How the Vote Was Won - October 01 - October 02, 2020

College of Charleston Department of Theatre and Dance


The plots to ancient Greek comedies always revolved around a ridiculous premise proposed as the solution to a serious problem. We call that central debate the “happy idea.” Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St. John’s 1909 play How the Vote was Won follows the lead of those crazy comedies by proposing a happy idea of their own: what if all the women who support themselves and pay taxes suddenly stopped working and demanded that their male relatives support them? Will the men in power finally realize that women, who contribute so much to the economy and the nation, should have the right to participate in its governance? The results of this “happy idea” create a delightful farce that anticipates (in 1909) an immediate end to the ban on women’s suffrage.


The Department of Theatre and Dance chose the show to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women in the United States the right to vote. When the pandemic hit and necessitated all kinds of new performance demands, like streaming and social distancing and masks, we decided that instead of trying to work around those changes we’d make them a part of the show. We’ve placed the action of the show in London in 1918. That’s the year that some women won the right to vote in Britain, and it’s also the year of the flu pandemic. So, it’s not only the actors who are wearing masks and social distancing, it’s also the characters. (Sure, we’ve compressed the year a bit, since suffrage was granted in February of 1918 and the flu didn’t reach London until around June, but during a pandemic, the compression of time isn’t such a bad thing, is it? Allow us our dramatic license.) We found all kinds of fun ways for the characters to social distance, even as they debate a very important matter. Our hope is that the show will inspire a little laughter and a reminder of the importance of voting. Go Vote!

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