See Jane Vote
Book and Lyrics by Laurie Flanigan
Story by Laurie Flanigan & James Kaplan
Music by James Kaplan
Set in Door County’s own Liberty Grove in 1913, this delightful comedy follows Jane Duncan in her quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of the ballot box. When Jane illegally votes in her husband Richard’s upcoming mayoral election, she leaves him with no choice but to arrest her. Richard hides his embarrassment about the ordeal by fleeing the town and returning in disguise, all the while trying to regain control over his wife and his constituents. Produced in 2006.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –
By DAMIEN JAQUES – August 2006
Suffrage Musical Gets Vote
Ephraim – The American Folklore Theatre’s great success at parodying us Packers-loving cheeseheads (“Guys on Ice,” “Packer Fans From Outer Space,” “Muskie Love”) obscures the company’s other strengths. It has a knack for sneaking history into the original one-act family-friendly musicals the company stages under the stars in Peninsula State Park.
We’re not talking documentaries here. Things get pretty silly while we are observing the female-starved lives of Wisconsin’s northwoodsmen at the turn of the 20th century in AFT’s “Lumberjacks in Love.”
But a little bit of learning seeps into the entertainment in many of the company’s shows. In its newest offering, “See Jane Vote,” AFT builds a musical around the women’s suffrage movement a few years after those lumberjacks found some female companionship. The project is similar to “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” a 2001 production about the Wisconsin women who constructed ships for the Navy in the Sturgeon Bay shipyards while the men were fighting World War II.
For “Jane,” resident composer James Kaplan wrote 15 new songs and developed the concept with veteran AFT actress Laurie Flanigan. With Jacinda Duffin, they also created “Loose Lips.” Flanigan worked alone in creating the lyrics and book for “See Jane Vote.”
While “Loose Lips,” which is being revived here this summer, focused on events and activities specific to Door County, “Jane” takes a national political movement and applies it to the county with fictional characters. One man (Dick) controls the government and justice system in the Town of Liberty Grove, an actual place in Door County, and he is faced with a multilayered dilemma when wife Jane craftily drops a ballot into the Liberty Grove ballot box. It was before the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in 1920.
Dick must decide if he is going to toss his spouse into jail for her bold breach of the law. And what should be done about the election? Jane’s illegal ballot cannot be identified and disqualified.
“Jane” displays the fun and charm we have come to expect from AFT productions. Several of Kaplan’s songs belong in an anthology of his work, if one is ever recorded or published.
“Jailbird,” sung while Jane is behind bars, is cute and catchy. It injects needed energy into the first half of the musical.
“Slippery Slope” tunefully presents the argument against social change in a way that echoes the “culture wars” being fought in this country today. “Why Not” is a sweet and warm-hearted ballad that sums up the feminist case for the 19th Amendment and many other gender issues that have followed getting the vote.
Flanigan the writer is proving to be a very able lyricist and creative partner for Kaplan in the AFT’s straightforward, non-ironic style. Flanigan the actress leads a cast that energizes and enhances the show.
The conflict in this show is genteel and humorous, and her Jane is devoid of sharp or contentious edges. She portrays assertiveness and a touch of guile with such grace, it seems uncouth to oppose her.
Flanigan’s singing, particularly on “Why Not,” is simply lovely.
Jon Andrew Hegge’s Dick profits from his polished versatility. A lanky actor with a comic face, Hegge is always an amusing presence and great fun to watch.
Doug Mancheski, Monica Heuser, Amy Ludwigsen and Randy Schmeling contribute with strong performances in supporting roles. Pam Kriger choreographed and directed the production.
Door County Advocate
By Marty Lash – June 2006
AFT Talents Take Breezy Look at Women’s Suffrage
It’s 1912. Women have not yet been given the right to vote. Change is in the air and it even has affected tiny Liberty Grove, Wis.
The details provide grist for the new American Folklore Theatre musical See Jane Vote.
Leave it to AFT to find the right blend of humor, taste and tuneful lyrics to give proper musical treatment to a subject as serious as women’s suffrage.
