“I would like to speak about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.”
A direct quote from the 2016 campaign? Margaret Chase Smith spoke these words when she ran for President on the Republican platform in 1964. More than 50 years later, her words ring more true than ever. The 2016 election is historic for sure, but it’s not the first time a woman has run for President of the United States. As election fever grips the nation, Claire – our millennial heroine – is in her apartment doing the laundry. Her fellow citizens are captivated, energized and mobilized about the election but Claire’s attitude is: “I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m not voting.” That is, until a letter from 1872 arrives declaring Victoria Woodhull’s candidacy for president. Let loose your hold on reality, as the longest-running election campaign for the highest office in the land comes to a climactic close in Claire’s living room on a cold Tuesday in November.
She Will Lead is a new absurdist adventure into political history, gender, and apathy. While exploring the prominent political speeches of Victoria Claflin Woodhull (candidate in 1870), Margaret Chase Smith (candidate in 1964) and Shirley Chisholm (candidate in 1972), She Will Lead looks at one woman’s modern-day relationship to the world of politics, political parties and the people that vie for our votes. Using archival footage and verbatim text from millennial voters, this play immerses the audience in politics of the past and present.
Explore NHPR’s program focusing on the world of the play – Can A Play about the 2016 Election Change Minds.
Created and directed by Catherine Stewart, She Will Lead featured local actors Dominique Salvacion and Jordan Formicelli. Following each performance of She Will Lead, audience members were invited to join in a facilitated discussion with the director, performers, and a variety of different guest speakers. Guests include Crystal Paradis, who has recently been working to recruit voters for the Democratic party, and teen activist Ella McGrail, who will speak about the “How Tomorrow Votes” campaign.
Why She Will Lead right now?
Millennials, the generation that came of age in the 2000s (18-34 year-olds), are far less likely to vote than previous generations according to the Pew Research Center. Even in 2008, when President Barack Obama brought out younger voters in droves, only 50% of eligible Millennials cast a ballot. In 2012, that number fell to 46%. Those startling figures led to the creation of She Will Lead. If less than 50% of any demographic is actively participating in the democratic system – how can their views, needs and rights be represented?
Younger Americans are typically less likely to vote than their parents and grandparents. But voter turnout among young adults often depends on more than just demographics, according to Pew. It is also affected by “the candidates, voter mobilization efforts, the state of the economy and satisfaction with the direction of the country.”
As much as this play represents the life and attitudes of one young apathetic voter, it also looks at the journey females have taken towards the highest office in the land. Director Catherine Stewart says: Asking questions about citizenship, participation, and equality, She Will Lead has not only been created to engage millennials, but also to offer Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s an insight into the voting minds of a generation that is often reduced to memes, gifs and emoticons.