Perseverance

By Callie Kimball    

Directed by Martine Kei Green-Rogers

Stage Management by J. Ching

This production is underwritten by Peggy Moore and Betsy Bradshaw.
Direction is underwritten by Roger Pearce and Julie Benezet.

“The future woman must have a life of work and economic independence. She must have knowledge. She must have the right of motherhood at her own discretion.”
— W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater, 1920

Synopsis

In Perseverance, we meet Perseverance Turner, a Black school teacher, writer, and suffragist, determined to elevate her students above the circumstances in which they were born. One hundred years later, in the same fictional town of Hillcroft, Dawn Davis, a white school teacher, is running for office on a platform of education reform. As the two women’s stories intertwine, the ownership of history takes center stage.

Playwright Perspective

Perseverance was commissioned by Portland Stage and the Maine Suffrage Centennial Collaborative. They wanted to support the creation of a play to commemorate the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Before I accepted the commission, I met the primary donor to make sure the kind of play I wanted to write would meet her expectations. When we sat down, she began talking about intersectionality and under-represented voices, and I knew I was a match for the project.

In my research, I learned that the life of a Black suffragist was one of itinerancy, of creating a livelihood from multiple sources and locations. I had a hard time finding a Black suffragist who lived and worked in Maine on whom to base my main character. I reached out to Dr. Sue Houchins, a professor in Africana and Gender Studies at Bates College, to ask if she knew of any I might have missed. She introduced me to Frances Harper, an abolitionist, prohibitionist, novelist, poet, lecturer, and suffragist; and to Pauline Hopkins, a playwright, novelist, journalist, and historian. Dr. Houchins suggested I create a character inspired by these figures.

As a nod to A Brighter Coming Day by Frances Harper, I created a significant plot element along a very similar line. The plot occurs in two parallel times: 1920 and 2020 in the months leading up to the election. The play was scheduled for its world premiere in September 2020 and felt timely even before the pandemic and George Floyd’s murder. I have updated the play to reflect the reality of life in 2020, and I expect I will continue to do so.

Since the world premiere is indefinitely postponed, I am even more grateful to Kyle, Jackie, Martine, and everyone at ANPF for taking this play on a little walk during such a challenging time for live theatre. My hope is that the play offers both a historical contextualization and a lens through which we can engage with the life-and-death issues that are at the forefront of 2020.

Note

The story, all names, characters, and incidents in this play are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

Who

Characters from 1920
Perseverance “Percy” Turner Aisha Kabia*
“Judge” Elmer Barret O’Brien*
Leland “Moss” Tarker Terrance Smith
Characters in 2020
Dawn Davis Elizabeth Gudenrath*
Cooper “Coop” Davis Todd Sible*
Dilly Kate Mura
Stage directions Danya Torp-Pereda
*Appearing through an Agreement between ANPF and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Where

August through October, 1920 and 2020. The cellar and the kitchen in a forgotten municipal building in the fictional rural town of Hillcroft. Also, the front door of a museum.

 

Play Length: 2:27:00 including a 12 minute intermission

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Playwright Image

Callie Kimball is a past ANPF winner for her play Sofonisba, which was slated to receive its world premiere at the Theater at Monmouth in Maine in summer 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19.

She is an award-winning playwright and teacher as well as an Affiliate Artist at Portland Stage Company, an Affiliate Writer at the Playwrights’ Center, Playwright-in-Residence at Theater at Monmouth, and a former MacDowell Fellow.

Her plays have been produced and developed in New York, Chicago, LA, Washington, DC  (Kennedy Center), Portland Stage Company, Lark Play Development Center, Halcyon Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Greater Boston Stage Company/Stoneham Theatre, Echo Theatre, The Brick Theater, Project Y Theatre, Team Awesome Robot, Washington Shakespeare Company, Everyman Repertory Theatre, Absolute Theatre, Mad Horse Theatre, The Drama League, and many colleges and festivals across the country.

Her themes range from historical dramas and classical adaptations to socio-political comedies and futuristic dystopias, with characters who live at the intersection of language and power–who struggle to break free from the constraints of class, race, gender, and systemic abuse.




Director Image

Martine Kei Green-Rogers, Ph.D., is an educator, director, and dramaturg, with seven seasons working with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This year she was scheduled to serve as dramaturg for OSF’s black odyssey and Bernhardt/ Hamlet.

She is also the president of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA), a proud member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), and an assistant professor at SUNY New Paltz.

Her research interests include violence in African American Theatre, African diaspora theatre, gender and race in American theatre, and issues of sustainability in the theatre.

Her directing credits include: a staged reading of Adopting Aunt Tabitha for the Alley Theatre’s HYPE program, a staged reading of Venus and Adonis for the Classical Theatre Company, Much Ado About Nothing at Kenyon College, The Brothers Size at the Ancram Opera House, and Sender at Denizen Theatre. She is also the stage adaptor of the Jason Reynolds’ book Long Way Down which premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2018.




Elizabeth Gudenrath
Elizabeth Gudenrath
Aisha Kabia
Aisha Kabia
Kate Mura
Kate Mura
Barret O'Brien
Barret O’Brien
Todd Sible
Todd Sible
Terrance Smith
Terrance Smith
Danya Torp-Pereda
Danya Torp-Pereda

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