Pictured: Kim Blanck, Sophia Ramos, Katie Thompson, Anastacia McCleskey, Jackie Hoffman, Grace Slear and Jessie Shelton. Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

PHILADELPHIA THEATRE COMPANY (Taibi Magar and Tyler Dobrowsky, Artistic Directors) is excited to bring the theatre season alive with a world premiere rock musical about the radical history of the tattooed ladies. The Tattooed Lady is a new musical by Obie Award-winning playwright Erin Courtney (Map of Virtue), Lortel-winner Max Vernon (KPOP on Broadway, The View Upstairs), developed and directed by Drama League-winner Ellie Heyman (Space Dogs) and choreographed by Mayte Natalio (How to Dance in Ohio). The musical stars Emmy-nominee and Obie Award-winner Jackie Hoffman (Hairspray, “Feud,” “Only Murders in the Building”) as sideshow luminary Ida Gibson, as well as Kim Blanck (Octet), James Dybas (Pacific Overtures), Ashley Pérez Flanagan (The Great Comet of 1812), Anastacia McCleskey (Caroline, or Change), Jessie Shelton (Hadestown), Katie Thompson (Oklahoma!), Grace Slear (Jagged Little Pill), Sophia Ramos (Party People), and introducing Maya Lagerstam. The Tattooed Lady runs October 29 to November 20, with opening night set to coincide with the Philadelphia Theatre Company Gala on Friday, November 4 at 8:00 PM. During the show run, look for special events, the Ink Industry Night, tattoo-themed art experiences, talk-backs with local experts, themed cocktails and much more. Tickets cost $25-$40 during previews and $35-$74 after opening. All shows are performed at PTC’s home at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146. Tickets and more information are available online at, on the phone at 215-985-0420, or in person during box office hours. “We are incredibly excited to open our first season as PTC’s new artistic directors with this vibrant, thrilling new musical from some of the best theatre-makers in the country,” said Magar. “The Tattooed Lady is the perfect bridge from Paige Price’s successful tenure at PTC to what we hope will be a bold new future.”


The world premiere of The Tattooed Lady has been five years in the making. The musical was developed with support from the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, the Kimmel Center, National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. Major support for The Tattooed Lady has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s Frank Young Fund for New Musicals. For Paige Price (the former Producing Artistic Director of PTC who commissioned the work), The Tattooed Lady represents a new path forward for theatre in Philly. “In this day and age, theatres can no longer afford to play it safe.” 


For the creators, seeing the show debut on stage is very personal. Vernon was bullied growing up and spent a good deal of time internalizing a lot of hate from strangers and feeling out of place. They used discoveries from their youth to create this story. “For my own survival, I sought out stories of those who similarly didn’t fit in, who fought to live their truth and changed the world in doing so,” said Vernon. “I have some very formative early memories of making my dad take me to the Coney Island freak show. I loved the wild stories, the sense of danger, the disruption of ‘normality.’” 


“I became most interested in The Tattooed Lady, because it was an act that was all about self-actualization,” they added. “Unlike other freaks who were essentially exploited for deformities or medical conditions, the Tattooed Ladies intentionally chose their otherness—by tattooing themselves they renounced respectable society, but gained a new kind of autonomy. I think a lot about the physical dangers of visibility vs. emotional harm of invisibility. I wanted to tell a story about the freak show that wasn’t sanitized or Disneyfied for a musical theatre audience.” 


Co-writer Erin Courtney, who herself is covered in over a dozen tattoos, also felt a soul connection to the material. “As a great fan of tattoos and female centered narratives, I immediately said yes to imagining a musical about these courageous, creative women who changed the American cultural landscape by refusing to accept the traditional path.  Some of the characters in the musical are very loosely based on actual women, Nora Hildebrandt and Maud Wagner. Our main character, Ida (Imagena) Gibson is a fictional creation. Through the years of imagining, writing, revising, we found one theme essential to the narrative: ‘It’s better to be odd than ordinary.’”


A musical the creators thought might be impossible to stage has now come to life at PTC. “There is a huge amount of care and thought that has gone into getting the storytelling right and doing the history of the Tattooed Ladies justice,” added Vernon. “With PTC’s support, we were able to engage with designers earlier on in our process to think about how one theatricalizes tattoos, as well as having countless readings and workshops to refine the book and score.”


As artists, they see the importance of telling this story now. “The lives of three main tattooed ladies in our musical intersect with historical waves of progress around women’s rights and the unfortunate backlash that follows,” said Courtney. “Ellie Heyman found this Rebecca Solnit quote ‘Courage is contagious’ and that has been a guiding principle for us. It’s scary to stand up for what you believe in but when we witness others do it, we feel able to do it as well. My favorite song in the show is ‘Torchlight’ which is a lullaby about living through difficult, oppressive times with the knowledge that the next generation will continue the sometimes slow but important progress of positive change.” The artists want audiences to get ready for a wild ride and to get ready to be immersed into another world.


The Tattooed Lady is a full course meal,” said Vernon. “The show is wild, provocative, hilarious, and entertaining in the way any trip to the freak show should be…But underneath our tattooed surface, this is truly a musical about liberation and loving yourself even when it’s really really hard.”


