Fayetteville Mimi Kennedy hasn’t always been passionate about history. In fact, until the mid-1990s, she even disliked it. The actress, author and activist was doing research for a fictional story when she called Sally Roesch Wagner, the executive director at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, with a question. When Wagner told Kennedy about who Gage was and her role as an American suffragist and abolitionist, Kennedy said that a lightbulb turned on inside of her head.
“Before I talked to Sally, women’s history hadn’t been that big of an issue for me, and that’s what’s so amazing,” said Kennedy, who has been involved in several progressive activist causes, including social justice and speaking out against war. “I hadn’t personally faced many problems other than sexual harassment. But Matilda’s comprehensive vision made me wake up and get it – what women had wanted all these years. And suffrage was a big part of it because if you can’t vote, you can’t change very much in the United States.”
And on Oct. 3, Kennedy is bringing it all together into a one-woman play called “Mimi Kennedy Finds Matilda Joslyn Gage.” This will be her third try at presenting Gage on stage as an actress. And Kennedy said that this play is different in that she’s interweaved parts of her own life with Gage’s beliefs and personal experiences.
“She’s such a brilliant woman that it was really hard to find her perspective,” Kennedy said. “But many times after the first two plays, people would say ‘I want to know about you and your activism, Mimi.’ They wanted to know why I’m presenting Matilda. So I’m hoping that this play will answer that question.”
Kennedy said she’ll begin the play by talking about her career, aspirations and childhood experiences when suddenly Gage comes along and Kennedy begins to see how her life parallels or mirrors how Gage lived her life. She said one of the parts of the show she’s most excited about is the incorporation of three of Gage’s speeches.