PERSEVERANCE is a special event play timed to coincide with the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
Because of the centennial relevance of the play, there is no “world premiere” entailment or restriction. Though Portland Stage may produce it in the fall of 2020, they have kindly agreed to let it be available for productions and readings immediately. If you wish to present a reading or production of this play as part of your town or state's observation of the centennial of women getting the right to vote in 1920, please click here for step-by-step guidance.
Perseverance 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 small town of Hillcroft, Maine, Dawn Davis, a white schoolteacher, is running for office on a platform of education reform. As the two women's stories intertwine, and ownership of history takes center stage.
August through October, 1920 and 2020. The cellar and the kitchen in a forgotten municipal building in the fictional rural town of Hillcroft, Maine. Also, the front door of a museum.
Characters in 1920
PERSEVERANCE "PERCY" TURNER. African-American. Mid-20s on up. A teacher, suffragist, and unpublished writer. She teaches three African-American students. A mix of passion and formality. She uses her commas.
"JUDGE" ELMER. White. Early 30s on up. A widower and the mayor of Hillcroft, where his family has lived for generations. Is profiting nicely off of Prohibition by running a bootlegging business and using Percy's school as a cover. Doesn't worry about too many things. Not actually a judge.
LELAND "MOSS" TARKER. African-American. Mid-20s on up. Served in France in World War I. Judge's hired hand. Talented at many types of jobs. A bit of a brag.
Characters in 2020
DAWN DAVIS. White. Early 30s or up. A teacher who has decided to run for public office. Idealistic and earnest. A bit self-serious.
BRAD. White. Early 30s or up. Construction site project manager. He's renovating the municipal building into a home for himself and his wife, Dawn.
DILLY. White. Late 30s or up. Dawn's campaign manager. She's worked on many campaigns, none of them successful. Divorced and the opposite of idealistic. High energy.
Production & Development History
Public Events sponsored by Portland Stage and the Maine Suffrage Centennial Collaboration:
August 26, 2019: Reading of a scene at a “Suffrage Tea” hosted by Governor Janet T. Mills at the Blaine House, Augusta, Maine on Women’s Equality Day. Directed by Hannah Cordes, featuring Renelle Nicole, Abigail Killeen, and Brent Askari, with Anita Stewart reading stage directions.
November 4, 2019, 7pm: First full public reading of the play at Portland Stage, Portland, Maine. Directed by Cait Robinson, featuring Abigail Killeen, Tim Dugan, Janice O’Rourke, Dustin Tucker, Bari Robinson, and introducing Jessica Speight as Perseverance Turner, with Todd Brian Backus reading stage directions.
November 14, 2019, 6pm: Public reading at the Maine State Library in Augusta, Maine. Directed by Cait Robinson, featuring Abigail Killeen, Tim Dugan, Janice O’Rourke, Dustin Tucker, Bari Robinson, and introducing Jessica Speight as Perseverance Turner, with Todd Brian Backus reading stage directions.
In writing this play, the input of historians was sought. Additionally, considerable research was conducted using original sources, scholarly essays, and books, in order to respectfully approach and present the complex and troubling intersectional challenges during the decades-long (and ongoing) fight for women’s equality.
The story, all names, characters, and incidents in this play are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.