Her Story Theater will stage the world premiere of INVISIBLE, written by Mary Bonnett, as its Fall 2019 production. INVISIBLE imagines a woman in a small Mississippi town in 1925 who is forced to reconcile her involvement in the modern Women’s Ku Klux Klan movement with her religious beliefs and sense of decency. Wrapping their anti-immigrant mission in a cloak of patriotism following the passage of women’s suffrage, Mabel Carson’s neighbors have convinced her of the justness of their cause, but the arrival in town of a Chicago newspaper reporter just as their WKKK chapter is gaining momentum forces Mabel to question her beliefs. INVISIBLE is a powerful and suspenseful drama in the tradition of American southern-set narrative fiction. It looks back at the nearly forgotten but significant WKKK. While the plot and characters of INVISIBLE are imagined, the descriptions of the WKKK activities are accurate, and actual historical figures are mentioned as off-stage characters. The play is set in Mounds, Mississippi, a once-real town that was destroyed after it was engulfed by a massive flood in 1927.
INVISIBLE was written by Her Story Theater’s Producing Artistic Director Mary Bonnett, author of the company’s earlier productions that comprised its “Chicago Sex Trafficking Cycle.” The cycle includes SHADOW TOWN, voted one of the 2013 “Ten Best Productions of the Year” by Chicago Theater Beat; THE JOHNS, MONEY MAKE ‘M’ SMILE for youth, and 2018’s breakout hit MONGER, of which the SUN TIMES said “It lands with a crushing (and factually supported) weight.” SPLASH MAGAZINE gave it four stars, saying, “The Play’s action is mesmerizing; at a tightly crafted 75 minutes… it hits many nerves at once; anger, disbelief, compassion, fear and a desire to help.” BUZZ CENTER STAGE said “What I really want is for you to go see this play. This is something real.”
INVISIBLE will be directed by longtime Chicago director Cecilie Keenan, who earned raves for her direction of WEDDING BAND in 2017 for The Artistic Home. That production prompted Tony Adler, the then-theater editor of the READER to declare “ So praise the Lord, as one of its characters would certainly say, for the Artistic Home revival of Childress's WEDDING BAND.”
Barbara Roeder Harris has been cast as Lucinda, the driving force behind the establishment of the town’s WKKK chapter. Lisa McConnell will play Jubalation, the indomitable activist and multi-racial woman who challenges the town’s bigots. Rich Cotovsky is the CHICAGO TRIBUNE reporter David Stein. Mabel Carson will be played by Morgan Laurel Cohen, and Mabel’s husband Tom will be played by Brad Harbaugh. Megan Kaminsky will be the young wife and WKKK member Doris, and Maddie Fleming will play the mysteriously magical 11-year-old “Ghost Girl”.
Top row left-right: Morgan Laurel Cohen, Rich Cotovsky, Maddie Fleming, Brad Harbaugh.
Lower row left-right: Barbara Roeder Harris, Megan Kaminsky, Lisa McConnell.
The production team will include Kevin Rolfs (Set Design), Shelby Wilkins (Costume Design), Parker Langvardt (Projection Design), Blake Cordell (Lighting and Sound Design), Myesha-Tiera, (Assistant Director), Sean Smyth (Stage Manager), Jamise Wright (Assistant Stage Manager), Auden Granger (Wardrobe Mistress, Props Manager).
INVISIBLE brings to light the nearly forgotten national Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK), also known as Women's Ku Klux Klan, and Ladies of the Invisible Empire, which held to many of the same political and social ideas of the nationwide KKK but functioned as a separate branch of the national organization with their own actions and ideas. While most women focused on the moral, civic, and educational agendas of the Klan, they also had considerable involvement in issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and religion. The women of the WKKK fought for educational and social reforms like other Progressive reformers but with extreme intolerance to race, religion and ethnicity. Particularly prominent in the 1920s, the WKKK existed in every state, but their strongest chapters were in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Arkansas. White, native-born, Protestant women age 16 or older were allowed to join the Klan. Women of the Klan differed from Klansmen primarily in their political agenda to incorporate racism, nationalism, traditional morality, and religious intolerance into everyday life through mostly non-violent tactics with the men often acting as enforcement of those targeted by the women’s Klan.
Her Story Theater was founded in 2011 and has focused primarily on raising awareness of the epidemic of sexual exploitation of minors and homelessness. The four produced plays in Her Story’s “Chicago Sex Trafficking Cycle” include SHADOW TOWN (2013), THE JOHNS (2014), MONEY MAKE'M SMILE (2016, 2017) and MONGER (2018). As a group, the plays depict domestic sex trafficking from the perspectives of the various participants – the traffickers, girls and boys who are trafficked, and the men who buy them. While INVISIBLE is concerned with issues of bigotry, nativism and violence against minorities and children, it also speaks to issues of spousal abuse and feminism as well. Her Story Theater continues its work to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic sex trafficking and the trauma-based victim through its touring productions, presentations and school programs.
