THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

Top row, from left: Kat Lozano, Cindee Mayfield, Bwalya Chisanga | Middle row: Caitlin Chapa, Megan Haratine, Leslie Patrick | Lindsay Hayward, Octavia Y. Thomas

Review: ONLINE: It's My Party! | Echo Theatre | ONLINE


Power Play

It's My Party! dramatizes conversation among suffragists in their march toward the 19th Amendment of 1920 in Echo Theatre's live-streaming Zoom reading.  



published Thursday, August 20, 2020

Photo: Echo Theatre
The cast of It's My Party! and the suffragists they play

 

Dallas — It took an army of women decades of struggle and tireless organizing to win the right to vote in America, a law finally ratified in the U.S. Senate on August 18, 1920. New books, documentaries and plays recently published delve into the history and legacy of the heroic suffrage movement in its centennial year.

Echo Theatre's timely contribution to the celebration is a live-streaming reading of It's My Party!, Ann Timmons' play focusing on competing suffrage organizations, and the forceful women controlling them. Earlier suffrage leaders, like Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906, are referred to only briefly. It's 1912, America will soon enter WWI, and hard-working women want the vote. Now.

After a brief welcome by Echo Theatre Artistic Director Kateri Cale, we shift to a Zoom screen divided into separate playing boxes, where we meet the major historical characters, named at the bottom of each box. Director Carson McCain (incoming artistic director for Second Thought Theatre) has costumed the all-female cast in white blouses of various era-evocative styles and cuts. We see characters only in portrait view, so nobody is seen walking, or interfacing with other actors. Remarkably, this impressive cast manages to make us feel they are in the same room together, staring each other down in a cutting argument or laughing with their loving friends during a high-spirited strategy meeting. We see no scripts in this reading, so actors either memorized their lines or adroitly read from an off-screen board. In any case, these women came to be heard!

The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) is headed up by minister and physician Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, played by Cindee Mayfield with arrogant self-assurance, a withering glance and a disdain for enthusiastic behavior. Carrie Chapman Catt, played by a determined Megan Haratine, is Dr. Anna's second-in-command, a shrewdly political woman with an eye to taking over the top job herself. As these two argue with each other and confront other suffragists, it's clear they want the personal glory for winning ratification, and they mean to make that happen by supporting the war and pleading with congress to give women the vote. After all, patriotic females helped bring victory home.

Quaker women's right activist Alice Paul, played with quiet passion and dark-eyed brooding by Kat Lozano, is an inspiration to other young women across the nation, and Alice's magnetic appeal infuriates the old gals. Alice's right-hand gal is Lucy Burns, played by Caitlin Chapa with firebrand energy and comic impatience. These young activists met fighting for women's right to vote in London, and their personal bond is as strong as their political commitment. The two have launched the brand new National Woman's Party (NWP). They take their demands for a national women's right to vote to the streets. Their sexy eagerness to throw their bodies into the fight attracts new members and bigtime funding. Hunger strike? Yes. Go to jail? If need be. Of course, the old guard is put off by these upstart tactics.

The dramatic arc of the play begins with the generational conflict between the two groups and their leaders. We know that both organizations played their part in winning the right to vote, and we clearly see how stylish feminists, like lobbyist Maud Wood Parks (smiling, laid-back Leslie Patrick) helped the cause by personally calling on individual congressmen. Plainspoken Dora Lewis (fretful Lindsay Hayward) also makes her contribution by filling in for Lucy and Alice when they hit bottom and need time to bounce back. It takes a village of wily women to challenge the power structure of a male congress.

Playwright Timmons loads in a lot of history about the issues and strategies of women fighting for their voting rights, and most of this is delivered in believable conversation between the characters. Lozano's Alice has the longest speeches, about what it means to stay in the fight, and why activists must take to the streets to force congress to recognize the power they represent. Still, despite the sometimes-wordy speechifying, Alice wins us to her heartfelt position as she buries her face in her hands, exhausted after a crushing defeat. We see what her dedication cost her, and so many others who worked for the vote.

Occasionally, Timmons' language drops into cliché, as when Dr. Anna says that "it will be a cold day in hell" when she calls a truce with the NWP. Or when practical Dora advises her activist pals to "dial it back." But the characters are more interesting than the occasional anachronism, and we want all these women to taste the victory we know is coming. All together now, "Women united can never be defeated!" Quite a rush — even on a Zoom screen!

Timmons' play also reminds us that black women's suffrage groups were often excluded from mainstream efforts. The Chicago-based African American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, portrayed here by Octavia Y. Thomas with a steely delivery, tells Alice she's had it with white activists "shutting the door to Negro suffragists." In fact, the 19th Amendment allowed 26 million American women to vote in time for the 1920 presidential election, but it did not include African-American women or other women of color (they wouldn’t have this right for another half-century).

When Ida declares, "We deserve to be heard!" her voice rings forward to today's marches and chants. We hear her voice resonate with even greater force in the Black Lives Matter movement that has found its moment.

Echo Theatre is planning a fully staged 2021 production of It's My Party! to be performed for both a live audience and a streaming audience on show nights. Venue and show times will be announced at a later date.

 

» There are two more live readings of It's My Party!, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, and Saturday, Aug. 22. Tickets are $12; order at www.our.show/echotheatreboxofficeThanks For Reading





View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Power Play
It's My Party! dramatizes conversation among suffragists in their march toward the 19th Amendment of 1920 in Echo Theatre's live-streaming Zoom reading.  
by Martha Heimberg

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit