Allyson Adams revives Jeannette Rankin’s legacy in new short play

Allyson Adams

Teacher, author, playwright and actress Allyson Adams discovered U.S. Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin’s story through biography “Flight of the Dove” by Kevin Giles in a Virginia City Bookstore in 1997.

“I felt kind of cheated I had never heard about her,” Adams said during an interview last week in her Virginia City home. Before that, history to Adams was “about war and men in bad wigs.” “It might have changed my whole life.”

But the meeting did change her life. Adams immediately took inspiration from Rankin’s story, turning it into a sweeping play covering 60 years in the first woman to hold federal office’s life from her childhood in Montana to her protest of the Vietnam War. It followed her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement, her successful runs for Montana’s lone Congressional seat, her “no” votes for entry into both WWI and WWII and her continued calls for peace. Adams read the play to her students, thinking it was too political to produce, but with their urging staged it at Virginia City’s Opera House.

 That play would become Adams’ one-woman show “Moment of Peace,” which toured Montana for a decade. She performed for groups of all sorts and as a teaching tool in schools, where the play fit in with English, history, government and drama curriculum. It also gave rise to the MontanaPBS docudrama “Peace is a Woman’s Job,” which Adams wrote, directed, produced and starred in using people and scenes from Virginia City. Her own house became a set, patriotic dressings on the back porch a stage where Rankin greeted the public after winning her first election. A prop sign announcing the “National American Woman Suffrage Assn.” still hangs under Adams’ porch.

 

Then came Sept. 11, 2001. Suddenly, the political climate changed as there was once again a push toward war. No one wanted to hear about a historic peacemaker.

“The only positive thing I could take away from it is this is how Jeannette felt,” Adams said. Allyson1.jpg

Adams turned to other projects, teaching drama to Ennis high schools students, coaching speech and debate, hosting writing retreats and leading the Tobacco Root Writers group, publishing her father’s memoir of his friendship with Elvis Presley, ”The Rebel & The King,” and working on her first cookbook.

“Not only did we do the whole Jeannette Rankin thing, but then life imitated art and I became the mayor of Virginia City,” Adams said.

Adams soon realized she would rather remain an artist than be a politician. As the 100th year anniversary of Rankin’s first election loomed, she knew she had to revisit Rankin’s story.

This time, the play, “Save the Country: How Belle Fligelman and Jeannette Rankin Changed the World,” takes place in the three years starting with Montana women gaining suffrage and ending with her first “no” vote. It also focuses on the relationship between Rankin and journalist-turned campaign manager Belle Fligelman. In many ways that relationship mirrors that of Adams and longtime collaborator Linsu Crowley.

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Linsu Crowley

“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Adams said of the years working on and touring the first Rankin play with Crowley. “In some small way, it’s kind of a tribute to her.”

Librarian Beth Boyson, Get Out’s library columnist, organized the event as part of a push to bring more free theatrical readings to the library. There is so much to learn from history, from the true stories of the world, Boyson explained.

“I admire Miss Rankin’s stance, a singular stance against war,” Boyson said. “The people of Montana took a brave step and elected her. It tells a little something about the character of the state and the character of Jeannette Rankin.” jeannette_real

 

Rankin was a political progressive, fighting for equal wages for women, for health and safety of workers, for education, care of infants and child nutrition. The name of the play, “Save the Country,” is taken from these ideals, from Rankin’s domestic agenda as opposed to the peace vote which is normally first in any discussion of her life.

“It is all together fitting and proper that a mother be at the bedside of her child to nurse him through typhoid fever, and it is all together fitting and proper that she then go out into the public forum to eradicate the conditions that gave her child the disease in the first place,” Rankin proclaims early in “Save the Country.” “It is for these women that have no voice, that I ask you to vote and dare to make women free.”

“Save the Country” is more modern and experimental than its predecessor, calling for a spotlight where actors speak directly to the audience. It also includes Rankin’s premonition of the testing of the atomic bomb in New Mexico.

“Young people and Americans, they don’t know their history,” Adams said. “That’s why we keep repeating it.”

As for Adams, she may retire Rankin soon.

“It’s not that I want to spend my whole life on Jeannette,” she said, talking about Rankin’s platform from campaign finance reform to support for the GI Bill. “I want to clear up misconceptions.”

Allyson Adams

The first staged reading of “Save the Country: How Belle Fligelman and Jeannette Rankin Changed the World” is Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. in the Bozeman Public Library’s Community Room, 626 E. Main St. The free reading will feature Amber Rose Mason as Belle Fligelman, Adams as Jeannette Rankin and John Hosking as Wellington Rankin, Jeannette’s Harvard-educated brother and campaign financier. There will also be music by Bozeman singer-songwriter Edis Kittrell. A talkback with the writer and actors will follow the roughly 35-minute play and cake will be served. A full production will be staged at the Torch Theatre in Virginia City in summer 2017.

