Playwright Thea Iberall (in purple jacket) joins the cast at the end of the show for a standing ovation. Photo by Andy Celley
A year ago on August 26, the musical “We Did It For You! Women’s Journey Through History” began performances in Massachusetts at First Parish Unitarian Universality Church in Medfield. Playwright Thea Iberall said, “On August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, and so that date became Women’s Equality Day. We knew last year that was the date to begin our performances on. And the Expresso Yourself Coffeehouse at First Parish gave us that opportunity.”
Since that Massachusetts premiere last year, “We Did It For You!” has been performed an additional 11 times in various towns in the MetroWest area.
“We received local cultural council grants and were able to mount performances at churches and libraries in Norfolk, Walpole, Middleborough, Natick, and Framingham. Plus at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford,” Producer Shirley Riga said, “with lots of enthusiastic audiences cheering us on.” The performing troupe, consisting of many Medfield residents, has been able to settle into a year-long residency at the Amazing Things Art Center in Framingham, where it gives monthly performances.The question became how to celebrate this year’s Women’s Equality Day. They decided the appropriate venue was Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston. “Activist Lucy Stone gave a famous speech at Faneuil Hall in 1873 about the government taxing women without giving them suffrage. We just had to try to perform there,” Iberall said. “I think our play would resonate with her.”
Since Faneuil Hall is part of the National Park System where thousands of tourists visit every day, it was a challenge to make this performance happen. “When we went for a logistics evaluation back in May, the floor of the Great Hall was being refinished and we couldn’t actually stand on the stage or take measurements,” explained Riga. “And of course, there was no rehearsing there, either. We only had a four-hour window on August 26 to get into the Hall, set up our sound and visuals, do a quick run-through, sell tickets, do the show, and strike everything. Thankfully, we had a lot of support to make it go smoothly.”
“We Did It For You!” is a charming musical that tells of the struggles and triumphs women have undergone to get their basic rights in America. A high school student has a history project to figure out who has done the most for women of today, and she learns the answer from the women who were there. Audiences agree that it is the ideal history lesson disguised as entertainment. Thirteen organizations endorsed this Faneuil Hall event, including the Women’s Bar Association, Women’s Suffrage Celebration Coalition of Massachusetts, Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, Boston Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, Cambridge Women’s Commission, Cambridge Women's Heritage Project, First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleborough, Worcester Women’s History Project, New Bedford Whaling Museum, Amazing Things Art Center, Walpole Peace and Justice Group, Spirit of Change Magazine, and Engaging Peace.
Last year, the overflow crowd at First Parish of Medfield gave the actors a standing ovation. What was it like this year at Faneuil Hall?
“The crowd was three times as large and you can see in the picture, we again got a standing ovation,” Iberall said. “Who knows where we’ll be next Women’s Equality Day? Wherever that is, I’ll always be grateful for the start we received from the Medfield community.”
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