Suffrage Takes Center Stage In PLAYS FOR WOMEN From Ghostlight Ensemble

Plays for Women! is a co-production with the Driehaus Museum that coincides with March as Women's History Month.

By: Mar. 04, 2024
Suffrage Takes Center Stage In PLAYS FOR WOMEN From Ghostlight Ensemble
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Ghostlight Ensemble returns to the Richard H. Driehaus Museum this week with Plays for Women!: A collection of overlooked suffrage plays.

Though once a vital part of the suffrage movement, these four short works are rarely performed in modern day. Plays for Women! is a co-production with the Driehaus Museum that coincides with March as Women's History Month and is part of Ghostlight's For Your (Re)Consideration series.

"These little-known American and British suffrage plays are excellent examples of thought-provoking and entertaining plays that are still shockingly relevant to our current environment. Encountering these plays - written in the early 20th century - more than a 100 years later, illuminates the issues we are still fighting for, the barriers that still exist and the arguments still used to justify oppression," said director Holly Robison.

Suffrage theatre was a form of dramatic literature which emerged during the suffrage movement in the early 20th century, particularly in Great Britain, but here at home organizations such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) also viewed theater as an effective way to highlight women's issues and spread pro-suffrage sentiment.

Pro-suffrage plays often featured strong female characters who were intelligent and well-informed voters who spent the majority of their time on stage dispelling stereotypes perpetuated by the anti-suffrage movement. The plays themselves were written so as to be more widely performed with no set and few props.

The works which are part of Plays for Women! vary widely in tone, from an incisive social problem play to a farce-like comedy. They are:

  • Something to Vote For by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A short play by the famed American feminist author that follows a women's club meeting whose members must face real-world implications and consequences when women are denied a voice in policy making and government. The play touches on issues of feminism, as well as classism, capitalism and consumerism that are still relevant today. Cast: Maria Burnham as Dr. Strong, Sera Young as Mrs. Carroll, Juliana Zepeda as Mrs. Reedway, Sydney Ray as Mrs. O'Shane, Jessye Mueller as Mr. Arnold, Christine Marie as Mr. Billings and Squeek Rangel as Miss Carrie Turner and Holly Robison as narrator and additional voices.
  • An Anti-Suffragist, or, The Other Side by H.M. Paull: A humous satirical monologue from a privileged young lady who looks to be active in the anti-suffrage movement. She attempts to persuade the audience to her side but in actuality, makes a deeply comical and revealing argument against herself. Cast: Maria Burnham as Chairwoman and Holly Robison as Miss De Lacey.
  • The Mother's Meeting by Mrs. Harlow Phibbs: Another comic monologue, but this one is delivered from a working-class character who pokes holes in the anti-suffrage arguments made by upper and middle-class women of privilege. The woman inadvertently attends an anti-suffrage meeting and recounts how she ultimately makes a resounding speech in favor of suffrage and women's rights. Cast: Squeek Rangel as Mrs. Puckle.
  • Lady Geraldine's Speech by Beatrice Harraden: A comic short play about the troubles of Lady Geraldine, who agrees to give an anti-suffrage speech despite never having contemplated the issue seriously. She seeks out the help of her friend. At the home of this friend Lady Geraldine encounters women of multiple professions that she admires who convince her of the merits of the suffragist movement. Cast: Juliana Zepeda as Lady Geraldine, Jessye Mueller as Dr. Alice, Maria Burnham as Gertrude Silberthwaite, Sydney Ray as Nora Baillie, Christine Marie as Hilda Crowninshield and Sera Young as Nellie Grant.

"These plays are overlooked historical gems that modern audiences will find surprisingly familiar," Robison said.

Tickets

Plays for Women!: A collection of overlooked suffrage plays is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the Nickerson Ballroom at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum (40 East Erie St., Chicago, IL 60611). Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. The reading runs about 90 minutes with an intermission. A brief talkback will follow. Tickets are available through the Driehaus Museum at https://driehausmuseum.org/programs/detail/plays-for-women. Please note that due to ongoing renovations, there is no elevator available to the Nickerson Ballroom.

Plays for Women! Is part of Ghostlight's For Your (Re)Consideration series, which explores the works of historically overlooked female writers. Featuring a variety of distinct voices and styles from different historical periods, the readings seek to bring attention to these remarkable women who have been sidelined by history for reasons that had nothing to do with their talent and everything to do with their gender and, in many cases, their race.

Ghostlight Ensemble

Ghostlight Ensemble is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit theatre whose mission it is to ask questions that challenge the status quo through timeless stories, immersive environments and unconventional staging. As an ensemble-based theatre, Ghostlight is made up of individual artists who are dedicated to collaborative creation and committed to working together consistently over years to develop a distinctive body of work. We welcome you to learn more about us at GhostlightEnsemble.com.




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