Heyman is the Director and Co-Creator. Natalio is the Choreographer. Rodney Bush is the Music Director (Eva Noblezada, Carmen Cusak and Jay Armstrong Johnson). Lex Liang (Principal of LDC Design Associates, over 100 Int’l/Nat’l Tours/NYC/Off-B’way productions) is the Scenic and Costume Designer. Mary Ellen Stebbins (Space Dogs) is the Lighting Designer. Nevin Steinberg (Hadestown (TONY Award), Hamilton, and PTC’s Nerds) is the Sound Designer. Jason Hayes (Spring Awakening, Blithe Spirit, 13 The Musical, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular) is the Wig and Hair Designer. Trey Lyford (rainpan 43 and The Civilians) is the Magic Consultant. Chelsea Pace (A Strange Loop and Leopoldstadt) is the Intimacy Coordinator. Adam John Hunter (Mrs. Doubtfire) is the Stage Manager. Sarah Lunnie (What The Constitution Means to Me and Grand Horizons) is the Dramaturg. Former PTC Producing Artistic Director Paige Price is the Creative Producer of The Tattooed Lady.


For The Tattooed Lady, Philadelphia Theatre Company is also not just presenting a show on the stage, but a whole immersive experience for audiences. On November 2, there will be a special Ink Industry Night featuring Kristel Oreto. Oreto is the owner of Now and Forever Tattoo Collective,  a Philly-based tattoo collective curated for women, non-binary and trans artists. She will curate activities that include temporary tattoos as well as showcase tattoo-themed art inside the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. There will also be Tattoo Lady-themed cocktails and snacks available. The night aims to bring together younger theatre and arts patrons, social media influencers and members of the tri-state tattoo community. Additionally, Oreto will join PTC’s new Artistic Directors Taibi Magar and Tyler Dobrowsky for post-performance talk-backs on November 6 and November 13. 


The Tattooed Lady runs October 29 to November 20, 2022. Tickets cost $25-$40 during previews and $35-$74 after opening, plus a $6 per ticket processing fee. Tickets and more information are available online at, on the phone at 215-985-0420, or in person during box office hours. Connect with Philadelphia Theatre Company for the latest updates on social at @philatheatreco on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and @philatheatre on TikTok. 

Pictured: Grace Slear, Jackie Hoffman, Sophia Ramos, Katie Thompson, Anastacia McCleskey, and Kim Blanck. Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Pictured: Jackie Hoffman and James Dybas. Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Erin Courtney (Book) is a New York based playwright. Her play, A Map of Virtue, was awarded an Obie and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Theater. Her play I Will Be Gone, premiered at the Humana Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville. She has written two operas with Elizabeth Swados: The Nomad and Kaspar Hauser, both commissioned and produced by The Flea Theater. Her other plays, produced by Clubbed Thumb, include Alice the Magnet, directed by Pam MacKinnon, and Demon Baby, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll. She is an affiliated artist with Clubbed Thumb, a member of the Obie Award winning playwrights collective, 13P, as well as the co-founder of the Brooklyn Writers Space.


Max Vernon (Book, Music, Lyrics & Orchestrations) is a musical theatre writer, whose works include The View UpStairs, KPOP (opening on Broadway this November!), The Tattooed Lady, and Show & Tell. They are a three-time Drama Desk nominee, Out100 Honoree, two-time MacDowell Fellow, Dramatist Guild Fellow, and recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Jonathan Larson Grant, Pew Arts and Culture Grant, and New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship, among others. They have also written work for Audible, Disney, Virgin Group, and Tyra Banks. Notable concerts include Joe’s Pub, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. They earned an MFA from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. IG: @frauleinsallybowels


Ellie Heyman (Director) is a director of theatre and film. She won the Drama League Award for Outstanding Production in 2021 and has been nominated for Drama Desk, Lortel, Bessie and PGA Awards. Her piece, The Great Work Begins, featuring Glenn Close, Laura Linney, and Brian Tyree Henry, was named “Best of 2020” in The New York Times and New York Magazine


Mayte Natalio (Choreographer) Her recent credits include How to Dance in Ohio (Syracuse Stage, La Hora Santa, which she wrote, directed and choreographed for Ars Nova’s Vision Residency and Kiss My Aztec at Hartford Stage. She was the Associate Choreographer for the Broadway run of For Colored Girls….


Rodney Bush (Music Director) is a New York City-based music director, conductor, and orchestrator. He music directs and arranges for Jay Armstrong Johnson, Nick Adams, Claybourne Elder, Eva Noblezada, and Carmen Cusack.


Jackie Hoffman (Ida Gibson) was most recently seen in Fairycakes Off-Broadway and as Uma Heller on Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building.” She appeared on Broadway in Hairspray, Xanadu, The Addams Family, and On the Town. She won an Obie Award for David and Amy Sedaris’s play, The Book of Liz. Hoffman was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Critics’ Choice Television Award for her role as Mamacita in the miniseries “Feud.”


