The Genesis Of Moments In Time: Staging History
About 20 years ago a few actresses active in the Glen Ellyn (Illinois) Village Theater were handed a number of scripts and costumes belonging to actor Barbara Rowe, a former Elmhurst, Illinois, actor who was a pioneer in recreating the lives of women in history. At the Village Theater I had appeared in and directed several productions, as well as serving as the theater’s newsletter editor, membership chair, and executive producer. I engaged in a variety of backstage activity, with props and costumes my favorite posts. Barbara Rowe had developed portrayals of brave and determined women who had changed history by their humanity and their advocacy for women’s rights, women such as Susan B. Anthony, Ernestine Rose, Jeanette Rankin, and Jane Addams. I was one of the women at the meeting that evening, and it was the “voice” of Jane Addams that spoke the most clearly to me. There were seven of us who decided to “carry on” the work of Barbara Rowe, who had retired, along with her husband, to Florida. I developed a new script and a new costume for my portrayal of Addams, and by Spring of the next year, we seven were on the road. In the many years since, the other six actors have taken various paths in their life’s journey, but I have continued the work laid before me that evening back in 1986.
Although at the time I was engaged in an interesting and challenging profession, I was looking to fulfill my other passions as well: history, research, writing, theater and design, and struggling to find a way to bring it all together into a package. And then these words by Jane Addams jumped out at me: “Do what you are afraid to do. Keep one main thought and you will never be lost.” And with this wisdom as my guidepost I rolled my professional and personal experiences and my passions into one main thought and set out to sell women’s history.
The idea of recreating historical women was unexpectedly presented to me; because of it I have been able to place my love for history and theater into a Moment in Time by researching and presenting the lives of audacious, courageous, tenacious torchbearers. An ensemble is created for each individual heroine to wear – authentic to her historical period, or a Visual Journey Lecture is carefully prepared, and then I “stand her” before an audience to share some truths about her dreams, the challenges of her life, her plans to change the status quo, as well as allowing her to reveal her disappointments along with her victories.
I am happy to pass on my enthusiasm for my work to those who come to hear my monologues from women in history. My hope is that through my historical characters’ voices and my lecture themes, those in my audiences will see and hear how much I love the work of recreating history. My hope is that they take away knowledge they may not have sought on their own, discover that in being introduced to a courageous, purposeful woman from the past, they not only sat in on a living history lesson but had a good time in the process.
Best wishes from a history devotee,
Annette M. Baldwin