Susan B. launched the first-ever Bay Area Women’s Theatre Festival at Peet’s Theatre in Berkeley on March 2, 2020. More than 200 people attended the staged reading, which received a standing ovation.
Susan B. tells the complex story of an iron-willed suffragist who happened to love women during the Victorian era. Susan B. Anthony was a key player during Reconstruction, when the foundations of all of today’s debates — over women’s rights, abortion rights, voter suppression, and racism — were put in place. The story of Roe starts here.
When Susan B. learns that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments are being crafted to give voting and other citizenship rights to Black men while specifically excluding women, she is forced to choose. Should she put her lifelong fight for woman suffrage on hold in order to support her friend Frederick Douglass and other Black men? Or should she join forces with an unabashed racist, because he is the only man willing to fund her cash-starved campaign?
Susan B. is a tale of desperate choices made by women with privilege but no rights, and the white men determined to hold onto their power at any cost. Some things never change.
Audience reviews for Susan B.:
“Susan B. Anthony is a dynamic protagonist. She has really clear objectives, is constantly in action, and constantly at war with people who oppose her. She is just a bad-ass!”
“We are following Susan, and we know we are supposed to be sympathetic toward her, but what makes it a fun ride is that she has a certain amount of hubris. She believes it’s her way or the highway. When she finally falls, she falls from a great height.”
“I loved the weaving of the personal stories and the big political maneuverings.”
“The rug was continually pulled out from under me in this play, and I found that very satisfying.”
“The stakes are huge for everyone, and that’s what makes the play so much fun. The betrayals — personal and political — were effectively dramatized, and made for a page-turning read. It is very act-able, and easy to see on stage. Just great theater!”
“What I love is that the relationships among the women were very complicated, and the men also had some real dimension to them. Most people in historical plays seem wooden, but these characters seemed really alive.”
“This play reminded me how messy history is. And this messiness bled into the women’s lives. People who should have been working together were pitted against each other, because those with power had no intention of sharing it.”
“The play helped me understand issues of intersectionality in a way I hadn’t been able to before. This history helped me make connections with what is happening today, and that’s why it’s so successful.”