Milwaukie community theater presents 'There I Take My Stand'
New Century Players will celebrate Women's Equality Day at 1 p.m. on Aug. 26 with a staged reading of "There I Take My Stand" at the Milwaukie Community Center.
The date is significant because on Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, granting women the right to vote; in 1973, Congress declared that date to be Women's Equality Day.
The play is a portrait of 19th-century women's rights advocate Abigail Scott Duniway and her brother Harvey Scott, longtime editor of The Oregonian. The play revolves around the issue of women's suffrage, which divided the two, and features dialogue drawn from the pair's own writings and remarks.
The play was written by Portland author John Richard Trtek and directed by Julie Akers. Elisabeth Goebel, managing director of NCP, plays Duniway in the production, and NCP Board member Ron K. Palmblad plays Duniway's brother.
"Abigail Duniway's story is inspirational. She was an activist for her entire life, devoting large parts of her time to making sure women were allowed to vote in Oregon," Akers said.
"Many are not aware of this important woman's story and they should be. She was Oregon's leading suffragette, a fighter who got things done," Akers added.
Duniway's quest for women's rights was not an easy one, as Oregon has the dubious distinction of placing the question of votes for women on the ballot six times — in 1884, 1900, 1906, 1908, 1910 and 1912 — more than any other state.
"Against many obstacles, she achieved this goal, finally, in her 70s," Akers said.
Although events in the play take place in the late 1880s to 1912, the message is still relevant to today's audiences, Akers said.
"We still have not solved the question of equality in voting. In a democracy, all people should have the right to vote with ease," she said.
"However, for many, roadblocks have been put in the way, and gerrymandering has created unfair advantages for one party. Clearly, there is much more work to be done."
The play also revolves around rivalry between Duniway and her brother.
"This relationship feels similar to the split between the right and left in today's America," Akers said.
"Finally, the fact that Roe v Wade has been overturned in the past few months, means women's rights are not a given," she said, adding that she recently overheard a political candidate from Arizona saying that women's right to vote should be revoked.
Akers noted that "There I Take My Stand" had a short run as a fully staged play a year ago, and was also videotaped by Willamette Falls Studios in Oregon City. Copies of the performance will be available at the staged reading.
Akers directed both the play and the filming, and noted that directing a staged reading is very different from directing a play.
"The emphasis in the staged reading is only on the words and on character development. The blocking, or actors' movement in the play, and actors' business with props, furniture and set design, are not a part of a staged reading," she noted.
While playing Duniway, Goebel said that her character is "straightforward and direct. She makes her position known right away and there's no doubt of what she wants."
"Also, she has the persistence to go after what she wants whole-heartedly. Abigail fought for women's suffrage her whole life and never, ever gave up despite many setbacks," she said.
"Harvey Scott, despite his position of importance to history, was a clod. He was stuck in his thinking and worst of all, played fast and loose with the truth, even with his own family," Goebel said.
She added that looking back, "we tend to have the view that women of that period were terribly ladylike and always behaved appropriately, but Abigail was full of fire for her cause."
Goebel added, "Her story shows that she was not afraid of getting her hands dirty, both physically and with words."
Scott edited The Oregonian for 40 years, and for many of those years the paper printed editorials against women's suffrage, to the fury of his sister.
Palmblad, who plays the role of Scott, said he liked playing a local and historical person and noted that Scott struggled with "his convictions to societal norms of the time, his supporters/readers and his love and respect for his sister."
Both Mt. Scott in Happy Valley and Scott Elementary School in Portland are named for Harvey Scott, but Palmblad was surprised to learn that he was also Portland's first librarian, and was also surprised to discover how long and hard Duniway had to fight to gain suffrage.
New Century Players
Goebel, who handles publicity for New Century Players, said she has become resigned to the fact that few people know that Milwaukie has a community theater group.
The group "has been around for almost 20 years, and so many people in the area have never heard of us; it can be discouraging," she said.
"It's been very disheartening to lose access to our usual performing spaces because of COVID. I absolutely understand the need for safety, and I agree that we all need to be careful, but that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed," Goebel said.
She added, "If anyone knows of empty spaces in the Milwaukie area, talk to me."
Celebrate Women's Equality Day!
What: New Century Players presents "There I Take My Stand"
When: 1 p.m. on Aug. 26
Where: North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District's Milwaukie Community Center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive
Details: A $5 donation at the door is suggested
More: For more information about New Century Players, visit newcenturyplayers.org or visit facebook.com/goebel86.
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