became. “Why is this being kept from me?” she asked. She had the idea to turn the story of women’s suffrage into a play. When she got older, she finally decided to make this dream a reality. She decided to focus it on the three generations of women it took to achieve and the last seven years leading up to the passage of the seventh amendment, and the internal conflict between women in the movement; people who want the exact same thing but have totally different tactics for how to achieve it. She pitched the idea for the play to her old friend, Shaina Taub. Taub agreed that they just “had to do this” and wrote the script and music, and starred in the production (Taub is only the second woman in history to do this). Additionally, secretary Hillary Clinton and feminist education activist Malala Yousafzai are also co-producers of the play, which previews on Broadway on March 26 and opens in April of this year.


As a producer, you have to do a million different things at once. You’re constantly putting out fires and wearing fifty different hats:  therapist, cheerleader, manager, visionary, et cetera. Even though “Suffs” has yet to open, Sussman is already working on her next project. In the production business, you always have to keep moving. 


“On opening night of your show, you have to be working on your next one,” Sussman said.

Rachel Sussman inspired Groves students, allowing us to understand the possibilities of opportuntines awaiting us in the real world. Through understanding Sussman’s journey to becoming who she is today and watching her thrive in her professional career, she stands to be one of the most accomplished Falcons in the world today. 

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About the Contributors
Samantha Jacobs
Samantha Jacobs, Editor
Junior Samantha Jacobs is an editor for The Groves Scriptor. She has been a staff member on The Scriptor since her freshman year. She hopes to become fluent in Spanish, and is considering journalism as a future career. However, if given the opportunity to do something without failing, she would become a movie producer. She participates in Birmingham Women’s Lacrosse, GPAC musicals and forensic team, and Groves A Capella, and she represents the state of Michigan as a Youth Ambassador for the Tourette Association of America. In her limited spare time, she likes to listen to music, sing, color, watch TV and just hang out!
Erika Rice
Erika Rice, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Sharafeddin-Rice is a senior at Groves High School who plans to attend Northern Michigan University in the fall, where she will study Journalism and History. She is the Copy Editor and an Editor-in-chief (2023-2024) for the Groves Scriptor. Erika hopes to become a documentary filmmaker and nonfiction author, or perhaps the librarian of the state of Michigan, or maybe even both (it’s a long life). When she is not writing, she is also a competitive public speaker and does whatever needs to be done around the Groves Performing Arts Company. She enjoys studying Christian theology and American history and watching movies and television.
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