Original Show
A Women's Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!

With a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The Pleiades Project presents the stories of the trail-blazing leaders and watershed moments of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

 

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About AWSSE!

Summary

As the centennial celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment approached in 2020, The Pleiades Project was inspired to create and produce a music-theater work in conversation with this milestone event in American history. With a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and co-created by November Christine, Noelle McMurtry, and Caroline Miller, A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! was born, inspired by turn-of-the-20th-Century vaudeville.

In A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, our daring Maestra Impresaria and her dynamic troupe present the stories of the trail-blazing leaders and watershed moments of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Through unique adaptations of suffrage propaganda, popular music from the Library of Congress Archive: Songs of Suffrage, and newly-commissioned songs from NYC-based composer Lacy Rose, we endeavor to showcase the breadth and diversity within this eight-decade long struggle, including the pivotal contributions of suffragists of color, who have been continually marginalized and erased from our collective re-telling of the history of the women’s suffrage movement.

Join us on an exhilarating jaunt to celebrate, explore, and problematize this historic fight to win women the vote! By examining the intersection of the voices of American women of the past and women of today, we ask ourselves and our audience to consider how the fight for equality continues in this quest for the enfranchisement of all citizens in our democracy.

Show Details

November 5th, 2021; 7 PM
November 6th, 2021; 7 PM

The Lab at Alchemical Studios
104 West 14th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10011

A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by LMCC.

Submit For a Live Audition by 9/1

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COVID-19 Information

We are committed to the health and safety of our team and performers. To audition and perform, all participants must be vaccinated and be willing to provide proof of vaccination upon request.

Call For Auditions

The Pleiades Project invites female-identifying and non-binary performers to audition for our upcoming staged concert-reading of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! (AWSSE!). 

$400 stipend; Nonunion; no fee to apply or audition.

Available Roles

Maestra Impresaria: Indigenous/Native, any age, comedic, dialogue-heavy

Ensemble Member #1: White, 30+, dramatic, dialogue-heavy

Ensemble Member #2: Black, 30+, dramatic, dialogue-heavy

Ensemble Member #3: AAPI, 20+, will be playing multiple roles, comfortable with movement

Ensemble Member #4: Latinx, 20’s and 30’s, will be playing multiple roles, comfortable with movement

Ensemble Member #5: White, 20’s and 30’s, comedic, comfortable with physical comedy

 

Meet Our Creative Team!

November Christine : Co-Creator (Book, Lyrics)

November Christine (she/her/hers) holds a degree in Cellular Biology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Maryland, as well as a BM in Musical Theatre from the East Carolina University School of Music. Ms. Christine produced her award-winning musical MIRROR, MIRROR at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, followed by a 3-week run in Los Angeles, CA. November’s historical hip-hop drama, LEGACY THE MUSICAL was showcased in London in 2017 and won “Best of Fest” at the 2018 New York Musical Festival. She was commissioned by Artistic Stamp Inc. to write her latest piece, IDA, a six-part epistolary play on the early years of Ida B. Wells. November is also a BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop Lyricist and 2021 NYCLU Artist Ambassador.

Noelle McMurtry : Co-Creator (Dramaturg) & Producer

Noelle McMurtry, vocalist, is drawn to the intersections of music and theater, particularly through art song, new music, and early music, to explore diverse and underrepresented feminist perspectives. She is most interested in innovative, thematic programming to create new contexts in which to approach the classical music “canon,” specifically through female-centric storytelling and prioritizing the works of historic women composers. With The Cantanti Project (NYC), Noelle collaborated on The Little Ghost, Ophelia Transformed, and Her Story, all programs focusing on the perspectives of women in song. Since 2015, she has presented her original programs, including Ophelia and Her Sisters, Femme en fleurs, The Heavenly Banquet, To the queen of my heart, Head, Heart, and Portraits: The Self Illuminated in New York City and Baltimore, MD concert venues.

Noelle currently serves as Director of Live Programming for The Pleiades Project, a production platform for female-identifying artists through digital and live performance opportunities with a focus on classical vocal repertoire. For The Pleiades Project’s 2020-2021 season, Noelle will co-create, produce, and serve as dramaturg for A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, an original music-theater work marking the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Noelle is a frequent and avid collaborator in new music. For the 2019-2020 season, she performed the title role in excerpts from Kaija Saariaho’s monodrama Émilie with Now Hear This, debuted with IN Series (DC) at the Women Composers Festival in Kate Soper’s chamber opera Here Be Sirens, as well as co-programmed and performed in the IN Series’ Festival Gala Concert with works by Louise Talma, Jessica Krash, and Caroline Shaw. During the 2020-2021 season, Noelle collaborated with INVISION (DC), performing the role of Senator Ben Cardin in a virtual production of Melissa Dunphy’s Gonzales Cantata, as well as making her film debut in German Romantics: Clara, exploring the songs in Romantic-era composer Clara Schumann’s Op. 12.

