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July 16, 2017
 

An Uncommon Woman

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Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Image courtesy Looking for Lilith

 

I’m Wearing My Own Clothes

By Nancy Gall-Clayton
Directed by Kathi E. B. Ellis

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2017 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

There were times watching Nancy Clayton’s new play when the dialogue in the mouths of these 19th century characters sounded uncannily similar to more recent history. Was Mary Edwards Walker truly so progressive an iconoclast that her struggle should feel this modern? Or is it an indictment that we haven’t come nearly as far as we would like to believe? We have moved the needle inestimably on social justice, but we are still caught in many of the same struggles more than 150 years later.

Walker’s ambition was to become a doctor. Women didn’t do that in 1850; they could be nurses, as she is often told, but not surgeons. Raised on a farm in Oswego, New York, her egalitarian family’s support is almost too good to be true, but it makes sense of the origin of the young woman’s motivation to change the world by following her passion: she has been raised to believe she can. The Walker’s were also a link in the Underground Railroad; helping escaped African slaves from the southern states make their way to Canada (interestingly, this revelation in the play was accompanied by the real world sound of a train passing by Clifton Center).

After a disastrous marriage that leaves Walker bitter and disillusioned about personal relationships, she struggled to gain a commission as a doctor with the Union Army. The American Civil War never had enough qualified surgeons, but Walker is repeatedly rebuffed, and she takes to volunteering unofficially for an extended period. Eventually she served legitimately, was imprisoned as a spy by the Confederacy, and was awarded the Medal of Honor, still the only woman to have received this recognition.

The action takes Walker from her birthplace of Oswego to various places including Louisville, Kentucky, where she was the supervisor of a women’s prison, which gives the play a resonant local connection, but there is expansiveness to the geography of Walker’s life that brings important universality to her story.

Erica McClure holds the center as Dr. Walker, building a tough and determined character acutely aware of the importance of her struggle. She wears men’s clothes for comfort and convenience, and the echoes of gender fluidity in today’s culture seems intentional. The piece works less to render period than use Walker’s story to speak to our current moment, and McClure’s performance is also a very contemporary piece of work

The ensemble of Dawn Campbell, Mandi Elkins Hutchins, Ted Lesley, and Casey Moulton do yeoman work, but it is here that the balance of period and modern finds uneasy purchase. All have fine moments, with the veteran Lesley making his strongest impact as Walker’s father, but there are some instances where facetiousness creeps into the work of Hutchins and Moulton, while Campbell seems to find the appropriate tone for each scene with authority.

The sound design consisted of plaintive piano music during scene transitions that, however evocative of the period, was also redundant enough to make me wish for a little more range to the score. And opening night included some bugs still being worked out in the lighting cues.

I’m Wearing My Own Clothes is the company’s first commission, and if it plays at times as a bit didactic, it remains a perfect example of the type of story that Looking for Lilith has been telling for 15 years: stories of common and uncommon women who changed history but who have fallen through the vast cracks of established historical texts. The play certainly has entertainment value, and any lecturing tone can be forgiven when the lesson is this worthwhile.

I’m Wearing My Own Clothes

Part of Unheard (outloud): Looking for Lilith’s 15th Anniversary Festival

Clifton Center
1124 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40205

PRODUCTIONS:

I’M WEARING MY OWN CLOTHES!
Civil War Dr. Mary Walker’s Inspiring Quest To Be True To Herself
By Nancy Gall-Clayton
Looking For Lilith Theatre Company
7/14 – 8:00pm | 7/16 – 3:00pm | 7/20 – 7:30pm | 7/23 – 3:00pm
Eifler Theatre

CROSSING MOUNTAINS

The Making Of Hindman Settlement School
Looking For Lilith Theatre Company
7/13 – 8:00pm | 7/15 – 3:00pm | 7/22 – 3:00pm | 7/23 – 6:00pm
Eifler Theatre

DEFINING INFINITY
Exploring The Spectrums Of Gender And Sexual Orientation
Looking For Lilith Theatre Company
7/19 – 8:00pm | 7/21 – 8:30pm | 7/23 – 4:30pm
Reception Hall

LOST & FOUND
Adanma Onyedike Burton
One Woman’s Experience Of Navigating The Social Taboo Of Miscarriages
7/17 – 8:30pm | 7/19 – 9:00pm | 7/21 – 7:30pm
Eifler Theatre

STILL I RISE!
Celebrating Women Lyricists And Composers Of Broadway
Pandora Productions
7/14 – 10:00pm | 7/15 – 10:00pm | 7/17 – 9:30pm | 7/22 – 10:00pm
Reception Hall

LOOK ME IN THE EYE
A Satirical Exploration Of Issues Of Consent
Resonant Light Theatre Project
7/16 – 5:30pm | 7/17 – 7:00pm | 7/19 – 7:00pm | 7/21 – 9:30pm
Eifler Theatre

____________________________

STAGED READINGS

MOLLY DRIVEN
By Haydee Canovas
Lifting The Veil On The Cost Of Human Trafficking In Louisville
7/13 – 7:00pm
Adelberg Room

#Whathappenedtodavid
Julie Investigates The Death Of An African American Student
By Terkeisha Tyler
7/20 – 8:00pm
Adelberg Room

____________________________

WORKSHOPS

HISTORIAS DE INMIGRANTES LATINAS
(Latina Immigrants’ Stories)
Play Reading & Discussion By EACM Women’s Group And LFL
7/14 – 6:00pm
Reception Hall

KIDZPLAY
Participatory Drama Workshop By LFL For Children 4-8 & Their Parents
7/15 – 10:00am | 7/18 – 10:00am | 7/22 – 1:00pm
Adelberg Room

RACIAL JUSTICE
Led By Louisville Showing Up For Racial Justice And LFL
7/15 – 12:00pm
Adelberg Room

THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED 101
Workshop For Both Beginners And Those With TOTO Techniques, LFL
7/16 – 2:00pm
Adelberg Room

GENDER & SEXUALITY DIVERSITY 101
Exploring Spectrums W/TSTAR (Trans & Sexuality Teaching, Advocacy And Research)
7/21 – 9:30pm
Reception Hall

INTRO TO DEVISING
Creating A Collaborative Response To The Current U.S. Climate, LFL
7/18 – 7:00pm
Eifler Theatre

GIRLSPEAK
Public Sharing Of LFL’s Summer Drama Camp
7/20 – 6:00pm
Reception Hall

____________________________

FESTIVAL PASSES
UNHEARD [Outloud] Festival Passes Include Admission To ALL Festival Events, July 13-23 (6 Productions, 2 Staged Readings, And A Variety Of Workshops). Lookingforlilith.Org/Unheardoutloud

SINGLE TICKETS
Tickets May Be Purchased Online (Lookingforlilith.Org/Unheardoutloud) Or At The Door. Please Call For Group Rates.
PRODUCTIONS: $20 | $15 – Students/Seniors
STAGED READINGS: $10
WORKSHOPS: PAY WHAT YOU CAN!

 

16681988_10154975121128899_7444810578584057561_nKeith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.

 





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