By Rachel Hergett at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Oct. 27, 2016

Cast of “Save the Country”

The Cast for the reading of “SAVE THE COUNTRY” How Belle Fligelman and Jeannette Rankin Changed the World  will be Allyson Adams, Amber Rose Mason and John Hosking. November 1, 2016 at 6pm at the Bozeman Public Library, Bozeman, Montana.

Jeannette Rankin is read by the playwright Allyson Adams.
Jeannette Rankin is read by the playwright Allyson Adams.
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Amber Rose Mason is reading the part of Belle Fligelman.

Wellington Rankin will be played by John Hosking.

 

 

 

“Save the Country” is a emotional triangle during the three year period between Montana’s Suffrage victory and Rankin’s first No vote. The play delves into the relationship between Jeannette and her remarkable campaign manager, Belle Fligelman. “the woman behind the woman,” and Wellington, Jeannette’s Harvard educated brother and financier.

 

PREMIER READING on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 6pm, BOZEMAN PUBLIC LIBRARY, Bozeman, Montana. Come celebrate Jeannette Rankin’s 100 Anniversary!

Visit www.peaceisawomansjob.com

 

Elvis Presley’s Tupelo Homecoming Concert 60 Year Anniversary!

Do you have your copy of The Rebel & The King by Nick Adams? My Dad’s book details his personal experience with Elvis Presley during his return for the September 26, 1956 homecoming concert and 8 days in Memphis with his family.

“This is one of the most honest, touching and truthful books I’ve read about Elvis. I had no idea that extent of Nick’s connection to Elvis’ family and hometown. We never hear much about his mother and father. Nick brings them to life. It’s fascinating stuff.”
– Tom Brown (Former TCM executive, Elvis Presley expert and Elvis Week Host)

You can purchase your copy on Amazon or http://www.therebelandtheking.com

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Backstage at Tupelo Homecoming Concert, Sept. 26, 1956

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The dynamic duo on Elvis’ Harley, Mississippi-Alabama State Fair – Sept. 1956

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“Save the Country” by Allyson Adams

JrCapitol My new play “Save the Country” is about First U.S. Congresswoman and Montanan, Jeannette Rankin. This marks my fifth work on Rankin’s life, and coincides with the 100 Year Anniversary of Rankin’s election to Congress in 1916. “Save the Country” will have its first staged reading at the Bozeman Library on November 1, 2016 at 6pm. Bozeman Public Library 626 E. Main St. Bozeman, MT 59715. Phone: (406) 582-2400

My passion for Rankin ignited in 1997 when I moved back to Virginia City and discovered her biography “Flight of the Dove” by Kevin Giles. With a Montana PBS docudrama and a decade of one-woman shows under my belt, I am a Jeannette Rankin messenger for “Peace is a Woman’s Job.”

Whereas, my previous works focused on six decades of Rankin’s life, “Save the Country” is a emotional triangle during the three year period between Montana’s Suffrage victory and Rankin’s first No vote. The play delves into the relationship between Jeannette and her remarkable campaign manager, Belle Fligelman. “the woman behind the woman,” and Wellington, Jeannette’s Harvard educated brother and financier.

Within the span of three years, Jeannette led and won the fight for Montana Suffrage, immersed herself in New Zealand’s labor movement, became the first woman elected to any parliamentary body in the world and then voted No against U.S. entry into WWI, thus declaring her place in history. Yet nobody knows about her.

During the experimental short play, the three actors cross the 4th wall and reveal inner knowings with free poetic license. The play’s centerpiece is Rankin’s premonition of soldiers 28 years in the future, witnessing the first testing of the atomic bomb in Alamogorda, New Mexico.

A new side of Jeannette Rankin emerges. She’s famous for her peace actions, but she was about a lot more. She was at the beginning of the Progressive Movement in the early 1900’s and her focus was on domestic issues for women and children, equal pay, education and healthcare. Unfortunately, we’re still fighting for the same basic human needs and rights.

In 1916 Jeannette Rankin and Belle Fligelman changed the world.

Actress Amber Rose Mason will read the part of Belle Fligelman, Allyson Adams as Jeannette Rankin and John Hosking in the role of Wellington Rankin.

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Belle Fligelman

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Wellington Rankin

Please visit my Jeannette Rankin blog called Peace is a Woman’s Job  Jeannette Rankin movie and website

Here’s a new article in The New Yorker by Kate Walbert about Jeannette Rankin. Synchronicity!

A Century Before Hillary in the New Yorker.

Jeannette’s time has come once again with her 100 Year Anniversary to her election to Congress in 1916. Please visit http://www.peaceisawomansjob.com for more about this remarkable woman.

