Notes from #WHN2018

Hard to choose a manageable number of snippets to share from the inspiring, info-packed Women’s History Network 2018 conference at the University of Portsmouth last week. Here are a few with obvious connections to my work and/or Theatre Unbound’s:

  • The image above is from Victoria Iglikowski’s talk “RAIDED! What items seized in government raids can tell us about the Women’s Social and Political Union.” Ms. Iglikowski is from the UK National Archives, which owns the police records of the April 1913 raid on the WSPU offices in Lincoln’s Inn House. The Good Fight opens with this raid, so I was very eager to hear the talk. Not only did the police have the department listing, with the locations of each department and its employees, they also seized a bag of hammers, which was near the desk of office manager Harriet Kerr. The hammer handles were inscribed “WSPU” and were clearly intended for breaking windows. The police asked Miss Kerr what the hammers were for. She remarked that many of the WSPU employees were interested in home repair. Not only is this an excellent comeback, it’s evidence that the real Miss Kerr was something of a smart aleck, which pleases me, since my rendition of Miss Kerr is definitely a smart aleck.
  • Katharine Cockin’s talk “Edith Craig (1869-1947): Directing the Theatres of War for Women’s Suffrage” gave an overview of Craig’s career as well as information about the organizational nature of the Pioneer Players, which staged suffrage dramas. Prof. Cockin’s slide deck included a photo of Craig with playwright Christopher St. John. Theatre Unbound produced St. John’s translation of Hrotsvitha’s Dulcitius in 2005, but I had never seen a photo of her. I’m not sure, in fact, that I knew she was a woman at the time we produced the script. Seeing the photo gave me an extra surge of gratitude for the many women who have worked hard to preserve and disseminate the work of women artists.
  • I gave in to my fangirl impulses and asked for a selfie with Elizabeth Crawford, author of The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Her entry on Grace Roe cemented my interest in Roe as a pivotal character. The entry ends with a quote from Roe: “Christabel was the apple of my eye.” Oh, my heart.

    AB with Elizabeth Crawford
    AB with Elizabeth Crawford

Talking the Good Fight

Tomorrow I head to Portsmouth, England to attend the 27th Annual Women’s History Network Conference. 2018 is the centenary of the granting of the Parliamentary vote to some categories of women in Britain. I’ll be giving a paper called “Women Cannot Fight, Therefore Women Cannot Vote: Staging the Suffragette Bodyguard,” describing the development of The Good Fight. The keynote speakers for the conference, June Purvis and Elizabeth Crawford, wrote two of the books I relied on heavily for the play. I feel a little bit like a fangirl.

No, YOU’RE upside down

Prepping for a meeting on the “History of Calculus” project, I was happy to learn that this old series of instructional physics films is available online. The “Frames of Reference” episode (below) is a classic, managing to engage its audience without pandering. If we can do something similar with “History of Calculus” I will be extremely pleased.

Frames of Reference : Richard Leacock : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

This PSSC film utilizes a fascinating set consisting of a rotating table and furniture occupying surprisingly unpredictable spots within the viewing area. The…

the problem of other minds

The Last Game: Talked with Heather H. about the latest draft. At her request, I added some dialog at the very beginning between 23 and 24, giving a swatch of their relationship up to this catastrophic day. Writing it felt very much against the grain, though I can see now that it’s useful. The conversation with Heather reminded me that the things that I feel are obvious and can go without saying are not automatically obvious to others, and are sometimes interesting for others to hear.

Murderess: Trimmed down the Jane Toppan monologue for Laura Wiebers to perform at Theatre Unbound’s Season Announcement Party on the 28th. Haven’t visited that material for many years; found lots of little bits to prune away. Normally, when cutting, I try not to cut stuff from within a section because I don’t want the actor to have to re-memorize picky little changes. But it’s been long enough since Laura performed this piece that I hope the interstitial revisions won’t throw her for a loop.

worse and last

For Worse: Met with Miriam and Sadie to discuss ideas for the set. Sadie has good leads on office chairs we can get for free, which she can turn into a row of airline seats, because she’s awesome. Miriam suggests having a whiteboard for Michelle to write on, making two monologues I’ve written this summer in which a woman writes on a white- or chalkboard. Photos from the aquarium look like they won’t work for the season brochure and print materials.

The Last Game: Set an appointment with Heather H. to talk about the latest draft.

to-do list

The Last Game: Talked with Heather H. about her observations of/suggestions for the script. Among other thoughts, she raises the idea of a second act set some decades into the future. This doesn’t click for me; though it’s difficult to pick apart how much it fails to click on its own merits, and how much it fails to click because long, long ago, I got very tired of one faction of my writing group persistently trying to tack a second act onto Liability. In any case, Heather spots many places where payoffs can be added or enhanced, and the path ahead seems clear.

Mother Antonia: Finished a new draft just in time for reading #2, with an audience including not only the Alumnae Relations & Marketing/Communications staff but also a Sister of St. Joseph and Prof. Mary Ann Brenden, who has made a study of Mother Antonia and the Our Lady of Victory chapel she caused to be built. Stacey takes actor Megan Campbell Lagas, director Anya Kremenetsky and me to go look at the ballroom where the play will be performed. Anya has the idea of including a chalkboard with, written on it, the name of the putative class in which M. Antonia is administering her pop quiz, along with M. Antonia’s name, to set the scene.

a gift

Mother Antonia: Interviewed M. Antonia’s niece. I felt presumptuous calling on her; but she was quite forthright and willing to talk about her aunt. When I asked her what she would like people to remember about M. Antonia, she told me about the time she (the niece) was baptismal sponsor for a friend who was converting to Catholicism. Just as they were getting ready to go into the church, a car pulled up, and out came M. Antonia, despite having recently suffered a stroke. “I wouldn’t miss this,” she said. “Today, she is without sin.” Formidable as she was, she was also the kind of aunt who showed up for her niece’s important occasions, and there is something very dear about that.

I also (I think) got a little taste of what may be a family aptitude for managing time, in that when she was done talking to me, M. Antonia’s niece said, “I think that’s all I have.” Polite but clear and firm: dismissed.

my specs, Ralph

It’s All Good: Met with Stacey to talk about Lord of the Flies, which her character will be teaching to a group of 7th graders. She sympathized with Simon, when she was reading the book in 7th grade. (I sympathized with Piggy, natch.)

I need to figure out a title for the Fringe show as a whole. “It’s All Good” is the title of the first monologue only.