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BWW Review: THE AGITATORS at Iowa Stage: An Amazing Production That Reminds Us How Important It Is To Keep On Fighting

What are you willing to fight for?

BWW Review: THE AGITATORS  at Iowa Stage: An Amazing Production That Reminds Us How Important It Is To Keep On Fighting
Allison Tschetter-Siedschlaw as Susan B. Anthony
Pernell Furguson as Fredrick Douglas
Photo by G. Thomas Furgerson

What is an agitator? The New Oxford American Dictionary describes an agitator as a person who urges others to protest or rebel. In today's heated political climate, we see agitators on both sides of the aisle, some agitating for good and others not. Iowa Stage's production of "The Agitators" by Mat Smart takes a look at two agitators from our history and the struggles they both ensued. While this production was only available for a limited time, it left its audiences with a powerful and thought-provoking play. It left them thinking not only about the differences of the times these two agitators lived in but the similarities to the world we live in now.

"The Agitators" tells the story of two of the most well-known US agitators in history, Fredrick Douglas and Susan B Anthony. It takes the audience through their 45-year friendship. At times we see how powerful their friendship was as they fought for freedoms together. And we see their friendship tested as each of them pushes the freedoms they each were fighting for. Besides fighting for the right to vote, they also discuss what it means to be black or a woman during the civil war. While the play does show how far we have come as a society, it also shows that there is a long way to go as some of the issues they were talking about during the civil war are still issues we are discussing today.

I enjoyed this show because it felt like a group of storytellers coming together to share the story of this friendship. This sense of storytelling is seen in every aspect of this production, thanks to the excellent direction of James Serpento. He ties all the elements together in a very cinematic way. The storytelling continues in the costumes design by Susanna Douthit. I appreciated that both characters had different costumes that changed as they moved forward in time. Filming the show allowed for complete costume change from scene to scene. The lighting by Dakota Sommer and sound by Josh Jepson did a fantastic job at setting the time of day and each scene's setting.

One of the joys I get seeing shows is getting a sense of what an actor's, a director's, or a designer's signature is. Sometimes that signature is something subtle, and other times it is obvious. When you notice their signature, it makes you appreciate their work even more. One of those artists I've noticed what I feel is their signature is Jay Jagrim. The shows I've seen him design has a signature way of telling a story through a very minimalistic set in each of his shows. This show was no different. Doing a minimal set allows the audience to visualize the setting of the show in their minds. It also becomes a unifying piece that ties all aspects of the show together.

Telling a story on stage is not complete until the actors are on stage. This show featured two amazing actors, Pernell Furguson as Fredrick Douglas and Allison Tschetter-Siedschlaw as Susan B. Anthony. From the top of the show, both of these actors pull us into the story of this friendship. I found myself so engrossed in their performances that, at times, it felt as though what I was watching was happening in real-time. They both let the audiences feel the ups and downs of Douglas' and Anthony's friendship as they pushed forward with each of their fights.

Watching this play made me step back and think about what I am willing to fight for and how far I'(M) Willing to fight for it. Both Fredrick Douglas and Susan B Anthony were agitators that kept fighting for everyone to have the right to vote. Each aspect of Iowa Stage's production of Iowa Stages production of "The Agitators" has the audience look at what we need to continue fighting for. While you may not be able to catch this production, you will want to get tickets for Iowa Stage's upcoming production of "Exit Strategy," which will be streaming from June 4-13. To find out more about tickets for "Exit Strategy," visit Exit Strategy | Iowa Stage Theatre Co. | Des Moines, IA

Review was written by DC Felton
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From This Author DC Felton