Photo Flash: Babes With Blades Theatre Company presents THE GOOD FIGHT
Babes With Blades Theatre Company (BWBTC) continues its 20th Anniversary Season: "Origins" with the Chicago premiere of The Good Fight, playing at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., January 6 - February 17, 2018. Developed in 2011 through BWBTC's Fighting Words program under the title Deeds Not Words, the play is written by Anne Bertram, executive director of Theatre Unbound, a Minneapolis/St. Paul company devoted to work by and about women. Elizabeth Lovelady, a Jeff Award-winning artist based in Chicago, directs The Good Fight, which features combat by Fight Choreographer Gaby Labotka. Preview performances are Saturday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 7 at 3 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. Opening Night is Monday, Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. Regular performances are Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Preview tickets are $10, student and senior tickets are $15, early bird general admission (available online through January 15, 2018) are $20 and general admission (after January 15, 2018) are $25. To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit BabesWithBlades.org.
The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, was the primary militant group pushing for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. Under the slogan "Deeds, not words," the WSPU advocated targeting property as a form of protest, from smashing shop windows to burning and bombing buildings. Imprisoned WSPU members - including Pankhurst - launched hunger strikes, which were initially countered by the authorities with force-feeding; later the government introduced the "Cat and Mouse Act," under which starving suffragettes were released, only to be re-imprisoned once regaining their health. To defend their leaders and comrades, the WSPU established "The Bodyguard" - a secret, all-female security team, trained in jujutsu - and the good fight began.
So what do British women from the early 20th century have to say to today's audiences?
"They had to arrive at answers for questions that sound awfully familiar: When is it OK to use violence? What difference does it make if women are in power? If you believe a law is unjust, should you break it?" said Playwright Anne Bertram. "It's also good to remind ourselves about the price these women paid to secure women's voting rights. They were imprisoned, tortured, force-fed. Some died." Adds Director Elizabeth Lovelady, "The US has plenty of problems, but we have so many rights and comforts that women in other parts of the world don't enjoy. During our auditions, as an example of how 'this is still happening,' I frequently referenced the fact that women in Saudi Arabia aren't allowed to drive. But since our auditions took place, the law has changed - and the change was largely influenced by women who broke the law and drove, and posted videos of it online. I think there's a lesson there, that you have to resist, but you also have to publicize your resistance to really influence a change. And that's a thing the women in this play do really well."
Lovelady continues, "Lately there's so much discussion of white feminism (meaning white women who only care about moving themselves forward and don't recognize or try to address the unique issues that women of color face), which has been an issue with feminism since the get-go. So one way that I'm trying to bring this play out of the "history" department and into the "now" department is by casting a diverse array of women. To be clear, it's still set in the original time period, but we are populating the play with a group of women who don't look like you would expect. Instead they look like the people you'd ride the el with, making it speak more to the present. I hope that including women of color in this production will be a reminder that we are all in this together. And her rights are my rights. And if she's oppressed, we all need to stand up and fight."
The cast of The Good Fight includes Scottie Caldwell, "Gertrude Harding;" Elisabeth Del Toro, "Mary;" Alison Dornheggen*, "Christabel Pankhurst/Edith Garrud;" Delia Ford*, "Harriet Kerr;" David Kaplinsky, "Mr. Dickinson/Charlie/Inspector McBrien/Constable;" Jean Marie Koon, "Emmeline Pankhurst;" Jillian Leff, "Cicely;" Arielle Leverett, "Grace Roe;" C. Jaye Miller, "Hilda;" Taylor Raye, "Emily Wilding Davison/Wardess;" Joseff Stevenson, "Home Secretary McKenna/Constable/Inspector Gray/Jujutsu Demonstrator" and Richard Traub, "Mr. Hunt/Bill/Constable/Prison Guard" with Tina Arfaee and Catherine Dvorak*, understudies.
The production team for The Good Fight includes Anne Bertram, Playwright and Elizabeth Lovelady, Director with Samantha Barr, Production Manager; Lauren Brady, Assistant Stage Manager; Kenya Hall, Dramaturg; Rose Hamill, Stage Manager; Carrie Hardin, Dialect Coach; Gaby Labotka, Fight Choreography; Kimberly G. Morris*, Costume Design; Patrick O'Brien, Sound Design; Rachel Rauscher, Scenic Design; Julia Skeggs, Assistant Director; Arielle Valene, Properties Design and Becca Venable, Lighting Design, Technical Director.
*denotes BWBTC ensemble member
The suffragettes of the Womenâ€™s Social and Political Union. L to R: Harriet Kerr (Delia Ford), Hilda (C. Jaye Miller), Grace Roe (Arielle Leverett), Gertrude (Scottie Caldwell), Mary (Elisabeth Del Toro), Cicely (Jillian Leff) in Babes With Blades Theatre Companyâ€™s THE GOOD FIGHT
Harriet Kerr breaks with the Womenâ€™s Social and Political Union. L to R: Harriet Kerr (Delia Ford), Mrs. Pankhurst (Jean Marie Koon), Grace Roe (Arielle Leverett), Gertrude (Scottie Caldwell) in Babes With Blades Theatre Companyâ€™s THE GOOD FIGHT
Hilda fires a gun to drive back the arresting officers at Emmeline Pankhurst's Glasgow speech. L to R: Gertrude (Scottie Caldwell), Grace Roe (Arielle Leverett), Mrs. Pankhurst (Jean Marie Koon), Inspector Gray (Joseff Stevenson), Mary (Elisabeth Del Toro), Hilda (C. Jaye Miller), Cicely (Jillian Leff), Constable (David Kaplinsky) in Babes With Blades Theatre Companyâ€™s THE GOOD FIGHT
Hilda (C. Jaye Miller) is restrained by a Constable (Richard Traub) in Babes With Blades Theatre Companyâ€™s THE GOOD FIGHT
Inspector McBrien removes Grace Roe as an obstacle.(L to R): Gertrude (Scottie Caldwell), Mrs. Pankhurst (Jean Marie Koon), Inspector McBrien (David Kaplinsky), Grace Roe (Arielle Leverett) in Babes With Blades Theatre Companyâ€™s THE GOOD FIGHT
Grace Roe attempts to defend Emmeline Pankhurst from arrest. (L to R): Constable (Richard Traub), Constable (Joseff Stevenson), Gertrude (Scottie Caldwell), Mrs. Pankhurst (Jean Marie Koon), Grace Roe (Arielle Leverett), Inspector McBrien (David Kaplinsky), Harriet Kerr (Delia Ford) in Babes With Blades Theatre Companyâ€™s THE GOOD FIGHT
Seeking guidance, Emily Wilding Davison (Taylor Raye) visits a recuperating Emmeline Pankhurst (Jean Marie Koon) in Babes With Blades Theatre Companyâ€™s THE GOOD FIGHT