indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project

Theater group to present two plays on Susan B. Anthony

Madison’s Hellmann to portray
the famed voting rights activist

(September 2016) – “It is said that women do not need the ballot for their protection because they are supported by men. Statistics show that there are 3 million women in this nation supporting themselves.” These words mark the beginning of the famous Susan B. Anthony speech, ‘Women Wants Bread, Not The Ballot,” written after she was arrested and fined $100 for voting illegally.
Author Tim Kelly drew upon the actual court records of Anthony’s trial to create a one-act drama titled, “The Remarkable Susan,” which will be presented by the Madison Community Players at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, on the lawn of the Jefferson County Historical Society, 615 W. First St.
“Each year we try to present a play with social relevance, something to make people think,” explained Stephanie Hellman, owner of Nice Shots Photography, treasurer for the Madison Community Players and cast in the role of Anthony.

Photo provided

Stephanie Hellmann will portray Susan B. Anthony in the Madison Community Players’ production on Sept. 18 at the Jefferson County Historical Society.

“This is a strange election year, and I hear people saying they just are not going to vote. That bothers me.” She said she hopes the audience will be moved to think about all that has been sacrificed through the years to bring the vote to everyone, not just women.
The scene is a courtroom in upstate New York, where Anthony is on trial for the crime of casting a ballot. Tempers flare, animosities run high and insults are traded as the fiery defendant of woman’s rights challenges the ruling of the court, determined to resist bigotry and injustice. While her trial is basically a sham, she storms and pleads and lectures, and skillfully turns defeat into victory, sounding a call for human dignity which inevitably awakened the conscience of the nation.
Anthony spent 30 years traveling from coast to coast speaking for women’s rights. One of these historic speeches was given in Madison, Ind., on Oct. 10, 1879, at the Oddfellows Hall.
The second production for the afternoon titled, “Susan B. Anthony Comes to Madison,” written by local resident Jan Vetrhus, is based upon this visit.
Vetrhus, who will direct both productions, started down the path of writing when she learned about Anthony’s visit to Madison. “I was surprised to learn that Susan had come to Madison, and I discovered that pretty much everyone I spoke to was unaware as well.”
Over the next year, she researched newspapers, historical documents and even advertisements supporting and disapproving of Anthony’s speech.
“I have never written a play before, and it was much harder than I ever dreamed,” Vetrhus said. “My hope is to bring history to life.”
“One of the great things about Jan’s play is that she paints a really nice picture of what life was like in the mid-1800s based on actual comments,” said Hellman.
The story begins as Anthony arrives by train from Rushville, Ind., and will incorporate The Caboose located at the Historical Society. Members of the Madison community will bring to life the pro-Anthony and the anti-Anthony factions of the times with dialogues pulled from the pages of history.
“The more I learned about Susan, the more impressed I became. She gave her speech over 100 times yet never read from a written script,” Vetrhus said. “The things she fought for are still relevant today – equal pay for equal work, making your voice heard, and the importance of voting.”
A member of the Madison Community Players Board of Directors and a volunteer for the Heritage Center, Vetrhus spearheaded the efforts to have the two productions recognized as part of Indiana’s 2016 Bicentennial Celebration, resulting in their status as an Official Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project.
In addition to Hellmann as the lead character, cast members for both products include Dan and Jan Bixler, Nicole Elam, Kelley Hoagland, Ron Hopper, Tammy Mark, Doug Perry, Sandy Scherli, JoAnne Spiller, Peggy Vereblome and the Wilhite Family.      
This is a free event and donations are welcome. A voter registration table will be available for those who have not yet registered for the upcoming election.

• For more information on these plays, contact the Madison Community Players at (812) 493-3357 or visit: www.madisoninplayers.org.

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