Portland Stage Company brings several actors and playwright Callie Kimball to the Maine State Library in Augusta for a free preview and reading of Kimball’s new play, Perseverance, on Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. The play is a special commission by Portland Stage and the Maine Suffrage Centennial Collaborative to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Callie Kimball is still refining aspects of the play prior to its full staging by Portland Stage next year, and will be on hand following the reading for a discussion and audience comments.
The play is set during August and October in 1920 and 2020 in a cellar and the kitchen of a forgotten municipal building in the fictional rural town of Hillcroft, Maine, as well as at the front door of a museum. In 1920, Perseverance “Percy” Turner, an African-American schoolteacher, writer, and suffragist, is determined to elevate her students above the circumstances in which they were born. One hundred years later, in the same town, Dawn Davis, a white schoolteacher, is running for office on a platform of education reform. The two women’s stories intertwine as questions about the ownership of history take center stage.
Perseverance illuminates the complexities at the heart of the suffrage movement and highlights the contributions of African-American women who were often sidelined by white suffragists. By juxtaposing past and present, Kimball reveals the bravery and profound divisions that can shape the course of social movements.
Perseverance fills a notable gap in American theater, according to Anita Stewart, Executive and Artistic Director of Portland Stage. There are currently no significant theatrical works on women’s suffrage. As Stewart comments, “Kimball’s play has the potential to greatly enrich the field of theater and America’s cultural heritage.”
Callie Kimball earned her MFA at Hunter College, where she won the Rita and Burton Goldberg Playwriting Award two years in a row. She has since won many other grants, awards, and prizes; her plays have been produced and developed in theaters across the country. She is an affiliate artist at Portland Stage Company, playwright-in-residence at Theater at Monmouth, and a former MacDowell Fellow. Kimball’s first education job was teaching Shakespeare in a juvenile detention facility and she has taught playwriting to over 1,000 students through various nonprofit arts organizations and colleges. The themes of her plays range from historical dramas and classical adaptations to socio-political comedies and futuristic dystopias. Some have described Kimball’s plays as feminist, but in her words, she “just writes plays where the main characters have jobs and goals and happen to be women.”
Portland Stage’s preview and reading of Perseverance, and the appearance of Callie Kimball, are sponsored by the Maine State Museum, Maine State Library, Maine State Archives, and Maine Suffrage Centennial Collaborative. A reception and refreshments at 5:30 p.m. precede the reading, which begins at 6:00 p.m.