Tickets to INVISIBLE will be on sale soon and will be available at www.stage773.com or by phone at 773-327-5252. For Group Ticket discounts, please call 312-835-1410. More information on INVISIBLE and Her Story Theatre is available at www.herstorytheater.org
MARY BONNETT (Producing Artistic Director, Playwright) is the cofounder and Artistic Director of Her Story Theater. As a professional playwright, Mary’s plays include her highly acclaimed series from her Chicago Sex Trafficking Cycle: SHADOW TOWN, THE JOHNS, MONEY MAKE'M SMILE and MONGER. They are based on interviews Mary conducted with hundreds of professionals, survivors, sellers and buyers involved with sex trafficking in the Chicagoland area. These interviews are ongoing and continue to contribute to her work in the SIDE SHOW series, a national program for field professionals, educators and youth on domestic sex trafficking and the impact on the trauma-based survivor.
Her main stage productions and touring shows have been quoted as “life changing”.
Mary’s sex trafficking plays have reached across the country. THE JOHNS was performed in Houston, Texas for Super Bowl 2017. Her SIDE SHOWS have been presented at conferences across central Pennsylvania, Southern and Northern Illinois, and Wisconsin with upcoming performances in Oregon and California.
Other works include GLOSS OVER, based on the lives of homeless women from Deborah’s Place; RADICAL IDEAS! WOMEN AND THE VOTE, based on the struggle of women in Illinois to ratify and win the vote; and 9TH FLOOR: BLOCKED JUSTICE OF THE TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST FACTORY FIRE.
Mary’s awards for excellence and outstanding contributions in professional theater include the prestigious Dr. Margaret Burroughs Award, and most recently, a Civic Engagement Award for Outstanding Community Cause Leadership. Her Story Theater is the recipient of the Illinois State Senate Hero Award in Sex Trafficking Prevention and Backstage Magazine’s “Top Ten Best Theaters That Change Lives.”
With a grant from the Chicago Teachers Union and the participation of educators, Mary led the development of a 7th-12th curriculum on domestic sex trafficking for youth. This curriculum with accompanying study guide complemented her play MONEY MAKE’M SMILE, presented to over 5000 inner city students free of charge.
She speaks regularly to organizations, high schools and universities on sex trafficking and the impact the current culture has on our youth. Her speaking engagements have included presentations for the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Conference and workshops with refugee girls through Girls Forward. Mary has appeared on television and radio shows, championing the need for change in laws to protect children and women. Under Mary's leadership, Her Story Theater has raised thousands of donated dollars for their partner organizations and is supported by the Oppenheimer Family Foundation.
Cecilie Keenan (director) is a freelance director, producer and writer active in the Chicago Theater Community for over 20 years. She is delighted to be directing Her Story Theater’s “Invisible” by Mary Bonnett. Currently Cecilie is working with Promethean Ensemble on developing a new work and assisting Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater on a full dance program about immigration titled AMERICAN CATRACHO. Cecilie is also writing a new play about Langston Hughes, called CHASING THE WIND. Her other recent work includes co-writing and directing MY DREAM ACT, a solo show about a young woman whose citizenship is undocumented.
Keenan has directed on many stages including the Goodman Theater, Collaboraction, American Blues, Artistic Home, ACT and Teatro Vista, where she served as Producing Director for nine years. She also served as Artistic Director at Bailiwick Repertory where she started the Director’s Festival, 11 Minutes Max, and directed many award-winning productions. Cecilie held the position of Producing Director at Chicago’s Apple Tree Theater and before that, Associate Artistic Director at Northlight Theater. In the past Cecilie has received many awards for directing and ensemble work, as well as a TCG Observership to Mexico and several NEA and foundation grants. Cecilie has received individual Artist Grants from DCASE to develop or produce new plays, playwriting festivals or collaborate with theaters internationally. She worked to develop a Theater/Education Program at Latino’s Progresando in Little Village and with them went to Oaxaca, Mexico to create a play addressing immigration. She has taught theater and theater creation in Chicago, Minneapolis and Oaxaca, Mexico.
HER STORY THEATER
Her Story Theater is a theater for social change. Through theater and the written word, our mission is to shine bright lights in dark places on women and children in need of social justice and community support. Since 2011, we have partnered with countless organizations to raise awareness on current issues that impact women and children.
Written by Mary Bonnett
Directed by Cecilie Keenan
October 3 – November 3, 2019
Sponsored by the Oppenheimer Family Foundation
Previews Thursday October 3 through Sunday October 6
Opening Night Thursday October 10 at 7:30 pm
Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Tickets: www.Stage773.org, 773-327-5252
PRICES: $35.00, Students $15.00
For information on group rates, visit www.HersStoryTheatre.org or call 312-835-1410.
INVISIBLE imagines a woman in a small Mississippi town in 1925 forced to reconcile her involvement in the rising national Women’s Ku Klux Klan movement with her religious beliefs and sense of decency. Her neighbors have convinced her of the justness of the cause, but the arrival in town of a Chicago newspaper reporter just as their WKKK chapter is gaining momentum, forces Mabel to question her involvement and convictions. INVISIBLE is a powerful and suspenseful drama in the tradition of southern narrative fiction that looks back at the nearly forgotten but significant nationwide WKKK movement and its role in promoting bigotry and nativism in the US.