Representation and How to Get It
Great Barrington Public Theater at The Mount in Lenox
Written by Joyce Van Dyke, directed by Judy Braha
“Mine eyes have seen the glory …”
Great Barrington Public Theater has presented a one-woman show about early suffragist Julia Ward Howe, wife and poet, philosopher and activist, a woman before her time in a time that won’t be forgotten. It is the late 1860s. She is preparing a speech for the next day and having a difficult time with it. She has already published a great many things, including her poem-turned-popular-song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” A woman out of her time, she resents her husband’s control of her own property, her money, and her voice. She will not be stilled, she will not be ignored even if this is the role of a woman in 1865.
This play, new to the Berkshires, has been seen in many places during the last three years, including New York City. It is clear from the fine performance by Elaine Van Hogue that the work is still in its formative state. Van Hogue was playing Howe in a much larger work when author Joyce Van Dyke and director Judy Braha deided to create this solo work for her.
In a curious twist of plot, just before the conclusion of the work, the actress strips away her 19th-century garb to become herself, to comment on the play, on the woman, and on the political ramifications of Howe’s work and what it means now, in the 21st century. This is the sort of reflection usually left to a rehearsal process, and it is fascinating to watch Van Hogue examine what she has been doing. However, it is distressing to discover that the actress and the character sound so much alike. It is, perhaps, the author’s contention that very little has changed in 150 years. Women still struggle for equality, for an honest place in this world. Women’s rights are being limited once again, turning back the gender clock to a much earlier time, something Howe would never have tolerated. This is the message of the play. This is what we need to hear. Van Dyke, Braha, and Van Hogue set us straight, and it is painful and important. BRAVI!!
“Representation and How to Get It” had a limited three-day run in The Stables at Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Lenox between August 25 and 27. To read more about the play, go to Great Barrington Public Theater’s website.