Troupe brings iconic suffragette to life
She was a woman of her time. But the story of Lucy Stone, the iconic suffragette and abolitionist and the first woman to graduate from college in the state of Massachusetts, has never been more timely.
Some enterprising theater companies have stepped into the void caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to offer virtual and live-streamed programming that theatergoers can enjoy in the comfort of their own homes.
On Friday, Aug. 21, History At Play™, LLC, marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote, presented “I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone,” a one-woman living history event. “Lucy Stone” is just one of a series of such events that will be presented by the company in upcoming weeks (full schedule and payment plans below).
Stone is portrayed by actress Judith Kalaora, HAP’s artistic director, accompanied by professionally produced period dress, sets, and props. Kalaora is skilled at delving into the personal details, the joys and disappointments that help make the story of Stone compelling and bring it to vivid life.
While she was fighting both to end slavery and give women the vote, Kalaora’s Stone was also a passionate advocate for a women’s right to speak her mind publicly, and before audiences that included both women and (gasp!) men, a scandalous concept in the 19th Century.
Stone was one of nine children of a farmer in West Brookfield, Mass. who liked his hard cider a little too much.
She attended Mt. Holyoke Seminary for one term in 1839, and four years later enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio. where she found her stride. It was billed as a progressive institution; Stone called herself a “born public speaker” and she was later tabbed by others as “the morning star of the suffragette movement.”
But her speeches at Oberlin caused pushback – especially from other women – and caused the female students to retreat to the woods to debate each other. And while Stone was allowed to write a commencement speech, she was not allowed to deliver it. Still, in 1847 she became the first Massachusetts woman to obtain a college degree.
Stone disdained the concept of marriage, because of its imbalance which left women with almost no rights.
But she fell in love with an abolitionist and suffragette supporter named Harry Blackwell especially after he took it on himself to rescue a young Black girl from a life of slavery and led her to the Underground Railroad.Their daughter Alice eventually also became a member of the suffragette movement.
Stone made it a point of pride that she continued to go by her married name against the conventions of the time; hence the title of the piece.
For 45 years – especially after the groundbreaking Seneca Falls convention of 1848 and the subsequent National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1853 – she was an advocate of both women’s rights and the suffragette movement.
There was heartbreak. At one point, two of her sisters died with a year and she had to endure a 20-year period when her suffragette group was split from a group led by two other prominent suffragettes of the era — Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton –before finally coming back together again in pursuit of the common goal. She lived to see the end of slavery but not the ultimate success in getting women the vote.
After the production, Kalaora answered questions first in character s as Lucy Stone and then as herself. The amount of preparation and attention to detail she put into the production was apparent.
There has been other excellent media attention on the centennial of the 19th Amendment, including PBS’ two-part American Experience production “The Vote,” which was released in July and is still available online. WGBH TV selected “I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone” to be streamed online.
With “Lucy Stone,” History at Play and Kalaora have informed us, educated us, and entertained us and in these pandemic times, it is hard to put a price on that.
For more information, go to HistoryAtPlay.com; Facebook: @HistoryAtPlay; Twitter: @HistoryAtPlay; Instagram: HistoryAtPlay.
History at Play upcoming schedule, payment information
HAP, LLC’s weekly Pay-Per-HAP Facebook performances are original productions from the company’s critically acclaimed repertoire, featuring playwright/producer/historian and HAP, LLC Founder, Judith Kalaora.
All performances begin at 7:30 PM ET (GMT-5) at HAP, LLC’s @Pay-Per-HAP VIP Facebook Group:
August 21: I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone
August 28: World War Women: The Unsung Heroines of World War II
Sept 4: CHALLENGER: Soaring with Christa McAuliffe
Sept 11: Victorian Gossip Girl: Annie Adams Fields
Sept 18: Tinseltown Inventor: The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Hedy Lamarr
Sept 25: Featured Guest Artist Presentation: “Charlotte Brontë: To Do More and Better Things“
Payment is requested by 1:30 PM ET (GMT-5), on or before the date of the performance. Payments are accepted on Eventbrite, by Credit/Debit, or by Check (History At Play, P.O. Box 120233, Boston, MA 02112). Please indicate the performance date for which you are paying. After payment is received, request to join the Pay-Per-HAP Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PayperHAP. Admission to the group closes at 1:30 PM ET (GMT-5) on the date of the performance. No late admission. No refunds/date transfers. Must have access to a Facebook account in order to view. To learn more, or to book an in-person, or a LIVESTREAM performance event, visit HistoryAtPlay.com or on Facebook @HistoryAtPlay.