In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Artemisia: A Chicago Theatre presents “The Suffrage Plays” featuring George Bernard Shaw’s “Press Cuttings” and Evelyn Glover’s “A Chat With Mrs. Chicky” and “Miss Appleyard’s Awakening.”
During the early 1900s, these one-act comedies presented familiar everyday situations with relatable characters that exposed the double standards women faced. By focusing on voting rights for women, the plays helped the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Great Britain and the US.
In other words, art not only imitated life, but inspired it. As such, Rebellious was inspired to talk to the shows’ director Beth Wolf.
Janet Arvia: What can attendees expect from an evening of pro-suffrage one-acts?
Beth Wolf: First and foremost, I want people to know that they are not coming to a boring history lesson—in fact, they should expect a hilarious and entertaining evening with actors who are at the top of their craft! They can also expect a lot of food for thought as the characters argue their way through opposing political viewpoints on suffrage and other political issues. In shining a light on the history of the suffrage movement, these plays invite us to think critically about the importance of One Person, One Vote. With America preparing for what is arguably the most important election in a generation, it is so important for us to champion the right for every person’s voice to be heard.
Dramaturg Lindsay Tornquist supplied research for the production. How can today’s audiences benefit from an education on women’s rights, or lack thereof?
Only by learning about our history can we hope to move forward without repeating the mistakes of the past. As far as women’s rights have advanced since the suffrage movement, both in the UK and the US, it is still true that women and other minorities frequently experience discrimination and unequal treatment. What I found shocking about these plays when I first read them was how modern they seem, despite their historical context. Reminding ourselves and our audiences through these plays that we still have a long way to go is a powerful message and motivation to continue to fight for equal rights.
You pulled together actors from different theater groups. What are the advantages of doing this?
Bringing together a diverse group of actors with varying personal and theatrical backgrounds creates an exciting rehearsal room in which to work—we all learn from each other and have the opportunity to deepen the stories we are telling thanks to the diversity of experiences in the room.
How can comedy inform people about serious issues?
No one wants to attend the theater to sit through a dry history lesson! But if you can make someone laugh, you can make someone think.
“The Suffrage Plays” perform at Chicago’s Den Theatre through Nov. 24. Artemisia provides post-show discussions on the Women’s Suffrage Movement. For tickets and more information, visit artemisiatheatre.org.
Image: Ross Frawley and Brittani Yawn in “Press Cuttings,” courtesy of Artemisia. Photo by Heather Mall.