The story of women’s suffrage in Oregon was made for drama. The leading suffragist here, Portland’s Abigail Scott Duniway, spent decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries working to get support for women’s right to vote. Meanwhile, her conservative brother, Harvey Scott, used the pages of the newspaper he ran — The Oregonian — to battle against her.
Enter 21st century Springfield playwright Dorothy Velasco, who had long known the story of the family feud and decided to turn it into a short play. Written by Velasco and produced by Eugene’s Very Little Theatre and Minority Voices Theatre during the pandemic, her 12-minute dramatization With Her Own Wings makes its virtual debut Friday, March 26.
“She worked on this for 42 years,” Velasco says of Duniway, who is played in the show by longtime Lane Community College drama instructor Judith “Sparky” Roberts. “It was a hard thing for her to do.”
Harvey Scott is played by Roberts’ real-life partner, Joe Cronin, meaning they could safely film their scenes together. Young actor Dora M. Boos plays a student in present-day Oregon in the show.
While this performance is virtual, it isn’t crippled by Zoom and the need to keep everyone in separate spaces while filming. “This is a little more advanced,” Velasco says. “I wrote it for the stage, but that isn’t possible right now.”
Director Victoria Quintanilla and editor Markus Johnson have given a cinematic look to the show by using multiple camera angles and weaving in historic photographs and music. The actors filmed themselves with cameras and cellphones to keep the number of people in a room together to a minimum.
Velasco says Roberts and Cronin adapted easily to the different demands on actors made by filming, compared to live theater. “They knew they were going to be seen close up,” she says. “So no big eyes or big expressions.”
Velasco, who has written freelance theater reviews for Eugene Weekly, has numerous plays that have been produced to her credit, and shares writing credit for one movie, Raising Flagg, a 2006 feature length film shot in Portland and St. Helens that starred Alan Arkin.
With Her Own Wings will stream free of charge beginning March 26 on Very Little Theatre’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/user/VLTWebmaster.