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PHOTO BY SUSIE MACON HISTORIC ANNIVERSARY — Standing in front of the Historic Volusia County Courthouse during the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote are, from left, Romila Sitara Brown, Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown, Caryn Long, Dr. Primrose Cameron, Nicki Junkins, Carol Adubato, Patrice Tankard, Nancy Anderson, Kelly Elisabeth Fagan and Cheryl Orr.

Peace Productions is proud to present Ladies Taking Liberty, a play that artfully stitches together the stories of the women who worked unflaggingly, for more than 70 years, to win the right to vote.

From Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to their 1920s counterparts, the women who created the suffrage movement were trailblazers. The play also surveys the second and third waves of women’s activism, moving from then until now, with commentary on how women’s issues have grown and shifted into the modern era.

The play will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, at the Athens Theatre in DeLand, with a champagne reception, following a Suffragists’ Parade at 6:30 p.m., which will begin at The Elusive Grape, 129 N. Woodland Blvd. The public is invited to join in the parade. On Wednesday, Nov. 3, there will be a 2 p.m. matinee and a 7:30 p.m. performance.

Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Education Fund of the League of Women Voters of Volusia County.

Deborah McShane, a local writer, director and designer, is directing Ladies Taking Liberty. She was drawn to the project by her association with Suze Peace, the show’s producer. Peace is related to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and wanted to honor her mother and grandmother and “all those who came before us.”

The original concept was to stage the show for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, but 2020 and COVID-19 brought down the house and shuttered the theaters. The play was put on hold.

McShane worked further as researcher, collector and gatherer of the suffragists’ stories.

“My role became that of piece-maker, stitching and weaving together the extraordinary experiences of these remarkable women,” McShane said. She notes that, for the most part, the suffragists speak for themselves, their words gleaned from letters, notebooks and speeches.

The play features storytelling, theatrical vignettes, a historic-images slideshow, vintage suffrage songs, poetry and commentary.

Artist Patti Downey has painted three banners in the suffragists’ colors, white, purple and gold, to decorate the stage. Symbolic flowers are her focal points.

“What is most exciting for me at this point is the involvement of the 19 local women who will portray these icons of women’s suffrage, and the many others who are working behind the scenes,” McShane said. “They represent the rich and varied fabric of our community, the amazing talent of our friends and neighbors, our teachers and students, our leaders, artists and activists.”

Songbird Kelly Fagan will open and close the show. Sally Daykin, longtime director, teacher and actor, will play Susan B. Anthony. McShane will play her co-conspirator, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Amelia Bloomer, proponent of modern dress reform, will be brought to life by acclaimed storyteller Cheryl Floyd. Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown of Stetson University will portray herself, and will present a historic-images slideshow and commentary.

Marjorie Phoenix, founder of Giving Voices Project, will play Sojourner Truth. Sophie Mercado, a talented young actress and student from Lake Helen, will play Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz. (Yes, there is an intriguing backstory.)

Nicki Junkins, past president of the League of Women Voters of Volusia County, will play Carrie Chapman Catt, the suffragist who devised “The Winning Plan” that helped the final passage of the 19th Amendment.

“This project is powerful and so meaningful to me because history teaches us to look at ourselves deeply from within, and from that it is up to us to learn from it so that we can create a better world,” Patrice Tankard said. Tankard, a teacher at Deltona High School, will be playing Ida B. Wells.

Additional cast members include vocalists Anne Sollien, Cheryl Orr and Jean Burns. Sharla Mercado, veteran of many musical productions, will serve as pianist, playing rousing suffrage marches and accompanying the vocalists.

Gretchen Pettigrew, Dr. Primrose Cameron, Carol Adubato, Caryn Long, Nancy Jacobsen, Nancy Anderson, Romila Sitara Brown, and Stetson theater major Delicia Bent complete the cast. Nancy Ballesteros is serving as stage manager.

Tickets cost $17 for preferred reserved seating (first six rows orchestra, and two rows center balcony); $12 for general reserved seating; $10 per person for groups of 10 or more; and free for students who present their ID. A $3-per-ticket processing charge and 6.5-percent sales tax will be added to each purchase.

Tickets are available at the Athens box office (386-736-1500) or online at boxoffice@athensdeland.com.

The historic Athens Theatre, at 124 N. Florida Ave. in Downtown DeLand, has taken extensive precautions to ensure the safety of its patrons, staff, volunteers and performers. Mask-wearing is required for attendees, and socially distanced seating is available upon request.

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