University of Rochester

New York Actress and Rochester Mayor Share Stage for Suffrage Play

June 26, 1998

Actress Roberta Wallach, daughter of actors Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, and Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson will headline the cast of Take Up the Song, a production that traces the early years in the women's movement through the words of its leaders, at Geva Theatre Wednesday, July 15 at 8 p.m.

A shorter version of the work was originally performed in New York City Hall in 1995 to mark the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The piece develops a series of dialogues between reporters and suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and others. Take Up the Song is being presented in Rochester as part of Forum 98, a conference exploring the status of women's rights since the 1848 convention in Seneca Falls.

The script was written by John Tepper Marlin, chief economist in the New York City Office of the Controller. Marlin is the great-nephew of Inez Milholland, a lawyer who sacrificed her own health and died while campaigning for the right to vote. Her part will be read by Wallach, who has appeared in several movies and on television and the stage, including The Diary of Anne Frank.

Mayor Johnson will read the part of Frederick Douglass, who was one of 32 men and the only person of color at the women's rights convention in Seneca Falls. Douglass' newspaper, the North Star, was heavily supported by anti-slavery women in the Rochester area and at the convention Douglass spoke up for women's right to vote.

The Rochester production of Take Up the Song will include music especially composed for the presentation by Clairissa Breen, a Fairport resident and graduate of the Eastman School of Music, and performed by AKOMA Women's Gospel Choir.

Admission to Take Up the Song is free but seating is limited and ticket reservations are needed, since the production will also be attended by participants in Forum 98. Forum 98 includes workshops and speakers on health, education, workplace and other issues at the University of Rochester July 15 and 16 to mark the 150th anniversary of the women's rights convention in Seneca Falls. For information about attending Forum 98 or Take Up the Song, call 275-8799.