From start to finish, Scenes from Historic Women Playwrights: Read by Luminaries of the Stage was an extraordinary, inspiring and beautiful night!!!
After a lovely dinner, I walked into the theatre and was met with a nearly full house! And by nearly, I believe there were eight or night empty seats and those quickly filled as I made my way to the front row. Joan Wages, Director of the National Women's History Museum (NWHM), gave the Welcome Remarks. One story she shared particularly stood out. In 1921, the Suffragist Statue, which honors the contributions and efforts of suffragist pioneers Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony was dedicated in the Capitol Rotunda. The very next day the all male Congress moved it downstairs into a storage closet. As a founding board member of NWHM, she made it her mission to raise the money and pass legislation to move the Suffrage Statue into the Rotunda where it now stands. (Hearing this story was uncanny, because a few hours earlier I was at the Capitol on a tour with my campers. I'm happy to report that the Suffragists Statue is a featured highlight.)
Next, Jill Dolan introduced the cast and set the tone for the evening by sharing the Notes from the Director Joan Vail Thorne:
"The impetus for this event grew out of my enduring respect for the great women playwrights of the past and my increasing awareness of the possibility that the current disparity between the production of men’s and women’s plays might have something to do with the terrible neglect women’s plays of the past has suffered. The scenes selected for this program were chosen from plays that should occupy a significant place in the consciousness of all informed theatre persons, most of which have been largely forgotten. How many of us know that in the first two decades of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama four of the prizes were won by women?
All of the scenes were, of course, written by women; all the characters in them are women; and all of them will be read by women. There is no hidden agenda in the selection or arrangement of the plays, only the desire to display them in their infinite variety of content and style. The casting will be color-blind and age-blind, and the actors – Kathleen Chalfant, Maryann Plunkett and Tamara Tunie - are, as you know, entirely capable of infinite variety of their own. The styles of the plays range from romantic comedy to searing realism, from high melodrama to pure farce, but what is common to them all is their excellence and humanity. The objective of the evening is meant to be, not a lament for the past or a complaint about the present, but a celebration of the excellence, humanity and appeal of plays of the past written by women."
It was that and then some! The performances were captivating and illuminating. Selections included scenes from the powerful and dynamics works of celebrated playwrights Zoe Akins (THE OLD MAID), Jane Bowles (IN THE SUMMER HOUSE), Alice Childress (TROUBLE IN MIND), Rachel Crothers (THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A WOMAN), Fay Kanin (GOODBYE MY FANCY), Angelina W. Grimke (RACHEL), Lillian Hellman (THE LITTLE FOXES), Georgia Douglas Johnson (PLUMES), and (SO HELP ME GOD) Maurine Watkins. The stories were rich, poignant and relevant. We were even treated to encore scene from HARVEY by Mary Chase. It was perfection!
I dipped in and out of so many conversations that began with "How is it I've never heard of so many of these plays and playwrights?" Followed by "We have so many powerful actresses in this town, can you imagine them in some of these roles? And ended with "Well, now it's our turn. What's the next step?"
So, what do you say DC Theater community? What's next?
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!