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.

Once more into the Good Fight

I’m just back from Chicago, where I went to attend the first table read of the Babes with Blades production of The Good Fight. It’s a tremendously sharp team, and I can’t wait to see what they create.

I’ve done some rewrites on the script since Theatre Unbound produced it in 2012, largely based on feedback from its presentation at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in 2014, guided by dramaturg Heather Helinsky. Most notably, the show no longer opens with Mrs. Pankhurst’s speech from the dock.
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Scruffy history

Babes With Blades just announced the cast for their 2018 production of The Good Fight. I thought I’d mark the occasion by re-posting an entry I wrote for Theatre Unbound’s production in 2012, about the struggle for women’s rights in the USA.

In the spring of 2000, I was on a solo road trip to upstate New York and noticed an exit for Seneca Falls. Seneca Falls was, of course, the location of the First Women’s Rights Convention in July of 1848. The Convention was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, and Mary Ann M’Clintock, and it culminated in the signing of a “Declaration of Sentiments,” modeled on the Declaration of Independence.

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