New outdoor theater show introduces audiences to Louisville suffragists – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville


A new show presented this weekend takes audiences to various sites in Louisville that have ties to the women’s suffrage movement.

Searching for “Lilith Theater Company”From Bardstown to Broadway: The Suffrage Walking and Guided Tour”Gives viewers a glimpse into the lives of Louisville women who were instrumental in the struggle for women’s suffrage.

The stages take place at various sites in the city, each with its own historical significance, and members of the public can drive or walk from one site to another.

This is part of The Kentucky Suffrage Project, the company’s broader look at the 19th Amendment, which gave some women the right to vote when it was ratified in 1920.

Jennifer Thalman Kepler, co-artistic director looking for Lilith and director of design and production for the tour, said they initially planned the show as a play to take place in August 2020, marking the centenary of ratification.

But, due to the pandemic, the creative team changed course: first to video, with 20-minute episodes that the company aired on Youtube and Facebook, then to the concept of touring.

“We developed the idea for this car and walking tour to take some of the scenes we created and act them out in places where women actually lived or worked,” said Thalman Kepler. .

Production has been in the works for years, resulting from the initial plan to find a way to commemorate this major anniversary.

In search of Lilith, the mission is to “identify stories heard or told”, said Thalman Kepler. The movement itself didn’t necessarily fit that description, but Thalman Kepler and colleagues felt there were likely lesser-known accounts of women in Kentuckiana, and more specifically Louisville, fighting for their right to vote.

They worked with researchers from institutions such as the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky Library to bring together the stories of these women.

Thalman Kepler said it was essential not to obscure the “gaps” in telling the story of women’s suffrage.

Looking for Jennifer Thalman Kepler from Lilith, watches a rehearsal outside the main library branch in downtown Louisville on July 11, 2021.

“Different white women within the movement had different views on universal suffrage, which was the term used to describe all women: black, white or of any ethnicity, able to vote, ”she said.

Research also shows that racism, for a number of suffragists, was ingrained in their approach..

“It was important for us to explore that and really look at what we would now see as really problematic aspects of the movement and not pretend it was something that wasn’t,” Thalman said. Kepler.

And the 19th Amendment, when ratified, did not automatically grant the right to vote to all women.

the amendment said US citizens cannot be “denied” the right to vote “because of gender.” But many women still face discrimination at the ballot box, including discrimination based on race.. Their voting rights would not be protected until decades later with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Yet black suffragists and women of color played a major role in passing the 19th Amendment. Thalman Kepler said he included several “very strong and very involved African-American women in Louisville” in these tours.

Excerpt from a June performance of Looking for Lilith Theater Company, “From Bardstown to Broadway: The Suffrage Driving & Walking Tour”.

As they missed the centennial mark last summer, Thalman Kepler said the question of voting rights and “the story of that struggle” are just as relevant today.

“We certainly feel that exploring the history of voting rights in this country is really important, especially for people for whom it has not been a concern, to understand why voting rights are important and why people have been fighting for a very long time, ”he added. she said.

Production opened last month, and the next visits are scheduled from Friday to Sunday. There will be another weekend of performances August 27-29. Tours will be held at the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. Tickets are chargeable. Looking for Lilith has more information on accessibility issues to her website.


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