Playwright Seeks to Revive Story of Women’s Suffrage

Suffragists parade down Fifth Avenue in1917.

Gloucester playwright Laura Harrington is working on a revival of her 1996 production “The Perfect 36,” which reminds generations of the efforts made in the early 1900s to secure women’s right to vote. 

The musical tells the story of renowned suffragists such as Carrie Chapman Catt and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as well as the movement overall. Harrington is seeking financial backing for the revival in time for next year’s 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment’s ratification because she strongly believes the subject still bears resonance today. 

“We’re in a very different era,” Harrington said. Citing the #MeToo movement and the presence of women currently running for president. “Suddenly this show seemed incredibly topical and on-point.” 

Playwright Laura Harrington
Playwright Laura Harrington

She is, at the moment, working on gathering funds and support for the production.

“We are kind of taking the grassroots approach of taking one little step at a time, reaching out to all the people we know, and hopefully being able to raise the money to do that.” She is also planning to create a concert reading of the show in both Nashville and D.C. “It’s a challenge. It’s always a challenge in the theater…I just have to believe that we’re going to make it happen.” 

The original play, which was commissioned by the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, steps back in time, reliving the moment of the suffragists’ triumphs. 

It is “a story of people coming together, working together, men and women, Republican and Democrat and Independent, to make political change and they, against all the odds, succeed,” Harrington said.

Sharing her views on the right to vote, she said “It opens the door to people connecting, and it opens the door to our working together, and it opens the door to our talking together. Once we have voices, we have more points of view.”

Despite the suffragist movement’s spirited focus on women, there were issues concerning a lack of representation notably present at the time. While “The Perfect 36” doesn’t particularly focus on racism and classicism, Harrington said she recognizes these issues, and mentioned that her play opens and closes with African-American figures, such as Sojourner Truth, telling their story. 

When asked how “The Perfect 36” connects with people today, Harrington said: “The message you come away with is these struggles are ongoing. One of the great things about women getting the right to vote is you can look at that as one of the first shots in the civil rights movement.” 

Harrington noted that people tend to think that the past was both kinder and nicer, but it wasn’t. Still, she is hopeful. 

“It’s been 100 years, some things are staying the same,” Harrington said. “We don’t want to lose sight of the progress that has been made, nor what we’re learning now.”

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