Laurie Flanigan wrote it; James Kaplan composed the music; Pam Kriger directed the show.
The story takes place in Liberty Grove just before the Great War, when the town had a population of 82. Dick is the mayor, and his wife, Jane, a blooming suffragette. Dick and Jane’s friends Charles and Amanda basically are against women having the vote, but their spirited daughter, Georgia, is active in the movement. And then there’s Teddy, Georgia’s would-be boyfriend, who is not very successful at winning her affections.
Jane is put in the Liberty Grove Jail for having the nerve to break the law by voting. Dick has to arrest her, and the poor guy does his duty in a situation that is sad and confusing for all.
The humor begins when Dick decides he needs to find out what it is like to be a woman and undergo such indignities. He disappears for a bit, then comes back dressed as a woman. The audience must suspend reality for a bit; nobody could mistake Dick for a woman. His 5 o’clock shadow gives him away, and he keeps shifting in and out of a female voice.
No matter. The humor still works.
Dick, played by actor Jon Andrew Hegge, is a riot when he tries to dance like a woman and take on female mannerisms. He could have used some help with clothes: His dress is nothing to get excited about, but that was intentional.
Though Hegge could have used the services of a personal shopper, he steals the show with a very funny and engaging performance.
Without overdoing it, he takes on his new role with joy and has great fun. He could have turned the part into something annoying, camp or embarrassing, but avoided such traps. He is humorous and demonstrates appropriate restraint.
The songs, though, are what make the show work so well. In the clever “Jailbird,” the prim and proper Amanda expresses her displeasure over her friend Jane being a “criminal.” In “Ready To Wear,” Dick sings about his new persona and gets his first taste wearing women’s clothes. Again, Hegge is very funny.
One of the best songs in the show is “Slippery Slope,” a tune that warns about the possibility of women driving cars, wearing pants, playing poker until 3 a.m., running for office and hanging out in saloons. In 1912, none of these things are taken very seriously. Given how far society has advanced in the last 94 years, it’s hard to believe there was a time when these things were issues at all.
Charles, played by the talented Doug Mancheski, has a big solo, “Blither Blather,” which gives him a change to make fun of himself. Charles likes to think of himself as Liberty Grove’s mayor, and the song gives him a chance to “strut his stuff.”
Flanigan plays Jane, and sings the show’s most poignant tune, “Why Not,” which asks questions about why women can’t be doctors, lawyers or anything they want. Flanigan, with her sweet and well-rained voice, delivers the song effectively.
“Order In The Court,” another clever song, allows the entire cast to get into the act when Jane goes on trial for her offense. The show is brought to a rousing conclusion with “New Day Dawning.”
See Jane Vote is an enjoyable evening at the theater and appropriate for all ages.
It’s great that AFT has finally been able to mount a new show; more is promised. In a future season, the Fred Alley initiative will help develop a musical version of “Room With A View,” which is to be called Cabin With a View.
Later this year, AFT will be producing an evening of music by John Prine titled Fish and Whistle. The show will be held at the Ephraim Village Hall from Aug. 31 to Oct. 22.
Ed Huyck – June 2006
AFT Vets Explore Women’s Suffrage in ‘See Jane Vote’
Things that we take for granted – that seem to have been around forever – often are much younger than we think and were much more difficult to implement than we imagine.
Take a woman’s right to vote.
Writer Laurie Flanigan and composer James Kaplan hadn’t given women’s suffrage much thought until a few years ago.
Kaplan and Flanigan previously collaborated on the American Folklore Theatre musical Loose Lips Sink Ships, along with Door County writer Jacinda Duffin. As that show made its way through the development process, Flanigan and Kaplan discussed what to do next. The result was See Jane Vote, premiering June 13 at AFT.
Kaplan’s wife had two living grandmothers, one of whom was born in the 1910s.
“She was born without the right to vote,” Kaplan said of the older grandmother. “This struck me as a remarkable thing. The idea that my daughter would not have the right to vote is unthinkable. So it made the connection very real for me.”
The idea of exploring the suffrage movement appealed to both creators, but they knew that to make the show work, it would need a hook to draw in the audience. The last thing they wanted was to be didactic, Flanigan said.
