Milwaukie-based community theater, Molalla resident help bring Abigail Duniway's story to life

A Milwaukie-based community theater group wanted to honor the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. But pandemic restrictions closed both New Century Players venues in 2020, so the nonprofit theater's board decided to stage a play, film it and make free copies of the production available to museums, schools and other organizations.COURTESY PHOTO: SARA MCNAUGHTON - In this production by New Century Players, Abigail Duniway (Elisabeth Goebel) explains to her brother Harvey Scott (Ron Palmblad) why it is so important for women to get the right to vote in Oregon.

NCP received a $2,500 grant from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition to pay costs. Melody Ashford, executive director of Willamette Falls Studios in Oregon City, and her crew filmed the production in August.

"There I Take My Stand," written by Portland author John Richard Trtek, is a portrait of 19th-century women's rights advocate Abigail Scott Duniway and her brother Harvey Scott, longtime editor of The Oregonian. It revolves around the issue of women's suffrage, which divided the two, and features dialogue drawn from the pair's own writings and remarks.

Although the play is set in Oregon in the early 1900s, it is relevant to today's world as voters' rights are still a problem, said Julie Akers, who directed the production. Akers added that voters of color still don't have the same access to polls as white voters. But young people can now largely take their rights for granted because Abigail Duniway spent 40 years of her life fighting for women's right to vote.

"This is an important story about Oregon history," Akers said.

Elisabeth Goebel, managing director of NCP and an Oak Grove resident, played Duniway in the production.

"I admired Abigail's passionate dedication to the cause. She would get right up in her opponent's face and let them know exactly where she stood and what she wanted," she said.

"And women's suffrage was voted down five times in Oregon; it only succeeded on the sixth try (in 1912). This was accomplished by amazing women, who had to convince enough male voters that women's votes should count as much as men's votes do," Goebel added.

Mollala resident Ron Palmblad played the role of Duniway's brother and noted that "bringing an historical figure to life is always a challenge, even more so in this case with so little reference material available."

The production also spoke to him personally, as his great-grandparents emigrated to Oregon about the same time as the Scott family.

He added, "Putting a face to some local landmarks and feeling a kind of connection was very interesting."

Free DVDs of the play are now available to schools, museums and historical societies; individuals who want copies must pay a small shipping and handling fee. The group is also hoping to stage live productions of the play in 2022, if venues become available.

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