“Save the Country” will have its first staged reading at the Bozeman Library on November 1, 2016 at 6pm. Bozeman Public Library 626 E. Main St. Bozeman, MT 59715. Phone: (406) 582-2400 

Peace,

Allyson Adams

Art Knows Best

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Me in the West Village, 1983.

New York City is still the last best place to get that Art “fix” and look humanity right in the face.

The Kiss mural seen from the HighLine, NYC.

The Kiss mural seen from the HighLine, NYC.

Hankchampion (sculpture by Mark Di Suvero) at the New Whitney museum.

Hankchampion (sculpture by Mark Di Suvero) at the New Whitney museum.

Street musician, Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, NYC.

Street musician, Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, NYC.

After being away for 23 years, which I now refer to as “Manhattan Interruptus,” my cup runneth over with the juice of this pulsating metropolis.

The World Trade Center from the New Whitney Museum.

The World Trade Center from the New Whitney Museum.

Thanks to the good company of Beau Gage, who  is a true patron to the arts and fine sculpturess herself, I got an inside glimpse to Martha Graham’s living legacy, the FANTASTIC new Whitney Museum, a Russian Modernist’s exhibit at the Neue Galerie, coupled with a classical performance by lively, young musicians.

BERLIN - JULY 04: (GERMANY OUT) The Martha Graham Dance Company performs during a photo call at he Deutsche Staatsoper on July 4, 2008 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sven Darmer/DAVIDS/Getty Images)

BERLIN – JULY 04: (GERMANY OUT) The Martha Graham Dance Company performs during a photo call at he Deutsche Staatsoper on July 4, 2008 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sven Darmer/DAVIDS/Getty Images)

Beau and I at the Neue Galerie in front of Klimt's Woman in Gold.

Beau and I at the Neue Galerie in front of Klimt’s Woman in Gold.

People at the Whitney overlooking Hudson River.

People at the Whitney overlooking Hudson River.

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Alexander Calder’s Circus at the New Whitney.

Whitney Museum

Whitney Museum

View from Whitney of New Jersey.

View from Whitney of New Jersey.

More extraordinary view from the Whitney of Hudson River.

More extraordinary view from the Whitney of Hudson River.

Beau at the Whitney looking downtown.

Beau at the Whitney looking downtown.

Brooklyn, New York.

Brooklyn, New York.

I was able to track down Miles Bellamy, a well cultured buddy from my starving artist days, and devour his “Spoonbill and Sugartown Bookstore” in Brooklyn,  before sharing spaghetti on the roof with his 11 year old daughter. Time has certainly marched on.

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Miles, me and Jonas.

Fountain and boy along the Highline.

Fountain and boy along the Highline.

I walked the fantastic, new HIghline that stretches 30 blocks along the Hudson River and is planted with indigenous flora. I think I heard someone speak English, once, and a Buddhist monk gave me a beaded bracelet.

The sure footed journey down the middle path is like an amusement park without the rides or admission.

I stayed at Westbeth in the West Village, which is a well known artists housing and cultural center and where I participated in Nancy Gabor’s acting workshop (the whole reason and purpose for my trip).

Nancy Gabor making her magic.

Nancy Gabor making her magic.

Me doing Chekhov in Nancy's acting workshop. Playing to Greg Taubman.

Me doing Chekhov in Nancy’s acting workshop. Playing to Greg Taubman.

Wrapping up an amazing weekend. Transforming!

Wrapping up an amazing weekend. Transformative!

Since Nancy and I reconnected after 30 years, I have rekindled my passion for Nancy’s acting core techniques. My early roots as a fledgling dancer/actor/playwright are in New York and my return feels like divine intervention. Nancy’s work gives wings to anyone who experiences it.

Happy Actors.

Happy Actors- Ethan, Shelley, Nancy, Allyson and Greg.

I am filled to the brim with possibilities, friendship and inspiration.

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Hannah and I started in the village and ended up in Mexico.

Although, NYC has changed and I miss some of the grit and danger of the old days. I’m glad I had the good fortune of being broke and starry eyed during the 80’s. My humble performances in black box theatre seem better than ever in retrospect. Romantic even.

Tourists with money to burn have replaced the struggling artists and the neighborhood diners now resemble boutique eateries. Every one I talked with lamented the exorbitant rents with more luxury apartments coming. The Broadway world seems to be shrinking with remakes and star turns where everything old is new again. Change is constant.

One of my favorite moments was sitting in a Bleecker Street Cafe over Caesar salad and helping a fellow playwright get his play back on track.

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Xin Ying, Martha Graham soloist.

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Kids Art at the Neue Galerie. The artists of tomorrow interpreting Adele in America.

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Adele in America, Kids art at Neue Galerie, NYC

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Adele

Mural from the HighLine.

Mural from the HighLine.

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Adele in America, Kids art at Neue Galerie

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Adele in America, Kids art at Neue Galerie

Mural from the Highline.

Mural from the Highline.
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