Finally Heard Feminine Heroes of an Uncivil War has tales of feisty slaves, women who hid their gender to fight, espionage, exiled sympathizers, and independent woman who wanted to aid soldiers. The play is filled with intriguing story lines and with Frederick being a town rich with Civil War history – it is no wonder why the Maryland Ensemble Theatre brought back the play to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The play debuted during the theatre’s inaugural season. They tweaked the script a bit and streamlined it into a nice one-act show.
Suzanne Beal is a great choice to direct the production. I have seen her fine work in other productions and like here she is drawn to plays that feature strong women characters. The production features excellent storytelling and has six great storytellers.
Rona Mensah plays Sylvia Dubois, the same role she played in the original production. Here colorful tale of how she won her freedom by whipping her master was one of the highlights of the show. Lia Seltzer gave an exciting and enthusiastic performance as Mary Tepe, a French immigrant who helped the troops keep their canteens filled and supplied them with wine. She one of only two women to earn the Kearny Cross. Amber Dawn Levow Fullmer puts on her best Irish accent to portray Jenny Hodgers, who enlisted into the Army as Albert Cashier. She was the only woman to complete her Army enlistment without being discovered as a female.
Devin Gaither plays a Marylander – Devin Gaither, a nurse who served in several key battles, and who endeds up being exiled from Baltimore to Richmond during the war. Her reading of a letter near the end of the production was quite emotional. Laura Stark’s delivered a very convincing performance playing Elizabeth Van Lew, a woman who sided with the Union despite living in the South. Stark became one of the most important espionage figures in the civil war. Lynette Franklin plays Mary Elizabeth Bowser – a slave with a photographic memory, one of the few slaves who could read and write, and who was a spy who played an important role in the Union’s victory.
Allison Duvall designed very realistic costumes, ranging from Union Uniforms, to socialite dresses, to outfits fit for Gypsy-like characters and servants. Tad Janes projected images behind the cast, and the sound was crystal clear. Carl Joannet provided excellent lighting.
Finally Heard Feminine Heroes of an Uncivil War tells real-life tales of some of the most remarkable and heroic women who helped shape history during the Civil War. And how wonderful it is that this wonderful production will inspire girls and women – and men – of our generation and generations to come.
Running Time: About one hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.
Finally Heard Feminine Heroes of an Uncivil War plays through April 28, 2013 at Maryland Ensemble Theatre (MET) – 31 West Patrick Street, in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 694-4744, or purchase them online.