Maya Lagerstam (Joy Gibson) recently finished at NYSAF and Williamstown Theater Festival performing in Most Happy in Concert, directed by Daniel Fish. Prior to that she wrapped the movie musical 1660 Vine directed by Patricia McGregor and choreographed by Paula Abdul.


Ashley Pérez Flanagan (Imagena Gibson) appeared on Broadway in Freestyle Love Supreme and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. She was also in the recent productions Oratorio for Living Things and The Lucky Ones at Ars Nova. 


Katie Thompson (Nora Hildebrandt) was last seen on Broadway as Aunt Eller in Daniel Fish’s Oklahoma!, the world premiere of Renascence by Carmel Dean and Dick Scanlan, and R.R.R.E.D. a Secret Musical, which she composed. She also appeared as The Witch in the world premiere of Big Fish by Andrew Lippa.  


James Dybas (Bob Baxter) has been featured in eight original Broadway shows, in regional theatres throughout the country, on TV, and in film. Some of his credits include Pacific Overtures, Romeo and Juliet, Carousel, Barnum, The King and I, That Championship Season and To Kill A Mockingbird among many others.  


Kim Blanck (Maud Wagner) originated the role of Karly in the World Premiere of Dave Malloy’s Octet at the Signature Theatre in 2019 and reprised her performance this spring at Berkeley Rep. Other New York and regional credits include Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s Alice by Heart (MCC), Shaina Taub’s musical adaptation of Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Park), and Dave Malloy’s Moby-Dick (A.R.T.). 


Jessie Shelton (La Belle Irene) was in  the original Broadway cast of Hadestown. Other recent credits include the First National Tour of Waitress and Futurity at Soho Rep and Ars Nova.


Anastacia McCleskey (Trixie Richardson) was most recently seen as Dotty in Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Caroline, or Change and Celie in The Muny’s The Color Purple. She also played Perkins, Sophie, and Mrs. Greer in Annie Live on NBC. 


Grace Slear (Lady Viola) recently made their Broadway debut in Jagged Little Pill. Other recent credits include: Urleen in Kennedy Center’s Footloose directed by Walter Bobbie and the Stephen Brackett led New York workshop of Reefer Madness.


Sophia Ramos (Jean Carroll) is a vocalist who was a member of the NYC hard rock band Sophia’s Toy. Named “Best Undiscovered Artist” by VH1, she has collaborated with the likes of Metallica’s Jason Newstead, Psychotica, and Joey Ramone, and performed as vocalist with an incredible variety of artists, including Government Mule, Mary J. Blige, Rod Stewart, Jennifer Hudson, and Jefferson Starship.


Lex Liang (Scenic and Costume Designer) is the founder and principal of LDC Design Associates, an experiential event design and production company in NYC. He has designed over 100 Broadway, Off-Broadway and Regional productions.


Mary Ellen Stebbins (Lighting Designer) is a Visiting Professor of Lighting Design at Carnegie Mellon. She was the Lighting Designer for the off-Broadway Space Dogs directed by Heyman.  


Nevin Steinberg (Sound Designer) previously designed PTC’s Nerds. He is an award-winning Broadway sound designer who has designed Tina: The Tina Turner Musical (Tony nomination), Hadestown (Tony Award), Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Freestyle Love Supreme, The Cher Show, and more.


Jason Hayes (Wig and Hair Designer) His past credits include: Casa Valentina, The Realistic Joneses, Spring Awakening, Blithe Spirit, 13 The Musical, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for 10 years. 


Trey Lyford (Magic Consultant) is a Philadelphia theatre artist and the co-Artistic Director of rainpan 43 and an Associate Artist with The Civilians. 


Chelsea Pace (Intimacy Coordinator) Her theatre work includes the Broadway productions of A Strange Loop and Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt. Her recent intimacy coordination work for TV and film includes “A League of Their Own,” “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” “The Best Man: The Final Chapters,” The Tender Bar, and seasons one and two of “Harlem.”


Adam John Hunter (Stage Manager) has several Broadway credits, including the recent musical Mrs. Doubtfire.


Sarah Lunnie (Dramaturg) is the Senior Dramaturg at the Public Theater. She has worked on many productions including the Broadway productions of Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me, Bess Wohl’s Grand Horizons, and Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 and Hillary and Clinton. 


Paige Price (Creative Producer) is a NYC-based producer, director and arts leader.  After artistic director stints at Philadelphia Theatre Company and Theatre Aspen, she launched her new company Paige Price Productions in 2022, to develop and produce work for the commercial and non profit theatre.



Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) is a leading regional theater company that produces, develops, and presents entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience. Founded in 1974, Philadelphia Theatre Company has presented 203 World and Philadelphia premieres. More than 50 percent of PTC’s world premieres have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. In 2007, PTC was instrumental in expanding Philadelphia’s thriving cultural corridor by opening the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts. PTC recently announced Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters as the winner of its 2022 Terrence McNally Award. She joins prior recipient Donja R. Love as the second playwright to receive the Award that PTC revived in 2021 to focus on Philadelphia writers. 

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