By Dee Jae Cox
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year
The 19th Century American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, immortalized Paul Revere with his famous 1861 poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”, to warn of the British Invasion. Unfortunately, Longfellow got many of the facts wrong. For one thing, Revere was not alone on his mission to warn that the British were approaching Lexington on the evening of April 18, 1775. Two other men were with him and by the end of the night, as many as 40 men on horseback were spreading the word across Boston. Revere never even reached Concord, as the poem inaccurately recounts. Overtaken by the British, the three riders split up and headed in different directions. Revere was temporarily captured by the British at Lexington and never even completed the task.
But you know who did take a ride alone over 40 miles of countryside, over twice as long as Revere’s, On April 26, 1777? A 16 year-old girl by the name of Sybil Ludington, armed with a stick that she used to bang on the doors to rally the militia, warn of the British invasion and fight off the bandits who saw her as easy prey. Ludington, rode through the night from Putnam County, New York to Danbury, Connecticut to warn of advancing British troops.
Longfellow, did not write a poem to commemorate the heroic feat of a young girl who, unlike Revere, managed to elude capture and whose accomplishment was twice that of the man Longfellow chose to immortalize.
It’s the “Ginger Rogers Syndrome.” Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were a famous dance duo in the 1930’s. But it was Astaire who got all of the accolades for being such an amazing dancer. Writer Bob Thaves, is credited with saying, “Sure he (Astaire) was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards…and in high heels!”
As with most storytelling, whether it be on the stage, the page or the screen, we have been culturized to believe that male protagonists are universally accepted as being representational of everyone. Women…not so much.
I am by nature an optimist. I love to laugh and I don’t hold on to grudges. I am sincerely hoping that is the key to my longevity and will compensate for the lack of physical exercise. But as a Playwright and theatrical director and producer, I have also had my rose-colored glasses ripped off of my face a time or two. I try and see the glass as half full, rather than half empty. But imagine that glass as less than a quarter full. Imagine two equal sized water glasses, one that is 80% full and the second that is only 20% full. Stand them side-by-side and visually take in that image. That will give you a picture of gender parity in American theatre … or rather the lack of thereof.
In many ways we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that if we get on our feminist soapboxes and demand equality, we are just ‘angry’ women. But I’m ok with that. We should be angry, it’s a great motivator for change. Theatre is not just entertainment, it is an ageless reflection of our communities, our culture and our lives. If that reflection has historically lacked gender parity and truth, do we simply acquiesce to the status quo? Or do we find the courage to undertake the mission of creating equality in the arts and in our society.
You’re invited to “An Evening about Women…Lesbians… and Gender Parity in Theatre.” Presented by the Green Room Theatre and the L-Fund. Join us for evening that is all about fun, entertainment, education and information and a great way to spend time with some amazing women.
It all begins on Friday, October 14th, 7:30 pm at the Create Center for the Arts in Palm Desert.
Drag King Jesse Jones will give an incredible performance and appearances will be made by some well-known playwrights, Lorraine Hansberry, (Dawnielle Williams-Smith,) Jane Chambers, (Yo Younger,) and Paula Vogel, (Constance Cilva.)
For ticket and event information visit the Green Room Theatre Company
Email: email@example.com Phone: (760) 696-2546
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project
And Co-Creator of the Palm Springs Theatre Go-To Guide,