Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 13, 2023

Preview: Great Barrington Public Theater, "Representation and How to Get It"

The Mount, Lenox, MA
August 25, 26, 27, 2023
Special Event: 3 Performances Only

A play inspired by Julia Ward Howe 

Great Barrington Public Theater (GBPT) and The Mount collaborate on a new play that takes a personal look at Julia Ward Howe, the famous poet who wrote "Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Howe's legacy, however, was far more important than penning one poem. She was noted as charismatic and passionate in expressing her views one of the earliest civil rights activists.

This one-person play was written by Joyce Van Dyke, actor Elaine Vaan Hogue, and GBPT Associate Artistic Director Judy Braha.

The plot begins at early dawn and the setting is Boston, MA. The audience finds Howe rehearsing a lecture she’s about to give to the Boston Radical Club on political representation for women. She delivers a passionate, moving call-to-arms for that time. 

Howe's, however, was far more important than penning one poem. She was noted as charismatic and passionate in expressing her views one of the earliest civil rights activists.

Julia Ward, born in 1819 in New York City, seemed to have begun her role as advocate from a young age because of her own atypical upbringing. In spite of becoming the wife of the prominent Samuel Howe of Boston and giving birth to six children, it is stated that Julia felt bored and ineffective as a woman whose life was solely that of a homemaker.

Through her plays and poems, one can read that Julia and her husband vehemently disagreed about the role of women in politics. However, Samuel sought his wife to edit his antislavery paper, Commonwealth, which lead to her involvement in abolitionism. When she met soldiers in army camps in Washington, DC, she was inspired to write the poem "Battle-Hymn," printed in the Atlantic Monthly in 1852. The poem, then song, touched the feelings of the nation, becoming a proverbial "best seller". Unexpectedly, Julia was famous.

Yet, that was just the beginning of her career as writer, lecturer, editor, and powerful suffrage advocate for the next several decades until her death at age 90. Julia was not shy, spoke her mind, and in spite of her diminutive physical stature, preaching for the rights of women was foremost in her teaching wherever she traveled in the United States.

The creators of "Representation and How to Get It" say, “We want her words and this play to charge the audience with agency, hope, and a collective sense of the need to take action now."

Joyce Van Dyke’s new solo play, "Representation and How to Get It," was developed in collaboration with performer Elaine Vaan Hogue and director Judy Braha and produced in 2022 in New York and numerous historic New England venues. Van Dyke's other plays have been produced Off-Broadway at the Pan Asian Reper tory Theatre, and the Central Square Theater. Van Dyke is a past winner of the prestigious Gassner Award and Boston Globe’s “Top Ten” plays of 2001. 

Actor Elaine Vaan Hogue is also a director, teacher, and producer. She is a member of The Magdalena Project, an international cross-cultural and cross-generational network of women in contemporary theatre. She co-founded the Gypsy Mamas Artist Group, a laboratory sustaining adventurous creative exploration and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration of new work. Vaan Hogue has performed and/or directed throughout New England and is a Professor Emeritas at Boston University.    

In addition to being the director of this play, Judy Braha has been an actor, teacher, and artist for social justice for over four decades. Head of the MFA Directing Program at Boston University’s School of Theater, her credits include theaters and universities throughout New England. One of her goals is to raise consciousness around the power of the arts as activism. As a director, Braha's work often has concern for human rights at its center.