Hear Them Roar: The Fight for Women’s Rights, directed by Nan Smithner, ran in NYU’s Black Box Theatre from the 20th to the 29th of October 2017. It was a performance about the 1917 suffrage movement in New York City devised by an ensemble of fifteen that combined elements of conventional theatre and environmental theatre. We didn’t only research about the period (i.e., its historical background, the social context, the people involved, etc.), we also reflected and dialogued (an understatement) about the issues that were present then and socially relevant until now, such as racism and misogyny.
Developing and playing the role of Komako Kimura—a Japanese suffragist and artist, who was in New York to study the suffrage movement in America—was not only enjoyable, but also had me actively reflecting on the racial tensions present in America (i.e., I was told by an African American ensemble member that Komako Kimura would not be supportive of black women) and intersectionality (i.e., what I was told made me critically examine the differences between the Asian American and the Asian traveler, and ponder on what role I—both as Kimiko and as myself, an Asian international student—played in telling a particularly American story). In addition, playing one of the guides through Washington Square Park, where part of the show was held, was exhilarating. I loved interacting so closely with the audience. Hear Them Roar was undoubtedly a rich, unforgettable experience.
Below is The Sewing Circle scene from the show. In this scene, Komako Kimura is introduced. Upon hearing that Komako is both a suffragist and a dancer, the character Josephine Dodge scoffs, “A dancing suffragist?” Komako, in response, reveals that she has a spirit that resists being boxed in. She cheekily responds, “Shall I teach you?”