Denise Winter portrays May Arkwright Hutton in “May’s Vote,” the Key City Public Theatre production streaming later this week. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Olympic Peninsula News Group

Denise Winter portrays May Arkwright Hutton in “May’s Vote,” the Key City Public Theatre production streaming later this week. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Olympic Peninsula News Group

Historical drama tells of suffrage victory

It’s possible for two women — not at all alike — to reach a shared victory. It’s also possible to present a stage performance simultaneously from two cities.

So Denise Winter of Port Townsend and Barbara Callander of Seattle show in “May’s Vote,” Key City Public Theatre’s historical drama presentation. Toni Douglass’ play about two Washingtonians who strove for women’s suffrage will be streamed online at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and at 7 p.m. next Sunday, Dec. 13.

Free tickets can be reserved at keycity publictheatre.org.

Saturday’s early show is a joint presentation with Olympic Theatre Arts, so its viewers are invited to make donations to support OTA, Sequim’s nonprofit theater company (see www.olympictheatrearts.org/OTA).

Winter, KCPT’s artistic director, emphasized that all three performances are for all theater lovers — and anyone interested in how women of the Pacific Northwest energized the suffrage movement.

“This is the story of two extremely influential women,” she said, adding, “if you’re interested in what’s going on right now” with voting rights, this play is your ticket.

Winter has the title role of May Arkwright Hutton, the boisterous saloon cook turned Spokane activist, while Callander portrays the ladylike Emma Smith DeVoe of Tacoma.

The pair proved, Winter said, that political activists with radically different approaches can work in concert.

“How do we all desire the same thing and figure out a way to come together and achieve it? This is a piece of that story,” she said.

“May’s Vote” was supposed to be a touring show all over the Evergreen State, celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment. A $5,000 Washington State Historical Society grant helped fund the staging and travel. Then came the pandemic.

Key City Public Theatre, as presenter of the tour, almost had to return the money. But Winter petitioned the historical society, with success, and reinvented the show. She and Callander bring it to life, fully staged, in their separate studios; then they host a live post-play discussion with viewers.

“Emma and May are just such a wonderful combination,” Callander said.

“They both felt so strongly that women should have the right to vote. They disagree on the techniques to achieve that, but they kept working, separately and together.”

Callander has been performing in plays about women’s rights for a few decades now. At this moment in history, she said, “May’s Vote” happens to be “very relevant.”

Callander has been acting professionally for more than 35 years. She has toured plays about the suffrage movement extensively throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and is the recipient of a “Write Women Back Into History” Award from the National Women’s History Project.

Winter has 30 years of professional theater experience as an actor, director and arts administrator. As artistic director of Key City Public Theatre in Port Townsend since 2005, she and the theater have received numerous awards and honors. She recently received the 2019 Women of Excellence Award from the AAUW Port Townsend branch.

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