CAMBRIDGE — Hubbard Hall Center for the Arts and Education will join the past and the present together this weekend with a new play titled “The Susan B. Anthony Project.”
It celebrates the suffrage movement, including an 1894 convention that was held at the Hall, and points out where the movement fell short. It also delves into current women and human rights issues.
David Snider, the executive and artistic director of Hubbard Hall, has been working on the project for quite some time.
“I’ve been at the Hall now for almost seven years. When I got here, I would hear, anecdotally, ‘Susan B. Anthony was here.’ But it wasn’t until about four years ago that we got a hold of Washington County Post archives and got actual proof that she led a suffrage convention at the Hall in 1894,” Snider said.
Through his research, Snider also found that, while founder Martin Hubbard is often credited for much of the Hall’s early achievements, he died a few years after opening the Hall. His wife, Mary Hubbard, had to sue to gain control of her estate, but once she won the case, she went on to run Hubbard Hall for 25 years.
“She brought in all of these different artists from around the world. The South African Women’s Choir was here, all kinds of amazing, especially female artists played the Hall,” Snider said.
Mary Hubbard was also friends with Susan B. Anthony and sponsored suffrage movement-related trips to Washington D.C.
“The play is partially about Susan B. but also partially about recovering Mary’s history,” Snider said.
After receiving a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, teaching artists from the Hall held writing workshops with more than 250 students in Cambridge, Greenwich and Hoosick Falls, teaching there about Anthony, the Suffrage Movement, women’s rights, etc. Some of the students’ works ended up in the play, along with pieces from Snider’s research and writing from University at Albany student Sydnie Heslop.
Three professional actresses, including D. Colin, Christine Decker and Viviane Nesbitt, step into the roles of Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Mary Hubbard. Six students from local schools are also involved in the production and help to update these historical figures on what they’ve missed since they’ve been gone.
There’s also original music by Greenwich musician Bob Warren. In one song, Anthony and Hubbard sing about their friendship and another encourages people to claim their right to vote.
Of course, part of the production also celebrates the Women’s Suffrage Convention that was held at the Hall in 1894 and led by Anthony.
“The Washington County Post covered it and there were quotes in there of what she said on the stage. Early in the piece, Decker, who’s playing Susan B. Anthony, actually does part of that speech from our stage. There’s a little bit of literal time travel, where she’s dressed as Susan B. and she’s saying the words that were said on our stage in 1894,” Snider said.
Then the production goes into the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as well as the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ways that the suffrage movement left out women of color.
It concludes by encouraging people to get out and vote.
“Being in October now, this year it’s really about the value of voting and the fact that what she was fighting for was the right to vote,” Snider said.
When the Hall was originally thinking of presenting this project, Snider said they wanted it to be more of a rally celebrating the centennial of the 19th amendment. Yet, with COVID-19, they had to reimagine the presentation.
“Now the audience is going to be limited to 48 people. There’s just three professional actors on stage and six students down on the floor so they’re all socially distanced with the way that it’s playing so they’re all in masks and they all have microphones so that you can hear them past the mask,” Snider said.
Audience members must also wear masks and the theater doors will be kept open for ventilation purposes.
“We’ve been doing tiny audience shows since July and have had complete success. So we want people to feel safe too,” Snider said.
“The Susan B. Anthony Project” runs from Friday through Sunday, with shows at 6 and 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 4 and 6 p.m. Sunday. There will be a fundraiser performance at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets for the regular run are $25 and tickets for the fundraiser performance are $200.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit hubbardhall.org or call 518-677-2495. The Hall is located at 25 E Main Street, Cambridge.