To further her research on historic women composers, feminist musicology, and more diverse concert programming methodologies, Noelle is in her second year of a joint Master’s in Musicology and Doctorate in Musical Arts at Peabody Institute under the tutelage of soprano Ah Young Hong. Through her recent affiliation with Peabody Institute, Noelle participated in an art song residency with DC-based composer Lori Laitman, as well as co-created a feature-length film-concert, I take the long way there, in response to creating art during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included the song repertoire of Jessica Krash, Melissa Dunphy, Clara Schumann, Vittoria Aleotti, and Maddalena Casulana. In 2021, Noelle was also awarded a Presser Award to further her research into the life and Lieder of German Romantic-era composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau with an upcoming research trip to Berlin, Munich, and Karlsruhe in the spring of 2022. Noelle resides in Washington DC with her partner, Kevin, and her puppy Cashew. www.noellemcmurtry.com

Lacy Rose: Composer

Lacy Rose is a New York-based classically trained vocalist, composer and poet. She collaborates regularly with choreographer Coco Karol and composers Sxip Shirey, Alaina Ferris, and John K. Stone. She has opened for and performed with such eclectic artists as Cocorosie, Baby Dee, Dave Malloy, Amanda Palmer, and Osso String Quartet. She made her Mostly Mozart Festival debut in the Schubertiade Remix at Lincoln Center alongside members of the International Contemporary Ensemble. As a composer of neoclassical art songs, Lacy regales her audience with tales of magic, myth, tragedy and love. Maria, her six-part song cycle, explores the inner life and personhood of Gustav Klimt’s muses, Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann and Maria “Ria” Munk. Rose composed the score for a theatrical adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ screenplay, The Doctor and The Devils, and is currently adapting Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. into an opera with director Dara Malina.

Caroline Miller: Co-Creator (Book, Lyrics), Director & Producer

Caroline Miller is an innovative and theatrical singer, director and producer with a particular interest in telling womens’ stories through contemporary opera, operetta and film. With a BA in English Literature and Music from Washington University in St. Louis and an MM in Vocal Performance & Literature from Eastman School of Music, she employs an interdisciplinary approach to producing, writing and performing in music-theater works. In 2021, Caroline will also begin her tenure as a Teaching Artist with the Metropolitan Opera Guild.

In the 2019-2020 season, Caroline was a Resident Artist with Toledo Opera, appearing as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel vs the Witch, as well as the Plaintiff in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury.* In collaboration with St. Michael’s in the Hills and the Toledo Opera Resident Artists, she presented Nevertheless, We Persist, a virtual concert which explores the positive and negative aspects of operatic depictions of women and their stories throughout history. Nevertheless, We Persist was also featured virtually on Momentum, a Toledo-based arts festival. In the 2020-2021 season, Caroline will return as Valencienne in Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow.* She also appears on the only contemporary professional recording of Sigmund Romberg’s Blossom Time, produced by Albany Records. Opera News lauded her portrayal of Bellabruna, writing “Miller projects all the confident insouciance of a pampered prima donna.”

Caroline is Co-Founder & Artistic Director of The Pleiades Project. She starred in the short-film Così, excerpted from W.A. Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was named an official selection of the NY Indie Theatre Film Festival. Caroline directed the entirety of the 24|Series, produced the short opera film Ophélie, excerpted from Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, as well as created and directed the short film mini-series German Romantics in collaboration with DC-based opera company IN Series for their new virtual platform INVISION.

Since 2018, Caroline has trained in the circus and aerial arts, which she has recently incorporated into her film and performance work. With collaborator Erin Garber-Pearson, a Toledo-based circus artist and welder, she has created Aber, a short film combining aerial dance with a live performance of “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” from Johannes Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, which was an official selection of the International Circus Film Festival. www.carolinemillersoprano.com

*cancelled and/or rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Listen to a song

The Clown

from Three Songs (1913)

Elizabeth Van Os, soprano
Eric Sedgwick, piano

Composed by Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944)
Poetry by Maurice Baring (1874-1945)

There was once a poor clown all dressed in white,

 In a dungeon, chained to the bars; 

And he danced all day, and he danced all night, 

  To the sound of the dancing stars.

“O clown, silly clown, O why do you dance?

You know you can never be free.

You are tied by the leg to the strings of chance,

But you dance like captive flea.”

“My chain is heavy, my dungeon is dark, 

  I know I can never be free. 

In my heart, in my heart there’s a dancing spark, 

  And the stars make music for me.

“Oh! muffle my cell and rivet my chains, 

  And fetter my feet and my hands, 

My soul is a horse of foam without reins. 

  That dances on deathless sands.”

Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944) was an influential English composer, writer, and suffrage activist, who composed within a variety of musical forms, including song, chamber, orchestral, choral, and opera. Against her family’s wishes, she traveled to Germany in 1877, studying composition in Leipzig with Carl Reinecke and Heinrich von Herzogenberg. Through von Herzogenberg, Smyth encountered composers Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák, Clara Schumman, Edvard Grieg, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and their subsequent musical works. For the following decade, Smyth’s own compositional style was heavily influenced by her experiences in Germany and her travels throughout Europe.

After her return to England in 1890, Smyth joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), considered the more “militant” arm of the British women’s suffrage movement. Smyth befriended Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the WSPU, and in 1911, she composed “The March of the Women,” an anthem later adopted by the women’s suffrage movements in both the United Kingdom and the United States. For two years, from 1910 to 1912, Smyth ceased to compose, instead devoting her time and energy to her work with the WSPU. In 1912, Smyth was jailed in Holloway Prison for throwing rocks through the office window of Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lewis Harcourt, an avowed anti-suffragist.

In 1913, after this self-imposed compositional hiatus, Smyth composed her first musical work, Three Songs. The first song in this collection, “The Clown” with poetry by Maurice Baring (1874-1945), evokes the heart-rending image of a clown, dressed in white, who is locked and chained in a dungeon cell, an ironic detail mirroring Smyth’s recent release from prison. Despite the clown’s imprisonment and blunt acknowledgment that “I can never be free,” he dances ceaselessly “to the sound of the dancing stars.” The clown boldly asserts that his heart and soul cannot be controlled by circumstance. Even in the most hopeless of states, he is sustained by the joy and purpose housed deeply within himself, a potential apt metaphor for Smyth’s assertion to persist in her suffrage activism despite political setbacks and public scorn. Women in the United Kingdom did not win the vote until 1928.

Sisters of the world, let’s gather our power, and shock the men who belittle us by saying, ‘What can women do’?

from an issue of “The New Real Woman's Society”, published by Kimura Komako