As each day more revelations come out in the press about producer Harvey Weinstein’s various enablers, I find myself thinking about the play in which I am about to star. It tells the long buried but true story of leading feminist leaders who concealed the crimes of a notorious rapist in order to advance their careers. Exposing this scandal, I feel pride at what I am undertaking as an actress but horror in reflecting upon what happened.
I also find myself reflecting on my achievements as a performer. I realize that I have been blessed with many great moments in my career. The list of those includes receiving a Drama Desk nomination for playing opposite Kevin Kline in a production of Chekhov at Lincoln Center, starring in Shakespeare in The Park and playing vital recurring and guest star roles on several primetime shows, indie movies and three different network daytime dramas.
But I am astounded by the production I am about to star in. It possess a remarkably unique voice, and its raw power is truly exceptional.
Entitled The Fight, it’s a world premiere that explores the origins of what’s called Second-Wave feminism. This was the movement during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that fought so women had a chance to compete on an equal footing with men in the workplace and for an array of still contested aims like legal abortion.
The play depicts the conflict between two women who guided the movement. My character is the brilliant, opinionated, pragmatic leader of those considered the “moderates.” However at the time, the battle she was waging for a woman’s equal place in the world was considered very controversial. She is determined to reveal and ultimately destroy the impossible demands on women for obedience, subservience and manic happiness. She is one of the most delicious, complicated and wickedly funny women I have ever had the good fortune to inhabit.
Her sometime rival is a more radical figure who is unresponsive to the desires of many women for motherhood and marriage. Loosely based on real events and personalities, the play offers audiences the opportunity to ask themselves what they think feminism is and what it should be.
This story has long been ignored. This is so true that The Fight is literally the first play, TV show or movie to examine the reasons for the split that emerged in the feminist movement between Second Wave moderates and radicals.
Yet this is one of the most important events of the twentieth century.
To prepare myself for my part I have delved into this world, reading every book, newspaper article, watching videos and scouring the Web. In the process, I have been astonished to discover how much of my own life is indebted to these modern-day Amazons. It is on their shoulders we are standing when we speak of the equality, dignity and freedom that women of my generation have come to believe is our destiny. This piece not only illuminates that, but absolutely calls into question where the battlefield is today.
The company putting on the show, Storm Theatre, has been lauded by The New York Times. The play’s author, SCENES critic Jon Leaf, has been trumpeted as well. That’s as much as to say that I’m working with good people, and that there’s a consciousness in rehearsal each day of how relevant the play remains. That’s something we felt keenly even before the breaking of the Harvey Weinstein scandal made us even more aware of how timely the play is and how both its tales of righteousness and of wrongdoing need finally to come into the light of day.