Play About Women Suffragettes To Be Held At TNC Theater

"Aunt Susan and Her Tennessee Waltz" by Toby Armour will be presented by Theater for the New City
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Photos: Theater for the New City

NEW YORK -- "Aunt Susan and Her Tennessee Waltz" by Toby Armour will be presented by Theater for the New City (TNC) April 28 to May 15. The play dramatizes the leadership of Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt and Juno Frankie Pearce in the struggle to win the women's right to vote.

Susan B. Anthony spent a lifetime fighting for women's suffrage. Dying in 1906, she could not see the struggle to its end, but she never doubted its outcome. "Failure is impossible" were her famous words. The play's first act is dedicated to her campaigns for women's suffrage in the 19th century. Act Two fast-forwards to a hot sweltering summer in Nashville in 1920. The state legislature is being called into special session. Its vote is crucial. If Tennessee, the 36th state, ratifies the 19th Amendment, it will become law of the land. After 72 years, women will at last have the right to vote. If Tennessee fails, the Amendment will sink into obscurity.

Carrie Chapman Catt, Susan B. Anthony's chosen successor, faces a powerful opposition. The railroad lobby, the liquor lobby and corporate moguls have all come together to use bribery, threats, slander, double dealing, and anything else they can think of against her. Exhausted by the heat, beset by migraines, betrayals, doubts and bad news, Ms. Catt is fighting the battle of her life. But she is not alone. Juno Frankie Pearce, a long-time Tennessee warrior for women’s rights and African-American rights, is on her side. So is a first time legislator in the Tennessee House named Harry Burn--or is he? It all comes down to one vote.

This is their story.

The play was developed at Theater for the New City under the direction of the late George Ferencz between 2014 and 2020. Part of it was presented by TNC as a radio play to celebrate Women's History Month from March 28 to to April 11, 2021. This onstage premiere comes at a time when the sabotage of our voting rights is claiming a place in our national consciousness that rivals its urgency in the 1920s.

The actors are Sam Arthur, Brittyn Dion Bonham, Hadley Boyd (as Carrie Chapman Catt), John Cencio Burgos, Amy Losi, Debra Khan-Bey (as Juno Frankie Pearce), Daniel Wilkes Kelley, Kathleen Moore (as Susan B. Anthony), Walter Petryk, Leslie Renee, Julia Saunders and Mary Sheridan. Set design is by Mark Marcante. Costume designer is Billy Little. Lighting design is by Bruce A! Kraemer. Sound design is by Joy Lin. Props master is Lytza Colon. Composer is Peter Dizzoza. Production stage manager is Leila Wright.

Toby Armour's plays have been presented in NYC, LA, Boston, Denver, elsewhere in the U.S., as well as Scotland, Ireland and London. "Voices from the Black Canyon" won the Lewis National Playwriting Competition. "Fanon's People," which debuted at TNC, won four Dramalog awards when produced at the Fountain Theater in LA. She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Arts Council, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, the Arizona Arts Commission, and the Jerome Foundation. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Her last two plays at TNC, both directed by George Ferencz, were "155 First Avenue" (2012) and "155 Through the Roof" (2014). She is grateful to Crystal Field, the late George Ferencz, Peter Dizozza, Joan Kane and the actors for all their support and wisdom in this production and she is ever grateful to Theater for the New City for its many years of making courageous and exciting theater in New York.

Joan Kane (director) is a playwright, dramaturg, actor and educator. She is the founding Artistic Director of Ego Actus (http://egoactus.com/). She has directed "Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara" by Fengar Gael at HERE, "Play Nice!" by Robin Rice at 59e59 Theaters, "I Know What Boys Want" by Penny Jackson at Theatre Row, "Six Characters in Search of an Author" in Oslo, Norway and "Kafka’s Belinda" in Prague. She was awarded Best Director in the 2016 United Solo Festival and was named to the Indie Theatre Hall of Fame by nytheatre.com.

She graduated from the High School of Performing Arts, studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner and earned an MFA in Directing from The New School and an MS in Museum Education from Bank Street College. She is a member of SDC, DG, NYWITF and LPTW. She thanks Crystal Field and Mark Marcante for their support and their passion for keeping theater alive during the maddening days we are living in. (JoanKane.us)

Peter Dizozza (Musical Settings, Piano) has accompanied plays by Maria Micheles (including "Night Park" at TNC), Leah Maddrie, Myron D. Cohen, Bruce Jay Friedman, Helen Slayton Hughes and Richard Vetere. He has also provided scripts and scores for a wide range of independent "Cinema VII" projects including "A Question of Solitude" and "TentagatneT," an experimental play produced by La MaMa in its Experimenta! 2007 Program. He appeared in 2020-2021 in TNC's weekly "Open 'Tho Shut" walk-by theater productions, which demonstrated the theater's ability to serve its neighborhood culturally during the lockdown.

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