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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Coronavirus: Historical ‘Susan & Elizabeth’ set in Sturgeon Bay


Rogue Theater

Susan Kohout, left, and Chris Milton as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, respectively. (Publicity photo)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Rogue Theater will continue its “Drive-in Theater” outdoor play series this weekend with “Susan & Elizabeth: A Friendship of Consequence.”

Performances start at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15-16, in the back parking lot of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 1756 Michigan St.

A portion of proceeds will go to local food pantries. Info: (920) 818-0816.

Rogue Theater is performing a series of theatrical productions outdoors in response to restrictions of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Written and performed by Susan Kohout and Chris Milton, “Susan & Elizabeth: A Friendship of Consequence” is a compilation of excerpts from the speeches, writings and letters of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leaders in the right to vote for American women.

The timing of this production is significant because next week marks 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which starts with this:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

After passage by Congress on June 4, 1919, Wisconsin was among the first three states to ratify the proposed amendment. Wisconsin signed on June 10, 1919, along with Illinois and Michigan. The signing by Tennessee on Aug. 18, 1920, secured the adoption of the amendment.

Granting women the right to vote took decades of agitation and protest, and Susan B. Anthony (portrayed by Susan Kohout) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (portrayed by Chris Milton) were leading figures.

Susan Kohout and Chris Milton have performed their play throughout the eastern part of Wisconsin for a number of years. From their material:

Susan B. Anthony (1815-1902) was a plain-spoken, disciplined Quaker. She was single-minded in her drive to promote her many causes. A strategist, she made compromises when necessary to move forward on her issues.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was a mother of seven and an uncompromising revolutionary. She was born to wealth, enjoying fine clothes and fine food. While often tied to her family and household, she provided speeches, articles and letters that kept the issues alive.
In July 1848, a Women’s Rights Convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York. A group of approximately 200 women and men assembled to hold what became the beginning of the Women’s Rights Movement. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, a well-known activist for abolition and women’s rights, a speech was given by Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the beginning of the two-day Seneca Falls Convention.
Then in 1851, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton embarked on a collaboration that evolved into one of the most productive working partnerships in American history. As uncompromising women’s rights leaders, they revolutionized the political and social condition of women in American society.

Stanton was the leading voice and philosopher of the women’s rights and suffrage movements while Anthony was the powerhouse who commandeered the legions of women who struggled to win the ballot for American women. These two women worked together for more than 50 years to fight for women’s right to vote.  

Although neither lived to see the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, they are arguably the most important figures in the suffrage movement.  
In imagining what a conversation between the friends might have been like, Susan Kohout and Chris Milton created connective phrases for the sake of flow and continuity. In the play, Susan visits Elizabeth at her home in June 1902 in New York City for what will be their final conversation.

In a visioning of that visit, the two friends reminisce about their long and productive partnership in the struggle for women’s suffrage and are occasionally “transported” back in time as they recall a particular speech or letter.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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