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Belmont play “36” to highlight women’s suffrage movement, the value of voting

The brand new play, “36,” written and directed by theater faculty member Shawn King, is set to premiere virtually at Belmont on Oct. 29. 

The play spotlights the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville, as Tennessee was the 36th state to approve the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. 

“The most important thing that I want the audience to get is the understanding of what it took to get the right to vote. It was not a magical poof – everybody gets to vote. It took years of planning and working behind the scenes and sacrifice. Some of that was not always pretty,” said Knight. 

As election day draws near, the play seeks to remind its audience the importance and privilege of voting. 

“I want people to understand just what was involved in making this possible. As a result I want them to never take that right for granted and use it whenever they have the opportunity,” said Knight. 

Knight enlisted the help of the Tennessee League of Women Voters as well as historians at Hermitage Hotel in order to best represent these characters and events.

The story revolves around Carrie Chapman Catt, a key player in the fight for women’s right to vote. It begins with her arrival in Nashville in July of 1920, and gives a behind the scenes look into the movement as well as those who took part in it. 

“36” also plays homage to Belmont alumni Anna Dallas Dudley, who attended the Ward-Belmont College decades before it became Belmont University.  

“The humanity behind these characters is super important because there are a lot of historical reenactments out there, and that’s not what we were interested in,” said Knight. “We weren’t interested in somebody just repeating the speeches that someone said 100 years ago. I wanted to sort of imagine what these people really were like.”

Like most events this year, the play will look different because of COVID-19. While the actors will be performing in person, the audience will be tuning in online. 

“We are filming the production, and it is going to be livestreamed out and will be available to watch on a link online. When we film, it will be maskless, but the requirement is that the actors will be 15 feet apart,” said Knight.

The cast and crew are working to keep the show just as interesting and engaging as it would be in person. 

“I do think it will be able to be performed at its full potential. The part of it that’s going to be weird is that it’s going to be odd to see people arguing passionately 15 feet apart. Or where they might give their friends a hug in real life, we won’t see that on stage right now,” said Knight. 

The filming of the show will take place on Oct. 24 followed by the livestream for the public Oct. 29 and 30. Viewers will be able to view “36” on the Belmont library’s website. 

This article written by Ellie Burr.

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