Florida Studio Theatre kicked off The Suffragist Project Monday evening.

Florida Studio Theatre kicked off its 16-monthlong The Suffragist Project with an event Monday at its historic Keating Theatre—a building that producing artistic director Richard Hopkins reminded the audience was built originally to serve as a Woman’s Club, several years before women were granted suffrage in this country.

The project, a bi-county artistic commemoration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, will include plays, performances, art exhibits, panel discussions, educational offerings and more throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties. (Sarasota Magazine, for example, will hold its annual “Women of Influence” event at FST this July.) The project will culminate with the production of a new play at FST consisting of the best work created for the project.

To that end, Monday’s event welcomed several actresses to the stage to present excerpts from speeches or letters of important women throughout American history, including Abigail Adams and Sojourner Truth. Also speaking at the event were the director of the project, Kate Alexander; Chief Judge Charles E. Williams (who touched on the history of the women’s right to vote); and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who recalled wanting to be like comic strip journalist Brenda Starr while growing up, and whose mother encouraged her with the simple words, “If that’s what you want to do.” Hunter-Gault, in turn, has worked for decades seeking out people who felt they had no voice, and she spoke of the continuing need for woman journalists and others “to speak truth to power” despite any threats.

More than 20 area organizations are involved in The Suffragist Project, including the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, the League of Women Voters, the Ringling Museum, New College of Florida, the Sarasota County Library System, female journalists of Sarasota and Manatee counties and students at Booker High School, to name just a few. It all builds to the production of the new one-act play that will take the stage at FST in the summer of 2020 and will then tour middle and high schools in a shortened version.

To learn more about The Suffragist Project, or to participate, contact associate director Meg Gilbert at mgilbert@floridastudiotheatre.org.

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