To do that, they started with a question: What if an upstanding woman in a small Wisconsin town in 1912 decided to cast a vote?
The story grew from there, finding the wife, Jane, in jail, which doesn’t sit well with her husband, Dick, who is the mayor of Liberty Grove. It only gets worse when Jane’s plight attracts the attention of outside suffragettes. There is some madcap action, a bit of cross-dressing and plenty of the tuneful tunes that have long been a staple of AFT.
The work has been in development for several years as part of AFT’s new works program. The rewrites and workshops eventually led to a staged reading last August at the home of long-time company supporter Cynthia Stiehl for an invited audience that included AFT’s artistic staff.
The staged reading not only creates an early buzz for a new work, it also allows the creators to see what – and what doesn’t- work in front of an audience. Flanigan discovered the concept and the basic shape of the story worked with the audience. Other parts proved to be more problematic, so she and Kaplan spent the winter going through more rounds of rewrites, revisions and readings.
“At times it felt like it was drifting, and it needed to be driving to the end. There was no time for letdown,” Flanigan said.
To work on these and other issues, Flanigan worked on the script and the two revamped a number of songs to help tell the story and deepen the characters.
Flanigan is pleased with the show’s development, but knows that there is still one more round of potential revisions – during final rehearsals in Door County.
A cast of mainly familiar faces tackles See Jane Vote. This includes the playwright as Jane and her real life husband Jon Hegge as Dick (the two also played a couple in the past AFT show Muskie Love). Doug Mancheski takes on the role of Charles, while the part of Amanda will be played by AFT newcomer Monica Heuser. Georgia and Teddy will be portrayed by veteran Amy Ludwigsen and newcomer Randy Schmeling.
Talkin’ Broadway — Minneapolis
Ed Huyck – July 2006
American Folklore Theatre’s ‘See Jane Vote’
For more than 30 years (beginning its life as the Heritage Ensemble), American Folklore Theatre has presented original shows at an outdoor amphitheater at Peninsula State Park. In recent years, a number of the company’s shows have spread outside the bounds of the park, but the home location is still the prime place to see the theater’s charming works.
This year, Twin Cities playwright (and longtime AFT cast member) Laurie Flanigan has created See Jane Vote, which explores the women’s suffrage movement through the lens of a small Wisconsin town. It’s a pleasing show, packed with strong performances, an engaging – if at times overly silly – story and high quality music from composer (and AFT music director) James Kaplan.
Flanigan stars as Jane, the wife of the mayor (named, naturally, Dick and played by her real husband, Jon Hegge) of Liberty Grove. It is the Fourth of July, 1912, and everything seems fine. But Jane doesn’t understand why she – and her young daughter – can’t vote. So she does a seemingly innocent stunt and drops a ballot in the box. That leads to all sorts of chaos, including her arrest, suffrage rallies and (eventually) her husband dressing in drag to discover what it’s like to walk a mile in turn-of-the-century heels.
Like I said, kind of silly, but with a important message at heart, one that Jane explains to her stuck-in-the-mud friend, Amanda, in “Why Not?” Why can’t she, or her daughter, or any other woman do the things that a man does?
Not surprisingly, Flanigan and Hegge have real chemistry on stage. Both sing and perform well, and Hegge gets extra credit for appearing for half the show as a “freakishly tall” proper lady. The balance of the cast is also strong, including company favorite Doug Mancheski as the dim-witted Charles and Amy Ludwigsen and Raandy Schmeling as the scheming youngsters, Georgia and Teddy.
See Jane Vote continues through the end of August. It is joined in rep by two other shows: Loose Lips Sink Ships(about women working in the nearby shipyards during World War II, also written by Flanigan and Kaplan, along with Jacinda Duffin); and Belgians in Heaven (created by AFT co-founder Fred “Doc” Heide and Kaplan, and is one of AFT’s signature creations, but has not been mounted since the death in 2001 of company co-founder Fred Alley). For tickets and more information, call 920-854-6117 or visit www.folkloretheatre.com.